The Jewish life cycle, from birth to death dictates certain practices and traditions that deem those points in our lives as special. Much of it is rooted in our Torah and further amplified by centuries of Rabbinic teaching and life experiences. Is it possible for anyone to understand “the basics” and other answers to life’s difficult questions while stand one foot? Why while standing on one foot?

Answering this will require digging in to a great publication of collection of laws, stories and commentaries about laws that are classified in 6 main sections and further broken down to 63 categories or tractates. We call this compilation The Talmud. It was Babylonia around 500 C.E. In this instance we find the answer in a tractate called Shabbat. Why Shabbat? That’s a question for another time. But Shabbat is in the main section called in Hebrew “Moed “translated as “Appointed Time”. Each page is broken to a column with parts a & b. On page 31a of that tractate we find the following story: “On another occasion it happened that a certain non-Jew came before Shammai and said to him, “I will convert to Judaism, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away with the builder’s tool that was in his hand. He came before Hillel and said to him, “Convert me.” Hillel said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

You’re probably wondering who are Hillel and Shamai. You may have heard there names before. In case you have not, here are a few facts. Many consider Hillel to be a wise teacher. Hillel was born in Babylonia in the first century BCE. As young man he came to ancient Israel to study Jewish law with master teacher of his time in Jerusalem. Although he did not come from a wealthy family, he excelled as a student and became a well-known scholar and eventually the Nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin (the supreme judicial council of ancient Jerusalem. Hillel was a very humble and patient man. Shammai, with who Hillel often disagreed on the interpretations of Biblical law often followed the stricter interpretation, whereas Hillel tended toward a more lenient understanding of the law. In the great majority of cases, Hillel’s opinion prevailed. Hillel encouraged his students to follow the example of Aaron the High Priest to “seek peace and pursue it, love all G‑d’s creations and bring them close to the teachings.”, and there are many stories that illustrate this.

“That which you don’t want done to yourself, don’t do to others.” It includes harm caused directly person-to-person and also difficulties in the world that are initiated by one’s transgressions. You wouldn’t want someone to do it to you so don’t do it to others.

“That is the entire Torah. The rest–the other six hundred and twelve commandments–are simply the explanations.” Know what should and should not be done in order to make sure that you are contributing and not bring about harm to the world and all that is in it.film Smurfs: The Lost Village trailer

You can put your foot down now…