70.02 Moral Intelligibility and Absoluteness (pps.45-47)

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shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it down to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, “Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
—Deuteronomy 30:12-14

This strain of thought, however important it may be in Jewish writings, is of course not unique to Judaism. John Hick notes:

A theology cannot go unchallenged when it is repugnant to the moral sense that has been formed by the religious realities upon which their theology itself professes to be based.182

To take the liberty of inverting the thrust of Saint Ignatius’ dictum: We should never fail to believe that white is white, even if our hierarchic church defines it as black.183
Shubert Spero concludes that the values which God has commanded man to follow are actually God’s ways.184 He notes that the rabbinic teaching of imitutio dei is found in several statements:

What does the text mean, “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God”? …to follow the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He …
—T. B. Tractate Sotah185

As the All-Present is called compassionate and gracious, so be you also compassionate and gracious.

As He is compassionate and gracious, be also compassionate and gracious.
—Mekhilta, Shabbat187

Fackenheim, following the Midrash, notes that morality for Judaism is “nothing less than a threefold relationship involving man, his neighbor, and God Himself.”188 Consequently, if morality is to serve as the basis for the relationship, it must be intelligible.

——————- NOTES ——————-

182 Hick, Evil and the God of Love, p. 98.

183 Also note that Ignatius’ dictum has a direct parallel in Jewish literature “eve if right is left, and left is right.” Cf. John Stuart Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy. “I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creature, and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.” As cited in Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 26.

184 Shubert Spero, Morality, Halakha and the Jewish Tradition, p.86.

185 T. B. Sotah 14a; Genesis 3:21, 18:1, 25: 11; Deuteronomy 34:6

186 Sifrei Deuteronomy 49, 85a.

187 Exodus 15:2, Mekhilta 37a, Shabbat 133b.

188 E. Fackenheim, Encounters Between Judaism and modern Philosophy (New York: Schocken, 1980), p. 48.

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