Monday, June 8, 2009

"Do no Harm." It's a Mitzvah!

I had a discussion with an individual recently who is completely unlearned in Torah. The discussion eventually came around to the Torah Mitzvot [Commands] of “Do no harm”. Now, for anyone that knows anything about Torah or Judaism, there is absolutely no question whatsoever that portions of the Torah command us to avoid harming others. This is actually one of the greatest commands of all the Torah. After seeing a number of verses from the Torah where this principle is found, he basically just called it all “irrelevant” and even accused me of “twisting the Bible” and lying. I’m not sure why a non-Torah observant individual who doesn’t even believe the Bible to be the word of G-d would think he is qualified to tell me this, but nevertheless, he denied the plain fact that the Rabbis, all learned Jews, and Christians have historically, for hundreds upon hundreds of years understood these verses to teach a basic principle of “Do no harm” to others, and this basic principle is then to be applied to specific circumstances to guide the behavior and decisions of the believer. So, I now endeavor to undertake a small analysis of this topic. Let us begin by establishing the Torah verses that teach this basic and universal principle:

  • “You shall not murder” (Shemot 20:12), from the Mitzvot lo sa’aseh [negative commandments]. This is a prohibition from causing the ultimate form of harm to another. The taking of a life in murder harms the murdered and all the loved ones of the murdered.
  • “You shall not steal” (Vayikra 19:13), from the Mitzvot lo sa’aseh. This is an injunction from causing unjust monetary loss, and by extension is an injunction not to cause harm against others.
  • “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Vayikra 19:14), from the Mitzvot lo sa’aseh. If it is forbidden to place even a potentially harmful object in front of another, then it follows conclusively that it is forbidden to do direct harm to another.
  • “You shall love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18), from the positive Mitzvot. This enjoins treating your fellow man/woman as if they were your own body, and prohibits the act of inflicting harm.
  • The Mitzvah of preventing someone from incurring a loss (Devarim 22:3) is not only applicable to property but to anything of instrinsic value, and can include people and their bodies as well as their property.

These verses above, and others like them, have always been the foundation of Judaism’s understanding that G-d wants us to avoid harming others. I challenge anyone to go to a Rabbi; Orthodox, Reformed, Reconstructionist, Karaite, Messianic, or otherwise; and get him to tell you that these verses do not teach this! Now let’s take a look at some of the Nazarene writings and see how The Mashiyach has taught us in his role as the living breathing Torah manifest on earth, as well as what His Shlichim had to say:

  • Matthew 22:37-39 when He said, “’You must love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39The second is like it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Torah and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” This is an affirmation of what the two greatest principles of Torah and Judaism are. Namely, a) love G-d, b) avoid harm to your fellow man/woman.
  • Matthew 7:12 when Mashiyach said, “Therefore, whatever you want people to do for you, do the same for them, because this summarizes the Torah and the Prophets."
  • Matthew 5:39 where we are taught to “Turn the other cheek” and not to return violence and harm when insulted.
  • Galatians 5:14 where we are told, “For the whole Torah is summarized in a single statement: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”
  • "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', you do well." (James 2:8)

These are just some of the verses that have been seen to teach the foundational Torah principle of “Do no harm” for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Anyone who denies this is quite simply ignorant of Torah and the historical understanding of these verses in all forms of Judaism and Christianity.

To see an example of a basic principle from Torah being applied to a complex modern situation take a look at this Jewish perspective on healthcare discussed at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Of course, from a Nazarene Jewish perspective, any citation of oral traditions in Mishnah and Talmud are only accurate in so far as they agree with the written Torah in our Bibles, but it demonstrates application of the general principle to the specific moral question. It is understood, and well established as historical practice, that the verses of injunction against doing harm within the Torah are applicable to an inumerable multitude of ethical questions regarding personal behavior and community. Everything from business dealings, to family matters, to marital questions, and even personal health can be guided by these core foundational verses and the principle from the Creator they reveal.


Anders Branderud said...

You quoted some verses from Torah.
Torah including Halakhah with a formal logical connection to Torah requires subordination to a beit-din. Netzarim, the followers of Ribi Yehoshua, had a beit-din ha-Netzarim until the 15:th paqid, Pâ•qid′ Yәhud•âh′ "ha-Tza•diq′, who was ousted and exiled from Yәru•shâ•lay′im by the gentile Hellenist Romans in 135 C.E. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History IV.v.3), being usurped by Markos, the first gentile "bishop,". All persons believing that Ribi Yehoshua was ha-Mashiakh subordinated themselves to that beit-din.

Paqid Yi•rәmәyâh′u Bën-Dâ•wid′ restored the Nәtzâr•im′ beit din to operation for the first time since 135 C.E. and shoulder the mantle of Pâ•qid′ that had been vacated by the gentile ouster of Pâ•qid′ Yәhud•âh′ in 135 C.E.
[Source: ; Glossaries; “Paqid”]

Thus, to follow Ribi Yehoshua one needs to become one of his Netzarim-followers (

Anders Branderud

Sepher Shalom said...

Sorry Anders, but I cannot agree with you that anyone needs to become part of your particularly recommended Beit Din in order to follow Mashiyach.

I also find the "Restored Hebrew Matthew" referred to in the link you posted to be questionable. It's a novel idea, but reconstructing a supposed Hebrew text from the Greek and Aramaic manuscripts we have available is little more than speculation.

Sepher Shalom said...
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