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June 28, 2009



I very much disagree with the insertion of "only" into the second line of Im ein ani li mi li. Not only is it not there in the Hebrew, I think it distorts what Hillel was saying.

He asks, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" I'm responsible for myself, and it isn't right for me to demand of others that they work on my behalf if I won't work on my own behalf.

He then asks, "And when I am for myself, what *is* 'me'"? What does it mean to be for myself? Does it mean to be grasping and greedy and thoughtless? We have to understand what kind of actions are truly to our own benefit.

And then he asks, "And if not now, when?" meaning that all that theory is great, but it has to be put into practice.

I agree with you that the two sets of statements fit together like puzzle pieces. "Don't judge your fellow until you've stood in his place" and "Don't separate yourself from the community" both speak to the fact that no person has a special status relative to others. If I don't want people to steal from me, I can't steal from them. If I don't want people to hurt me, I can't go around hurting them. The only way to have a world that's safe for me is to understand that anything I permit myself to do to others is likely to be done to me as well.

This also blends with other things Hillel said. "What is hateful to you, don't do to your fellow". "Because you drowned others, you were drowned. And those who drowned you will be drowned in the end."

Yes, Hillel says, you have to act on your own behalf. But that doesn't mean you can hold yourself as being above others. You have to recognize the right of others to act on their own behalf as well.

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