Saturday, March 06, 2010

Jewish Culture as a Response to Seeking Truth

Back in January I wrote about the Biblical Hebrew concept of "truth".
Biblical Hebrew has no word for truth. Instead there are four concepts:
  1. Reliable and faithful (emet)
  2. Straight, in other words it "lines up" (yashar)
  3. Righteous and having integrity (tzaddik)
  4. Set apart by God's ways (kadosh)
I later realized that much of Jewish culture is a development of this dynamic. A culture that seeks "truth" as defined above would have certain characteristics.

To discern if an idea is reliable and faithful requires education. So the culture would value education. An idea proven to be reliable and faithful should be acted upon, so the culture would develop traditions teaching how to live out those ideas.

Because people naturally make excuses and engage in self-deception when alone judging which ideas "line up", the culture would require groups of educated and wise people to discuss what ideas "lines up". Group study and group interpretation of law would become normal.

Integrity would be valued. A lifestyle that displays lived-out truth is difficult to master but easy to see in other people.

Because God's ways are valued, the culture would use interpretations of scripture and folk stories to elevate new values to the status of potential-and-reasonable ways of God. History is important, but when faced with a troubling situation the culture's leaders would ponder "What would God do about this?" instead of asking "What do historical events teach about this?"

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