This anthology, my second Judaica book for adults after I had worked for many years as an illustrator of children’s books, was published in 1998 by Jason Aronson. This company became an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield a few years later, and both of my Aronson books (the other being “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov”) became virtually unavailable. In the fall of 2010 I regained the rights to “Compassion for Humanity,” and the remaining copies of the book are now distributed by:
Moznaim Publishing, 4304-12th Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11219 (718-853-0525).
These two Aronson books signaled a career change for me, and I have been writing and translating ever since, mainly for the Breslov Research Institute, under the editorship of Rabbi Chaim Kramer. Whether I’ll ever do a revised edition of “Compassion for Humanity” remains a question, but in the meantime I have compiled a number of excerpts from other Jewish texts that I would like to add someday.
I’m posting some of them here so that they will be available to those who need them. Unless otherwise indicated, the translations are my own. Please feel free to quote my translations online with acknowledgement, but do not reprint without written permission. I haven’t given up on that revised edition. Please contact the other authors of material I have quoted here via their publishers.
Judaism is a very old religion, beginning with the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai more than three millennia ago, but with roots that date back to pre-history. (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived centuries before the Exodus and the revelation at Mount Sinai.) As one would expect, there are many strata in our ancient tradition. It is a foundational belief of Judaism that the Torah is God’s word, and that the Jewish people to whom the Torah was given have a special relationship with God, with unique responsibilities. We can find exclusivist attitudes toward other faiths, some dictated by Scripture, such as the uprooting of idol worship, while other negative attitudes may have been exacerbated by war and persecution. Yet at the same time there are inclusivist and universalist attitudes in TaNaKH (Torah-Prophets-Writings), which reappear in Talmudic and Midrashic texts and continue until the present. In recent times, some Orthodox Jewish leaders (conspicuously Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of England) have expressed a degree of pluralism in arguing that all religions can learn something from one another and that it is more necessary than ever for people of differing viewpoints to find ways to overcome conflict.
In this source book, I have collected a number of Judaic teachings from a wide range of both classic and modern sources that express respect and compassion toward other nations, and which I believe transcend Jewish nationalism. As one people with one God, it is only fitting that we look forward to the day when all humanity will serve God with one vision and a common spirit, and in doing so achieve world peace.
In Memory of Rafi Estrin
Raphael Yitzchak Ephraim ben Aryeh Leib Shlomo
(6 Menachem Av 5735/1975-8 Elul 5757/1997)
In his brief twenty-two years, Rafi brought light into the lives of all who knew him, and brought the whole world a little closer to the Light.