2. Judaism is a theology of deeds.

Following God’s revelation of the Torah8, the assembled Israelite community unanimously responded to God with the words, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”9 The basic premise is that all Jews are called to add to the store of goodness in the world in ways that are appropriate to the context of our lives. In fact, the Talmud teaches us to begin our work whether or not we anticipate being able to complete it.10

These messages come to Jews in many different forms from many different sources. In addition to our Torah and Talmud, they are reiterated throughout our liturgy and culture as well as throughout the writings of our modern sages. For example, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called Judaism “the theology of the common deed.”11 Heschel further pointed out that the Bible does not teach “You shall be full of awe for I the Lord am holy;” it teaches: “You shall be holy for I the Lord am holy.”12  Heschel then asked rhetorically, how can a human being, “dust and ashes,” be holy?  And he answered: Through doing God’s mitzvot, God’s commandments.13  For Heschel, “to be” was inseparable from both “how to be” and “how not to be.”  In other words, “You shall be holy” and “You shall do holy” were the same.

In our pastoral care context, the fact that it is God who does the actual healing doesn’t preclude our doing our part with our talent, intellect, skill and our compassionate caring, empathetic ears, hearing hearts, gentle gestures of concern, wise words, and yes, our helpful hands during moments of distress.  

© 2004 , Bonita E Taylor & David J. Zucker

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