Jonathan Sachs – The Ethics of Responsibility

In Jonathan Sach’s, The Ethics of Responsibility, he carefully analyzes the Judaist faith and their perspective of community, justice, and God and how each of them relates to the other. Sach begins by describing God’s (also known as the “ultimate Other”) desire for knowledge. As our “strategic intervener [and] teacher”, he also emphasizes the importance of community- overflowing with intimacy, friendship, and ultimately spiritual inseparability (Sach 3). An example is given of Moses Maimonides, who condenses his thoughts of God’s overwhelming and outstanding authority by taking a quote from Jeremiah 9:23-4:

This is what the Lord says:

‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom

or the strong man boast of his strength

or the rich man boast of his riches,

but let him who boast boast about this:

that he understand and knows Me,

that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,

justice and righteousness on earth,

for in these I delight’,

declares the Lord (4)

By accepting the kindness, justice, and righteousness that God provides, you are then able to understand “simple ethical imperatives” (4). For happiness cannot be served alone; it is to be shared. I think back to the times when I would see homeless and famished people around my church’s area. Only a child, I knew that I didn’t have money to give. I also knew that words alone could feed a hungry soul. After much work and my “personal involvement”, a weekly Feeding Ministry, called Feeding the Community, began (7). Eventually, our church started integrating the people around us in various events, which showed them that they did have a purpose on Earth. Their economic stability did not define who the person truly was, and in response we saw happiness. Kant’s view of humanity as “crooked timber”, that Sach mentions, is especially relatable to society today, in that sense that we are all crooked timber because “no such thing was ever made straight”; however, harping on the twisted features of our life, does not fix them (11). The ability to see beyond that “crooked timber” and make a moral difference is what becomes the outlier.

Although I am of Christian faith, Judaism has similar qualities to it in regards to the significance of God, justice, and community. Essentially, a relationship with God, allows you to comprehend the full picture of what is justifiably correct, presenting a platform for a more sustainable community. However, it does mention that religion has nothing to do with having ideas and taking the role of responsibility. Just as Life is God’s responsibility, so it is ours to create a community filled with “justice, charity, and love-as-action” (14.) With those concepts we are given the true keys to the way of Life, which will create a “gift of the past to the future [and offer]…. [a] moral imagination [to] mankind” (15).

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