A Short Word On Human Dignity

The Torah takes it as given that every human being has a unique Neshama (soul). The mandate in Avot (1:6), דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת (dan et kol ha-adam l’kaf zechut), “prejudge everyone as innocent”, in other words, initially giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, pointedly uses the phrase כָּל הָאָדָם (kol ha-adam), every person, and not a more restrictive phrase which would limit the application to only every Jew. Thus we’re mandated to consider everyone worthy of dignity. This includes the dignity of being or becoming self-sufficient.

Slavery of any kind, be it the hard variety enforced by brutality or the soft one of addiction and life-long dependence on a “benign” master (oftentimes the government), is in every case to be opposed. Permanent victimhood is just a slightly-disguised form of “soft slavery” and self-victimhood occurs when one is so oppressed as to join in his own enslavement.

The prejudice of lowered expectations, not encouraging and requiring self-responsibility, is yet another form of soft slavery. The dignity of allowing everyone to reach adulthood and to not be trapped in eternal immaturity is a corollary of honoring everyone’s unique Neshama. We help no one but the Pharaohs of the world when either we try to claim victimhood for ourselves or become enablers of other groups or individuals claiming it for themselves. While there is, indeed, a strong moral side to this statement, I’m speaking in practical terms–the only ones with the true ability to provide actual relief from permanent dependence is ourselves and our own (extended) family. Outside assistance, except in very measured and limited ways, will inevitably prolong the slavery, no matter the intentions of the givers.

The parable of giving a man a fishing rod rather than a fish is more than a cute story–it illustrates the wisdom of our Jewish tradition. Obvious truths are often belittled as cliché or impractical. The belittler, if you look closely, is the only one who loses when a person or group becomes their own masters.

Tzedakah, badly translated as “charity”, means doing the right thing. Although it can be motivated by the emotions, the application must be designed by the intellect. At it’s highest form, however, giving true aid is not a matter of pity, but rather has the potential of filling God’s Infinite Will, רצון עליון (Ratzon Elyon), and if performed as a מצוה (mitzva) its benefit transcends a single recipient and embraces all of Creation.

Each unique Neshama was brought into the world by The Creator for a unique task or set of tasks that will not be done unless we support that person’s efforts to fill their obligations.

Lend a hand, indeed, but integrate your head and heart as you do. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by either guilt or enthusiasm to unwittingly participate in compounding the problem. Insist on each person’s (including your own) unique dignity. It’s a mitzva.

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3 Responses to A Short Word On Human Dignity

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    “Israel, it ought to be recalled, is the only country in the world targeted for annihilation.

    That has been true from the day it was proclaimed as a state in 1948 until today [December 2015].

    It was true before Israel was forced to conquer East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

    It was true after three Israeli prime ministers: Yitzchak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert, agreed to give up virtually all of Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians to set up a Palestinian state.

    It was [still] true after Israel have every inch of Gaza to the Palestinians.

    All of which proves that when Palestinian spokesmen say they want peace, they do not mean peace WITH Israel, they mean peace WITHOUT Israel.”

    SOURCE: Why I am in Israel and you should be by Dennis Prager, December 2015, Country Yossi magazine, December 2015, page 48

  2. Mr. Cohen says:

    “A renowned Saudi journalist (Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed) said that extremist Islam is like Nazism and the only way to eliminate it is to combat its ideology,”


  3. Mr. Cohen says:

    When the father of Amos Oz (a prize-winning Israeli author, born in 1939 CE) grew up in Europe, the walls were covered with graffiti that said:

    So we came back to Palestine, and the world shouts at us:

    SOURCE: Jew in the City, 2014 July 3

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