For: Middle school and Upper School
Pathmaps Points: Values and Beliefs, Relationships
Summary: Small teams of students reflect on three different texts that focus on "neighborliness"; one from the Jewish tradition, one from the Christian tradition and one from Islam. Students answer questions related to each text and to their own thinking. Following these team discussions the whole class discusses the concept.
Students should answer each of these questions in pairs or groups of three. They can either work together on one text, then "jigsaw" so that each person represents the other two texts in the final discussion, or each student can be responsible for one text providing a summary of the text and answers to the questions to their team members. A full class discussion should follow the small team discussions. Each team can explain their thoughts and then the class can discuss areas where they have differing ideas and where they think changes should happen in society in general.
There are three readings and one worksheet for this project.
Each of these readings (handouts) discusses the concept of caring for, or loving one’s neighbor.
Have students consider this text and these questions before reading.
Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord-
What does it mean to “love your self"? Write an answer below.
Do you think that loving yourself is a prerequisite for loving your neighbor? Explain your answer.
What kinds of behavior would loving your neighbor entail?
How would you define the term neighbor?
Discussion in class will be invited.
Below are a series of readings from Judaism, Christianity and Islam with an interpretation of “neighborliness.” As you read them, search for two things:
a. Definitions of the concept of neighbor (for example, who is your neighbor?).
b. Descriptions of how you should treat your neighbor.
Finally, discuss these passages with one other person and decide where they are in agreement, and where they differ. If we followed any one of these passages, how would that change either our definition of the term neighbor or our behavior toward our neighbor?
NOTE: Be aware that not all adherents of these three major faiths would agree with the translation or interpretation presented below in the quotes. To trace what school within each religion these texts come from, please see the web site referenced with each one. The purpose is for us to practice thinking about our own behavior by using thoughtful and spiritually based texts.
Reading 1 Christianity:
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (NAS, Mark 12:28-31)
In Jesus' teachings, our relationship with our fellow human beings is inseparable from our relationship with God. Love of God and love of our neighbors are two aspects of the same calling:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV, John 13:34-35)
Who is my Neighbor?
We commonly think of neighbors as the people who live near us, but Jesus meant it to include all mankind - even our enemies! Jesus told the famous parable of the Good Samaritan to make it clear that "love your neighbor" means to love all persons, everywhere - not just friends, allies, countrymen, etc.:
One day an expert on Moses' laws came to test Jesus' orthodoxy by asking him this question: "Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?" Jesus replied, "What does Moses' law say about it?" "It says," he replied, "that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself." "Right!" Jesus told him. "Do this and you shall live!" The man wanted to justify (his lack of love for some kinds of people), so he asked, "Which neighbors?" Jesus replied with an illustration: "A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road. "By chance a Jewish priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Jewish Temple-assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on. "But a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night. The next day he handed the innkeeper two twenty-dollar bills and told him to take care of the man. 'If his bill runs higher than that,' he said, 'I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.' "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the bandits' victim?" The man replied, "The one who showed him some pity." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same." (TLB, Luke 10:25-37)
The Jews of Jesus' society considered the Samaritans to be ceremonially unclean, and as social outcasts (Mays, p. 1029). Yet, the Samaritan took pity on the poor man who had been robbed and beaten. He gave freely of both his time and his money to help this Jewish man who was not only a stranger, but also an enemy from a foreign country. In His parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus challenges us to "Go and do the same."
To reinforce that "love your neighbor" applies to everyone, Jesus extended the rule of love to even our enemies!
"There is a saying, 'Love your friends and hate your enemies.' But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (TLB, Matthew 5:43-48)
Like the unselfish Samaritan man of Jesus' parable, we are called to extend our love and concern to all persons everywhere, as our neighbors. We should not exclude anyone or any group because of social status, a supposed character fault, religious difference, racial difference, ethnic difference, citizenship difference, etc.
Related verses: Matthew 22:34-39, Luke 6:27-38
Reading 2 Judaism:
Love and Brotherhood
Many people think of Judaism as the religion of cold, harsh laws, to be contrasted with Christianity, the religion of love and brotherhood. This is an unfair characterization of both Judaism and Jewish law. Love and kindness has been a part of Judaism from the very beginning. Pirkei Avot, a book of the Mishnah, teaches that the world is based on three things: on Torah (law), on service to G-d, and on g'milut chasadim (usually translated as "acts of lovingkindness"), perhaps drawing from Psalm 89:3, "the world is built on kindness" (more commonly translated as "forever is mercy built"). The Talmud says that g'milut chasadim is greater than tzedakah (charity), because unlike tzedakah, g'milut chasadim can be done for both poor and rich, both the living and the dead, and can be done with money or with acts. (Talmud Sukkah 49b). The Mishnah describes g'milut chasadim as one of the few things that one can enjoy the fruits in this world and the principal remains intact in the world to come.
A large part of Jewish law is about the relationship between man and his neighbors. The same body of Jewish law that commands us to eat only kosher food, not to turn on lights on Shabbat, and not to wear wool woven with linen, also commands us to love both Jews and strangers, to give tzedakah (charity) to the poor and needy, and not to wrong anyone in speech or in business. In fact, acts of lovingkindness are so much a part of Jewish law that the word "mitzvah" (literally, "commandment") is informally used to mean any good deed.
