Liberal Arts Blog — “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor”
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Culture, and Religion Day
Today’s Topic: Most Important Sentences Ever Written II: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor” (Hillel)
The principle of reciprocity can be found at the core of many religions and philosophical systems. It is easy to forget. One of the best-known statements of it is by Hillel. I love the story that goes with the quote. The sage was challenged to recite the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot. His reply: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.” Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
CONFUCIUS, THE ANALECTS, THE CONCEPT OF “SHU”
1. ZI Gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
2. The Master Replied: “How about “shu” (reciprocity): never impose on others what you would not chose for yourself.”
3. To me, very much a non-expert, the concepts of li (ritual), ren (benevolence), xiao (filial piety) and even Zhong ming (rectification of names) can be seen as “commentary” on the theme of “shu.” To be true to the principle of “shu,” ritual (“li”) is essential.
NEW TESTAMENT VARIATIONS ON OLD TESTAMENT THEMES: #1 and #2
1. Old Testament: Leviticus (19:18): “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Deuteronomy (6:4–5): Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
2. New Testament: Matthew (7:12): “Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets”
3. New Testament:” And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
NB: Piety (aka “gratitude”) comes first. Not feeling the gratitude? You are unlikely to be true the Golden Rule. (See last week’s post).
SECULAR VARIATIONS ON THE THEME OF RECIPROCITY
1. Equality before the law. Not one for women, another for men. Not one for rich, another for poor. Not one for black, another for white.
2. No rights without duties. No duties without rights.
3. No double standards.
NB: Nice principle. Application can be tricky. Anatole France: “The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steam their bread.” Lady Justice’s blindfold symbolizes universality. The scales symbolize the importance of weighing facts and circumstances (eg. particularity) in determining the just outcome. The downward-pointing sword stands for restraint.
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.