Lessons from Buddhists

While I am an Orthodox Jew, I recognize that I as well as all people of all religions can learn much from Buddhists and others. The greatest Jewish philosopher, the rational thinker Maimonides, reminded us that the truth is the truth no matter what its source. Not only rational philosophers, but even mystics stressed Maimonides’ teaching about taking truths from all sources, Jewish and non-Jewish.

The famed kabbalist Rabbi Haim Attar (1696-1743) asked in his book Or Ha-Haim, in his commentary to Exodus 18:21, why does the Bible tell us the story of the Midianite pagan priest Jethro offering advice to the law-giver Moses and adds that Moses implemented the priest’s advice? Isn’t there enough knowledge among Jews? Why go to non-Jews for advice? Rabbi Attar answered, The Bible is teaching us that in all generations there are non-Jews with greater knowledge than Jews.

The current Dalai Lama who won the Nobel Peace Prize teaches that he has three commitments in life. These are commitments we should share.

  • Promoting human values such as compassion, forgiveness, contentment, and self-discipline.
  • Promoting religious harmony and understanding among the world’s religious traditions.
  • Preserving peace and non-violence.

I would add three more. Maimonides tells us that there are three purposes to the Hebrew Bible. These are also significant ideas that we should stress.

  • Scripture teaches some truths. Note that he does not say all truths. We need to study the sciences to learn more about life, and we need to encourage others to study as well.
  • The Bible also encourages us to improve as much as we can, to be all that we can be.
  • And it encourages us to help improve society.
About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.
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