Friday, November 6, 2009

The rest is commentary

I've set aside blogging in recent weeks. The hiatus was occasioned, in part, by reading this passage from a shabbat service I attended in early October.

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Do not say, 'I shall study when I have leisure.'
You may never find the leisure.

Do not separate yourself from the community.
Judge not another until you are in his or her place.

The world is sustained by three things:
By truth, by justice, and by peace.

What is hateful to you
Do not do to your neighbor.
This is the heart of the Torah.
The rest is commentary."

The shabbat service was the first I had ever attended. It was the occasion of my partner's nephew's bar mitzfah. I was impressed with the coming-of-age tradition, the idea that teachings and responsibilities are passed from one generation to the next in this way. It's a serious rite of passage that seems timely for 13 year-olds -- who need that special combination of belonging to a strong community while also establishing their own identity.

So, being part of an adult community passing along our common wisdom to the next generation, I found the advice applicable also to myself. Blogging is commentary, and I've been doing that for some time. Behind all the commentary stands the principle that undergirds all faith traditions, as stated above: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." This most basic piece of practical and moral guidance could hardly be more clear or more universal. Living it is the challenge -- and the perennial opportunity. If not now, when?

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