Jews and Responsibilities to the World Community

(א) רַבִּי אוֹמֵר, אֵיזוֹהִי דֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה שֶׁיָּבֹר לוֹ הָאָדָם, כֹּל שֶׁהִיא תִפְאֶרֶת לְעוֹשֶׂיהָ וְתִפְאֶרֶת לוֹ מִן הָאָדָם.

Rabbi Judah HaNassi would say: Which is the right path for one to choose for oneself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for humankind. [Translation by Edited for gender neutrality]


1. What does this text mean by "harmonious"? What does "harmony" imply?

2. Why is it important that what one chooses to do with their life be harmonious for both themselves and humankind?

3. How can you use this text to reflect on your own life path?

(ט) וְגֵ֖ר לֹ֣א תִלְחָ֑ץ וְאַתֶּ֗ם יְדַעְתֶּם֙ אֶת־נֶ֣פֶשׁ הַגֵּ֔ר כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

You shall not oppress a ger, for you know the feelings of the ger, having yourselves been gerim in the land of Egypt.


1. What is the overall attitude of this text toward how we are supposed to treat gerim? What are some of the underlying reasons for why we’re supposed to behave this way?

2. What protections, rights, and privileges did the Torah envision for gerim?

3. What rights or protections might these translate into our contemporary American society?

4. How might American society look different if we made more personal decisions based on the Jewish values expressed in these texts?

(א) וגר לא תלחץ. בְּהַרְבֵּה מְקוֹמוֹת הִזְהִירָה תּוֹרָה עַל הַגֵּר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁסּוּרוֹ רָע (בבא מציעא נ"ט): (ב) את נפש הגר. כַּמָּה קָשֶׁה לוֹ כְּשֶׁלּוֹחֲצִים אוֹתוֹ:

"Do not oppress a stranger"- You know the feelings of the stranger - how painful it is for the stranger when you oppress them. [Nechama Leibowitz Haggadah translation. Edited for gender neutrality]


1. Why do we engage in the examining history and the process of collective remembering?

2. In what ways do we share common experiences with other minority/ethnic groups?

3. Do we have other responsibilities that go beyond “non-oppression?”

בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ.

When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” [Translation by AJWS]


1. What does this text teach us about the creations of God? Are all human beings part of this creation?

2. What kinds of responsibilities do we have to all human beings ? What is God's responsibility to all of his creation?

3. Have humans heeded God’s warning? How can we repair our mistakes?

בזמן שהצבור שרוי בצער אל יאמר אדם אלך לביתי ואוכל ואשתה ושלום עליך נפשי.

At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say, “I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.” [AJWS Translation]


1. In a time when one’s community is in trouble, what obligations do we have?

2. How do you define community?

3. What does this text teach us about the relationship of the individual to his or her community?