According to one ancient rabbinic compendium, Rabbi Akiva considered the verse “You shall love your fellow as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:8) as “the great general principle of Torah.” But the same text also cites the opposing view of Akiva’s contemporary Ben Azzai, who, less intuitively, held “This is the book of the generations of man” (Genesis 5:1) to be an even greater principle. In his commentary to this passage, the Russian exegete Rabbi Meir Leybush ben Yeḥiel Mikhl (1809-1879)—better known as the Malbim—explains this debate with an implicit, but unmistakable, reference to the moral teachings of Immanuel Kant. Akiva simply articulated the golden rule, according to Malbim, while Ben Azzai, following Kant, saw it as unnecessarily subjective, instead seeking a universal maxim—thus his reference to the “generations of man,” i.e., all of humankind.
How a 19th-Century Russian Rabbi Used the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant to Understand Two of the Talmud’s Great Ethical Debates
Like the Perpetrators of the 1994 Buenos Aires Bombing, Alberto Nisman’s Murderers Are Going Free
Seven years ago Tuesday, the Argentine Jewish lawyer Alberto Nisman—who was investigating the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’s AMIA Jewish center by Iranian agents—was shot under mysterious circumstances. As Toby Dershowitz explains, Nisman’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but the police, perhaps deliberately, contaminated the crime scene, and there is every reason to believe that Argentinian officials were responsible for his death: