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Thought for the Day: What's Wrong With Rights

I love the term "Judeo-Christian".  It is so utterly and deliciously wrong that it a work of art.
The divergence between the values of western culture and the Torah began immediately from its inception, with the birth of twin boys: Eisav (aka Edom, aka Rome, aka Western civilisation) and Yaakov (aka Yisrael).  The name "Eisav" means "finished product"; the West sees the human being as a the pinnacle of creation, needing nothing but education to better enjoy the physical world.  The name "Yaakov" means "pursuing"; the Torah Jew sees education as a means to enable growth and change, and to use the physical world as a better tool in the striving for spirituality.

The differences became even more pronounced when their exalted zeidy, Avraham Avinu, left the world.  Yaakov spent his time preparing a dish of lentils for this father, Yitchak Avinu.  Why lentils?  Rashi explains: Lentils are round, symbolizing the the circle of life.  Lentils are smooth, without an opening; the mourner similarly has "no mouth", but is silent in the wake of his grieving.  An egg would also work for that purpose (and so eggs are also used for the first meal of the mourner).

What about Eisav?  He came from the field exhausted from his hunting and whatnot.  He saw the food and liked color, so I desired it above all else at that moment.  As the S'forno explains, Eisav was called Edom (from "red") by everyone, as it was obvious that Eisav never looked past the most superficial layer of everything.  When he saw red food, any red food would have fit the bill at that point.

Western society is all about "rights".  Thomas Jefferson expressed this succinctly in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...

 All due respect to Mr. Jefferson (and I do, in fact, hold him in high esteem), he did not have the Torah and he quite badly misrepresented that with which the Creator has endowed us.  While the West proclaims "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"; they don't mean it.  When the southern slave owner wanted to have black slaves (a life to serve their master, no liberty, and certainly no free time to pursue happiness), or the Nazi wanted to murder Jews (no life at all; everything else a moot point), or the western liberal wants to legalize abortion (snuff out the life before it even enters this world); they all justify their actions the same way: just declare the black/Jew/unborn baby to be sub-human.  Right are for and controlled by those in power.  Period.  So rights just became another word for tyranny of the ruling class.  Human rights is just a shallow expression to allow the ruling class to treat others how they like; human rights, after all, are only for those they see as human.

The Torah does not see life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as rights.  Instead, the engender obligations.  The Creator gave you life; so you are obligated to choose a life style the promotes a long and healthy life; an eternal life.  The Creator gave you free will; that is, the liberty to make free and unfettered choices.  Those choices, of course, engender consequences.  The Creator gave you a Torah that explains the consequence of your actions to the smallest detail; you are obligated to use the Torah to pursue closeness with the Creator.  No nebulous "human rights", but an obligation on each and every Jew to treat every human being -- as defined by the Creator and not by the whims of some men -- with dignity and respect.

So what's wrong with rights?  Everything.


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