Judaism and Civility - The "Other Side of Halaka"
by Paul Roitman Bardack
Given at Tifereth Israel Congregation, Washington, D.C., on August 3, 2002 (25 Av 5762).
Shabbat shalom, everyone.
It's summer … a time to kick back, stay out of the heat, and reflect on some of life's basics. For that reason, this morning I would like to share with you my research on Jewish notions of civility.
Several months ago, the idea for this talk originated during a Kiddush luncheon. Rabbi Seidel and I were discussing behaviors we notices, behaviors which bothered us, in a wide variety of settings: the office, the supermarket, some of our own congregation's e-mail discussions, the neighborhood street, the Beltway, the doctor's office, and so on. Our survey was anecdotal and hardly scientific, but incivility seemed rampant, and on the rise.
The following passage, taken from Yale Law Professor Steven L. Carter's book "Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy," evokes wonderfully the sort of behavior to which Rabbi Seidel and I were referring. The passage is entitled "Barbarians Running Late:"
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