Yoel Ben-Avraham
Aug 6 · 2 min read

A very famous Jewish philosopher in the 13th century wrote a book called Sefer ha-Chinuch — Wikipedia. It discusses the rationale behind the commandments. The bottom line in the book, the underlying theme of the author can be summed up in the following statement:

“The hearts follow the actions.”

By following the directions, by doing the actions, the individual’s opinions will gradually be influenced for good.

Another Jewish philosopher was known as Judah Loew ben Bezalel — Wikipedia wrote a series of books elucidating Jewish thought. He postulated that as human beings are a combination of material and spiritual, the commandments of necessity relate to both aspects of human reality. Hence all “spiritual lessons” must include some material or physical aspect to them.

Ultimately there is another very fundamental tenet of Jewish belief. Many years ago I postulated that there were two aspects to reality, much like Plato’s Matter & Form, I called them the Material and Spiritual. Throughout history, humanity has struggled to understand the relationship between the two. Paganism worshipped the material. The various forces of nature that found their expression in the material world were perceived as gods. Christianity, in my opinion, as a reaction to and rejection of the pagan world, rejected the material and glorified the pure spiritual. Hence abstinence and self-abnegation are the highest expressions of Christian piety.

Judaism takes a third path. It sees the role of humanity as one responsible for the sanctification of the material. The challenge is to imbue the material with spiritual value by uplifting it and dedicating it to spiritual values and goals. By turning the material into a means to achieve spiritual values and goals, it becomes spiritually “elevated”. For example, “money” might not be a very “spiritual” entity, but by using it for charity, for the support of others involved in spiritual endeavors, it “rises” above its base materialistic status to one of a higher more spiritual level.

Hence Judaism’s entire raison d’être is dealing with the material, man’s baser instincts, the power of the material in our lives, and imbuing these forces and realities with a higher purpose, hence the obvious emphasis on actions over disembodied beliefs.

JewsByChoice

A platform for sharing, questions, and discussion on all and any issues pertaining to non-Jews choosing to join the Jewish People and observe Jewish tradition.

Yoel Ben-Avraham

Written by

Yoel Ben-Avraham Semi-Retired IT Professional turned Social Enterprise Evangelist and Lean Startup Mentor

JewsByChoice

A platform for sharing, questions, and discussion on all and any issues pertaining to non-Jews choosing to join the Jewish People and observe Jewish tradition.

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