The Talmud tells a story of Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus. A pagan came to him saying that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the whole of the Torah in the time he could stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it." Sounds a lot like Jesus' "Golden Rule"? But this idea was a fundamental part of Judaism long before Hillel or Jesus. It is a common-sense application of the Torah commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18), which Rabbi Akiba described as the essence of the Torah.
The true difference between Judaism and Christianity lies in Hillel's last comment: Go and study it. Judaism is not content to leave love and brotherhood as a general ideal, to be fulfilled as each individual sees fit. Judaism spells out, in intricate detail, how we are meant to show that love.
Jewish law includes within it a blueprint for a just and ethical society, where no one takes from another or harms another or takes advantage of another, but everyone gives to one another and helps one another and protects one another. Again, these are not merely high ideals; the means for fulfilling these ideals are spelled out in the 613 commandments.
Everyone knows that the Ten Commandments command us not to murder. The full scope of Jewish law goes much farther in requiring us to protect our fellow man. We are commanded not to leave a condition that may cause harm, to construct our homes in ways that will prevent people from being harmed, and to help a person whose life is in danger, so long as it does not put our own lives in danger. These commandments regarding the preservation of life are so important in Judaism that they override all of the ritual observances that people think are the most important part of Judaism. We are commanded to help those in need, both in physical need and financial need. The Torah commands us to help a neighbor with his burden, and help load or unload his beast. See Treatment of Animals. We are required to give money to the poor and needy, and not to turn them away empty handed. See Tzedakah: Charity.
Jewish law forbids us from cheating another or taking advantage of another. Jewish law regarding business ethics and practices is extensive. It regulates conduct between a businessman and his customer (for example, not to use false weights and measures, not to do wrong in buying and selling, not to charge interest) and between a business man and his employee (to pay wages promptly, to allow a worker in the field to eat the produce he is harvesting, and not to take produce other than what you can eat from the employer while harvesting).
Entire books have been written on the subject of Jewish laws against wronging another person in speech. We are commanded not to tell lies about a person, nor even uncomplimentary things that are true. We are commanded to speak the truth, to fulfill our promises, and not to deceive others. See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
Contrary to what many people think, most of these laws regarding treatment of others apply not only to our treatment of our fellow Jews, but also to our treatment of gentiles, and in many cases even to our treatment of animals. In fact, some of the laws instituted by the sages even extend kind treatment to inanimate objects. The bread on the Shabbat table is covered during the blessing over the wine, so that it's "feelings" are not hurt by having the wine take precedence over it. Of course, we do not believe that bread actually has feelings, but this practice helps to instill an enormous sensitivity to others. If we can show concern for a loaf of bread, how can we fail to show concern for our fellow man?
© Copyright 5756-5767 (1995-2007), Tracey R Rich
Reading 3 Islam:
Kindness to a Non-Muslim Neighbor
Tips for Interaction
by el-Saed M. Amin
This article can be found at:
Being good to neighbors is not only restricted to those who share the same building with you. Your roommate at the dorm is your neighbor; the person sitting behind you or next to you in a bus or at a bus stop is your neighbor; the one sharing your office at work is your neighbor; the person enjoying fresh air next to you in a public garden is also a neighbor. You ought to treat all of those people kindly and socialize with them within the permitted scope of Shari ‘ah.
Introduce yourself and your family to your neighbors when you move into a new place or when new neighbors move in. This will also help to relieve any fears or tensions they may have about Muslims. Also, don’t forget to say good-bye when you or they move away.
Care for them continually, especially at times of need and distress, as “the neighbor in need is a neighbor indeed.” If a neighbor is elderly or chronically ill, offer to run errands or shop for him or her.
In dealing with neighbors, it is safer to deal with those of the same sex as yourself. This does not mean that you should stop socializing at work or school with your non-Muslim workmates or classmates of the opposite sex, but be aware of Satanic snares. After-hours socializing should be with your same sex.
While socializing with non-Muslims, be cautious of becoming too lenient at the expense of your creed and principles. For example, don’t go out drinking with them. They will respect you more for sticking to your principles than for breaking the rules.
In addition to sharing ideas, you can share meals with them by inviting them to dinner on the weekend or accepting their invitation to the same, provided that you let them know about your dietary restrictions as a Muslim.
Conduct mutual visits so that the families can interact in a constructive way. If the discussion does turn to religion, focus on areas of common ground. For example, if your neighbors are Christian, then you should not enter into a futile argument with them about whether Jesus is God incarnate or not. Rather, tell them to what extent Islam honors all God’s Prophets and Messengers as a whole, and that Jesus is granted a special status among God’s Prophets and Messengers.
While socializing with neighbors, present your deen (Islam) in the best way. If you are faced with a difficult question or a distortion about Islam, do not be ashamed to stop for a while and tell them that you will try to contact a more knowledgeable person to seek the guidance regarding the issue raised. Thus, common grounds should be enhanced, and areas of dissension should never be raised.
If your neighbors show an interest in Islam, invite them to attend Islamic events, and even to accompany you to the mosque to see what it is like. It may be that their hearts become softened to Islam, and if they remain non-Muslim, at least you have succeeded in breaking the barrier. You can also visit the church where your neighbors pray if they invite you to do that, but here you should be cautious not to perform any act that your religion prohibits. In brief, be only a watchful monitor.
Always keep in mind the mighty reward that is in store for you in the Hereafter when you show kindness to a neighbor.
What would change if we acted the way the different texts describe?
Is it possible to really live these out?