Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Ethical Will of Eleazar of Mayence Part 1

I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I would post about Eleazar's ethical will. Then I went "on vacation" to be with family, during which time someone said and did some things that offended me very deeply regarding an aunt who passed during this vacation, and a very intimate piece of my mom's personal property which this person extracted for herself, so it is interesting how the timing of this post is so appropriate to something I'm dealing with in real life right at this point in time. It is forcing me to remember that this world and all of the things in it are not really mine, they are on loan from the Lord. The personal slights against me and my family from anyone outside of our family circle, are temporary as well, and I am to pray for my enemies. Much easier said than done.

A couple of years ago, I bid on and won the purchase of a box of books which included several treasures, one of which was the "Bar Mitzvah Treasury" edited by Azriel Eisenberg. The book contains several short essays and was compiled for the goal of preparing a young man with the wisdom gleaned from several sources and from a time span which reaches across the ages. This particular essay, "Eleazar of Mayence Leaves a Will" concerns the second will (the first will dealing with tangible property and money) that people used to leave for generations to follow theirs. The introduction to this piece of literature states:

There was a time when people prepared two wills, to be read after their death. One was a distribution of money and property. The other was a testament on living as a man and as a Jew. Eleazar of Mayence, an ordinary Jew, wrote his "ethical will" about six hundred years ago, embodying ideas far ahead of the medieval thinking of the "dark ages". How well do you think it applies today?

There are several bits of excellent advice in this short submission. In this post I'll touch on one that I have trouble with, and would do well to follow this sage advice. I find myself often exclaiming "Oh my God!" or ""Geez" (short for Jesus), and feel a twinge of guilt each time, but pass it off as "It is good to say the name of God", while another part of me wonders if I'm taking the name of the Lord in vain...This is what Eleazar had to say on this topic:

Be on your guard concerning vows, and cautious as to promises. The breach of one's undertakings leads to many lapses. Do not get into the habit of exclaiming "God!" but speak always of the "Creator, Blessed be He"; and in all that you propose to do, today or tomorrow, add the proviso, "If the Lord wills, I shall do this thing." Thus remember God's part in your life.

Mat 5:33  Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
Mat 5:34  But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
Mat 5:35  Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Mat 5:36  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
Mat 5:37  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.


  1. I am not in the habit of saying these things, but I notice many people are, I don't think they (or you) are trying to be disrespectful, it's just a habit.

    I look forward to hearing more from the book!

    1. Hi Ma,

      Thank you :)
      I know that I don't do it to be consciously disrespectful, but I do think it falls under carelessness. It is a habit, something that is said without thought, and I think that isn't good. I need to be careful with making any reference to God and show a special reverence to Him by this. He has done so much for me and He deserves much better from me. Sloppiness and carelessness are not godly traits. And of course I am petitioning the Lord's assistance with this because I know I can't do it alone ;-)


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