The Jewish Root of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is more than a little familiar to Jews and Christians alike, at least it should be, since it is, according to Hillel, the foremost scholar of his day and father of the Talmud, what sums up the entirety of Torah. As a Jewish Rabbi, Yeshua, who Christians believe to be the Messiah, would have agreed with what Hillel wrote.

Both speak about the importance of treating others with love, not hatred of their fellow man. Matthew 7:12 from what Christians refer to as the New Testament and Talmud’s Shabbat 31a have almost identical wording.

Matthew 7:12

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207&version=ESV

Shabbat 31a

“The same gentile came before Hillel. He converted him and said to him: That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation.”

https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.31a.6?lang=bi

Hillel slightly predates, with some possibility of an overlap towards the end of his life, the time of Rabbi Yeshua. To write he was the foremost scholar of hid day, is a vast understatement of who he was and his impact that continues to this day.

According to Britanica, though any number of other sources can be cited, Hillel was the, “foremost master of biblical commentary and interpreter of Jewish tradition in his time… the literary sources do combine coherently to summon up what may be called the first distinct personality of Talmudic Judaism, the branch of Jewish thought and tradition that created the Talmud, a commentative work on the Oral Law.”

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hillel

When Rabbi Yeshua spoke of treating others as they wish for others to treat them, it was a reference to Hillel, who was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the predecessors of Orthodox Judaism that exists today. They were, and are, keepers of the law.

Why would the foremost scholar of his day sum up the whole of Torah with the Golden Rule as it is called today?

The answer can be found in Vayikra, which is Leviticus 19:17 and 18, which are both parts of the same law. “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”

https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.19.18?lang=bi&aliyot=0

Kinsfolk and kinsman are references to each tribe of Israel. Countrymen is a reference to the whole of Israel. Fellow is the entirety of the human race. To love your fellow man, regardless of tribe or nation; to treat others no matter where they are in the world as one wishes to be treated, is the whole of Torah according to Hillel.

Yoma 9b from the Talmud explains the reasons for the destruction of the second Temple was due to the severity of sin that was being committed against God by the Israelites. “It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed.”

https://www.sefaria.org/Yoma.9b.8?lang=bi

The Talmud equates hatred of people to murder. How does one look at other parts of the Tanakh where hatred is mentioned as something other than being wrong as in the case of Mishlei, which is Proverbs, 8:13 as one example of many?

“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the forward mouth do I hate.”

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mishlei-proverbs-chapter-8

Vayikra, which is Leviticus 19:17 and 18 serve as the reminder to not hate the one who has transgressed the law, but hate the sin. The transgressor, no matter how tempting it may be to hate, is to be loved.

There is a distinction between sinner and sin, which should never be forgotten. To hate the sinner is, as the Talmud makes clear, to be the same as murder. To reproach from a position of hatred for the person is to be in violation of what Hillel summed up as the whole of Torah.

Hatred of a person or people is something that blinds people to reason. Anything can be justified by those who hate the sinner(s), as they see it, rather than the sin(s). Without reason, there can be no clear reproach of wrongs, since the focus is pointed in the wrong direction.

Anti-Semites justify every wrong committed against Jews and Israel on a daily basis. They make excuses for every threat and every act of violence committed in and out of Israel. Not all anti-Semites share in violent, sometimes murderous action, but all justify the deeds out of hatred for the Jews as a whole.

When Soviet backed Mengistu Haile Mariam ordered the slaughter of Ethiopian Jews, much of the world was silent about what was happening. It was another attempt to bring about the extinction of Jews. The silence was an act of anti-Semitism by those who knew what was happening and said nothing.

In 1939, after Kristallnacht made headlines in the United States, the Wagner-Rogers Bill was introduced in the United States Congress that would have allowed 20,000 Jewish children from Germany into the United States as refugees, Roosevelt was silent. His lack of support for the Bill that would have saved the lives of children kept the Bill from getting past. That silence was anti-Semitism directed at children who could have been saved from the horrors that followed.

It was hatred of Germans that led to the Soviet rape of Berlin where, what can only be described as war crimes, were committed. The same Soviets who had agreed to split Europe with Nazi Germany. The same Soviets who invaded Poland shortly after Nazi Germany. Unlike Nazi Germany, there was no war crimes tribunal for anything the Soviets did.

The difference between hating the person and hating the sin could be seen in the Nuremberg Trials. The focus of the evidence was on the actions of those charged, rather than who was on the stand. It was not the person who was hated, but the actions committed by them that were. Without that distinction, Nuremberg would have been nothing more than a show trial.

About the Author
Bob Ryan is a science-fiction author and believes the key to understanding the future is to understand the past. As any writer can attest, he spends a great deal of time researching numerous subjects. He is someone who seeks to strip away emotion in search of reason, since emotion clouds judgement. Bob is an American with an MBA in Business Administration. He is a gentile who supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
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