Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv on Love and Empathy

Claussen, Geoffrey. “Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv on Love and Empathy.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 30, no. 2 (2010): 151-169.


ABSTRACT: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv of Kelme, Lithuania was one of the early leaders of the Musar Movement, a pietistic religious movement in 19th century Europe that attempted to place concerns with moral character at the center of Jewish life. This article introduces Simhah Zissel’s virtue-centered approach to the Torah’s central commandment that one “love one’s fellow as oneself.” For Simhah Zissel, love is a disposition of the soul, with emotional and intellectual aspects, culminating in action; love demands a sense of partnership with others and a sense of care which should extend to all of God’s creatures. Love demands a sense of partnership with others and a sense of care that should extend to all of God's creatures; love requires that we not privilege ourselves over other people; and the highest level of love is “sharing the burden of one’s fellow,” compassionate love characterized by empathy and responsiveness, which can only be cultivated through great effort.

UPDATE: Full text available here.