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Know What Is Above You

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JewishTreats.org

It is human nature to value privacy. This value, probably dates back as far as Adam and Eve. Once they had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they instinctively wished to hide.

While Jewish life is extremely social, Judaism itself recognizes and values the importance of privacy. The Israelites are even praised for the fact that their tent doors did not face one another, meaning that one could not look into another person’s tent from one’s own dwelling. While this is usually referred to in praise of the Jewish value of modest behavior, it also demonstrates Judaism’s basic respect for personal privacy.

Judaism does not demand that someone else monitor a person’s behaviors. Part of the basic Jewish philosophy of Free Will insists that all people have the ability to make their own choices. Halacha, Jewish law, is meant to guide a person how to live a moral life. The great sages add some of their own insights in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), a tractate of the Mishna.

Rabbi Judah the Prince, who compiled the Mishna (200 CE), is quoted in Pirkei Avot 2:1 as saying, “Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin – know what is above you – a seeing eye, a hearing ear and all your deeds as written in a book.”

Being that God is omnipresent (as the children’s song goes: “here, there and everywhere”), one is always held accountable for one’s actions. Those who are “religious” in their public actions but deliberately transgress in private, demonstrate that while they are fearful of others seeing them act improperly, they lack the very basic element of belief in God’s omnipotence. Not only is God able to see and hear one’s actions, but every person’s actions are recorded, and are reviewed at the end of the year.

Copyright ┬ę 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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