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    A law above the law – Mikketz

    We are almost at the end (mikketz) of the Book of B’reshit and we wonder why this and the other Books of the Bible are regarded as so important.

    What do we learn from the Bible? Human interest stories? Yes, fine narratives, about believable human beings. Poems? Yes, remarkable works of world literature. History? Yes, the persons and periods of both Jewish and human history. Law? In the literal sense, yes: what to do and what not to do. But above all, ethical conduct – how to behave in society.

    Gerson Cohen wrote in “The Jewish Digest” of September 1959, “No faithful Jew would understand the statement that business is business and not religion. No, the rabbis remonstrated, business is very much the business of religion.”

    So what if it’s a cut-throat world and it’s hard to be honest in business and in everything? Judaism has a teaching, “In a place where there are no men, you must try to be a man!”

    Yes, these words come from the Mishnah and not from the Bible, but they are Biblical teaching at its best. If the Bible is a book of law, it is even more: a book that posits a law above the law.

    Listen to Gerson Cohen again: “It does of course contain a code of law but over its code of law it superimposes a higher level of behaviour, a criterion of righteousness which is far more demanding than the minimum of the law.

    “Over and above the law that is enforceable by the court, there is the law of God which seeks to make man go far beyond the requirements of the police authority of society.”

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