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What are Acts for the Sake of Heaven?

04/23/2021 11:01:08 AM


Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Ancestors, 2:2, says, “Those who work for the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for the merit of their ancestors shall aid them, and their righteousness shall endure forever.

What does it mean to work for the sake of heaven?

According to Dr. Joshua Kulp, working for the sake of heaven means, “people who work with the community should do so for the right reasons, “for the sake of Heaven and not for their own personal glory or profit”.

However, this interpretation raises another question: what are the right reasons? And how do we determine them? 

Often, we learn what is right by determining what is wrong or out of bounds.  This is illustrated with the number of negative commandments in the Torah.  We know stealing is wrong because the Torah tells us not to steal.  Thereby we learn to respect others property being told what not to do.

This week, as a society, we took a needed step in determining what is right, or for the sake of heaven, by declaring what is unacceptable in the name of serving the community. Twelve jurors determined for us appropriately that the type of “justice” that was meted on George Floyd by Derek Chauvin was no justice at all.  Not only did this servant of the community murder a fellow human being through neglect, anger and in cold blood, he also practiced a lack of sympathy, exercised no wisdom, did not listen and made the world about himself and not the service of heaven. 

I am proud of the jury this week.  Our legal system helped us define the kinds of justice that our public servants should pursue by telling them what behaviors are unacceptable.  The law was able to clearly define behaviors that are for the sake of heaven, by articulating what behaviors do not qualify as for the sake of heaven for those who serve the community. 

In the Torah it reads, “Justice, justice you shall peruse” (Deuteronomy 16:20).  Justice can be an ambiguous term.  One person’s idea of what constitutes justice may differ from another person’s definition of justice.  In order to come to a proper understanding of the word “justice”, we constantly need to refine what actions properly represent justice so that acts of justice become less subjective.  On Tuesday we came one step closer to a clearer understanding of what composes justice.  By doing this we become clearer of what acts “for the sake of heaven” look like in our world.

Sat, May 15 2021 4 Sivan 5781