Sunday, October 21, 2007


An email from a seminary girl in Yerushalayim:

Hi! I know you're really super busy with your 35 cool computer screens and all, but would you help me out with something? How would you define humanity? I need to do an essay on it and I'm trying to get different opinions. Thanks a ton.
Regards from Jerusalem,
(name redacted)

I answered:

Hi, long time no speak, (redacted) told me that you are having a great time, and it’s good to see (redacted). :-)
I assume you mean “the quality of being humane” – not “all peoples”. I would define humanity as the quality of following one’s moral values in dealing with others. The problem with that is that everyone has different moral values – on a national level the Nazis, for example, felt that it was humane to kill kids with birth defects, the Norwegians feel that euthanasia is humane, and Americans feel that it is humane to put an old dog “out of its misery”. On an individual level I might feel it humane to give a dollar to a beggar, while you might feel it humane to force him to get a job. As Jews, we don’t have nearly as much moral ambiguity, because we tie our humanity in to the Torah’s values.


P.S. I only have four screens so far, but yes, thirty-five would be super…

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