Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Purpose of Torah

As I walked yesterday evening, a man with a bicycle was riding up the walkway. I was unsure which path he would take, whether he would swerve to the left or to the right. So I stood still in the middle until the cyclist swerved to my left and passed me. Then I reflected on this situation that had now passed.

In Jamaica, the first rule of the road is to keep left unless overtaking (Hylton 2003, p. 58). From this rule, all motorists can expect that when driving on the road, that their fellow motorists that use the road will keep left under most conditions. What this does is to create expectations and predictability about the other driver's behaviour. It eliminates the uncertainty that I felt when walking on the walk way and seeing the cyclist coming straight at me. (Usually, a cyclist would ride on the road and not on the walk way).

A very profound spiritual lesson emerged as I pondered this experience and even the rules of the road. God revealed to me through this situation that laws are necessary to ensure that human beings know what to expect and that there is some level of predictability in social and spiritual life.

For those of us familiar with Torah, many of the laws given outlined people's obligations to other people as well as their obligation to G-d. The scriptures are full of instruction about human obligation to society.

G-d wants human beings to know that they are obligated to others and must conduct themselves in a manner that will ensure that society or social relations do not disintegrate.

Marital laws for instance speak to a man and woman's obligation to each other and the offspring that result from their sexual relations. Marital laws make a man obligated to a woman that he has sexual relations with, so that he does not just use her like soap to fill his need and leave her. Rather it obligates him to treat the woman that he desires to have sex with in a special way, obligating that he stays with her until death, helping her through life in good times and bad. Marital laws mandate that the man also helps the woman to raise the offspring of their sexual relations.

Rules and laws were made to ensure that people know that they cannot just live to please themselves, but in order to live in society or community, they must live in consideration of the rights of others and their responsibility and obligations to maintain as much as possible peaceful relations in society, through ensuring that they consider other persons as they consider themselves.

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