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The Declaration of Independence, Hillel and wise words

07/05/2018 01:51:50 PM


Rabbi Laura J. Abrasley

Every year on the fourth of July, Americans celebrate Independence Day with cookouts, concerts and fireworks. This year, I took a brief respite from the revelry to re-read America’s founding document, The Declaration of Independence, which was signed on this day in history. I suspect that almost everyone reading my words knows the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people (men) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Many consider this sentence to be the most important passage in the document and perhaps in American history. Scholarly debates aside about the actual intent of the men who crafted the document, the words suggest a moral foundation to which all Americans should strive.
One of Judaism’s teaching about this moral foundation to which we should all strive is strikingly similar. Perhaps many know these words from Hillel (as recorded in a well-known story in the Talmud) as well: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary…”
Two sets of wise words to remind all of us that one’s freedom and equality does not need to come at the expense of others. We all deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780