Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three Virtues

Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882-942)

I must furthermore make it clear that there are, on the other hand, certain good deeds which are perforce requited in this world, even though he that performs them is an unbeliever. These, I say, are three in number. The first of them is a loving demeanor toward parents, as Scripture says: Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long (Exodus 20:12). A second is pity on animals, as Scripture says: Thou shall in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days (Deuteronomy 22:7). The third, again, is dealing honestly, as Scripture says: A perfect and just weight shalt thou have; a perfect and just measure shalt thou have; [that thy days may be long] (Deuteronomy 25:15). To these is to be added the case where the promise of well being in this world has already been definitely decreed. Thus, for example, Jehu was categorically told by God: Thy sons to the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel (II Kings 15:12)—even though he and his children sinned against Him—because the promise made to them had to be fulfilled. (The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, trans. Samuel Rosenblatt. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 1948, Treatise V, pp. 226-227)