By Aaron Tendler
Experience and contrast are the basis for wisdom and understanding. It is our
own experiences that allow us to understand the experiences of others. Once
we understand what others have experienced we can empathize with them and
offer advice. For the most part, that is what we call wisdom.
It is also the meaning of the Golden Rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
First you must love yourself before you can love someone else. First you must
understand and appreciate the circumstances and experiences of your own life
before you can understand and appreciate the circumstances and experiences of
someone else's life.
Imagine trying to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon or
the majestic grandeur of the Rockies without the benefit of having actually
seen them. No matter how descriptive the actual or verbal picture might be,
it cannot compare to the experience of having seen them with your own eyes.
The Talmud presents the Golden Rule somewhat differently than commonly
quoted. Hillel the Elder did not say, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The
actual quote is, "That which is hateful to you do not do to your friend." The
Talmud's approach is pragmatic rather than theoretical. First and foremost,
love means never do to someone what you do not want done to yourself. We each
know the pain of having been insulted. We have each experienced the indignity
of being "the butt" to someone else's joke. We can each remember what it
means to be lonely or ignored. We have all been scarred by not having been
properly thanked or appreciated. It did not feel good and it does not feel
good. Therefore, do not do the same to anyone else. Do not insult anyone
else. Do not make fun of anyone else. Do not ignore or show indifference to
anyone else. Always say thank you and express appreciation for what others do
for you. That is the Golden Rule. It starts with you and extends outward to
embrace others. That is the practical meaning of love.
Are you important? Are you more important than anyone else? Are you more
important or less important than your spouse or children? Does G-d consider
you to be more important or less important than anyone else?
It makes sense to say that the degree to which you consider anyone else
important will be in direct proportion to the degree that you consider
yourself important. How else could you understand or appreciate the meaning
of importance? It must start with you before it can be extended to anyone
The difference between belief in creationism and belief in evolution is
purpose. Was the universe created with intent and purpose or was it a cosmic
mistake? If you believe in G-d the Creator, then you believe that the
universe is part of a Divine plan. If you do not believe in G-d the Creator,
then the universe has no purpose beyond that which you want or do.
G-d is often portrayed in our prayers as an artist who intentionally
fashioned the universe. The description certainly suggests intent and
purpose, so let us examine it a little more closely. When painting a
portrait the artist must plan two fundamental dimensions; the actual figure
to be painted and the background that will frame the figure. Once the
painting is completed, ask the artist which dimension is more important, the
figure or the background? The artist must answer that both are equally
important; one without the other would compromise the original intent of the
portrait and its final production.
Which is more important in a car, the engine or the wheels? We all understand
that both are equally important if the vehicle is to accomplish its purpose
of conveying us from place to place. One without the other would render the
Who is more significant in the universe, you or me? Who is more important to
G-d, me or you? If G-d is the artist Who created the universe with intent and
purpose then I am as essential to the final production as anything and
everything else in the universe. In contrast to myself I must extend my own
sense of significance to everyone else. They too were intentionally and
purposefully created by G-d and included in the universe. They too must be as
significant as I am and as important as the rest of creation.
The Golden Rule should be applied to all our relationships: family, friends,
business, community, country, and the environment. G-d created each of them;
therefore, they are as important to G-d as we are. Imagine a world of respect
and appreciation. Imagine a world without waste, abuse, pain, indifference,
and loneliness. Imagine a world that begins with ourselves and embraces the
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