NOTE: Since I am Jewish, I can only talk about my religion. My knowledge is far more limited when it comes to other religions so I am not able have an opinion regarding this question in relation to any religion but Judaism, but if you happen to be of the persuasion of a different religion, please feel free to comment or even author your own post(s) on this subject.
According the website askmoses.com a “good Jew” is “a person chosen by G-d for a specific mission: to make this world holy, good, and G-dly. The Jew has very specific divine instructions on how to carry out this mission. Those instructions are found in the Torah and have been explained by the Jewish Sages throughout the ages. A “good Jew,” thus, is someone who is doing his utmost to follow those instructions in order to fulfill his G-d-given mission.
I agree with this definition of a “good Jew”. But I contend that the specific set of instructions that are found in the Torah are either not so clear – or we are not following those set of instructions.
The concept of not collected interest for money loaned is clearly stated in the Torah in Leviticus 25:37
“When your brother becomes impoverished and loses the ability to support himself…do not take advance interest or accrued interest”
But when it comes to business, there is a document that is legally drawn (which hangs in most banks in Israel) called a “shtar iska” that allows interest to be collected.
Rabbi Simmons from Aish.com gives a little explanation as to how this alteration of the specific instruction not to collect interest came to be.
I am not a Rabbi, obviously, nor am I implying that I know more than a Rabbi and especially not ancient Rabbi’s, but I still have some questions that lead me to my question at the top of this post – What is a “Good Jew”?
If the Torah explicitly tells us not to collect interest from poor people, and if someone is coming to a bank because they need a loan – which is also a very specific instruction in the Torah (Shemos 22:24), how can a document override both of these very specific instructions given to us by the Torah – or Hashem – Itsself?!?
Are we a “Good Jew” if we follow what the Torah explicitly says – which was sent to us, according to our understanding, from Hashem Himself, or are we a “Good Jew” if we follow the instructions that the ancient Rabbi’s have given us based on their learnings and their experiences – some of them being more stringent (such as waiting a certain amount of time between eating milk and meat, when the Torah simply tells us not to “boil a kid in its mother’s milk – Deuteronomy 14:21) and some of them being less stringent such as the laws concerning interest and monetary loans discuss above.
If I am confused, I am sure a lot of people are confused. Some will ignore the confusion and continue following the main stream path of listening to others telling them how to be a “Good Jew”. Others with say to heck with all this I don’t want to be a “Good Jew”. Others, like myself, will continue to question and may even be considered heretics by other “Good Jews” but will still think of ourselves as “Good Jews” without needing validation from others because – we will know in our hearts that a “Good Jew” is the same as a Good Person.
I know in my heart that Hashem (the Life Force of the Universe) gave us the Torah (Bible) for our benefit to learn how to be the best person that we can be and the beautiful concept of lending money to poor people and not charging interest on that loan should not be tampered with, in my opinion. Yes, there are valid reasons for adjusting this law, but finding a loop hole for this law takes away from the heart of it – which, according to my definition of a “Good Jew” is the important part of the specific set of instructions mentioned above, otherwise known as the Torah.
So in conclusion, what is a “Good Jew” –
Good Jews are good people who have good hearts!!!!!
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