Thursday, November 16, 2006

Finding a balance (Avot 1:14)

הוא היה אומר, אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי?

He [Hillel] says, if I’m not for me, who is for me? And when I am for myself,
what am I? And if not now, when?
We have come to one of the most famous of all Hillel’s sayings. It would be hard to add to the many words of wisdom that have been written about these sayings. The the first two speak to me as a pair – calling for us to find a balance in our lives between pursuing self-interest and thinking of the interests of others. Judaism always seeks a middle way; neither extreme is considered praiseworthy. This spirit is extended to our laws of tzedukah, which forbid one from giving too much of one’s money to the poor.

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