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  1. Do the prophets ever rebuke the Jews for not being "observant" of all the "Bain Adam Lamakom" laws or any failings in these areas other than Avodah Zarah?

    I think Jeremiah does mention carrying burdens on Shabbos. Are there any other occurences of the prophets rebuking for similar "ritualistic" infractions (chapter and verse, please)?

  2. Even if there are ritualistic failings mentioned in their rebukes, it seems to be a bit at odds with the Chumash which puts a lot more of an emphasis on the ritual and not nearly as much on "social justice" and lack of corruption. So why do the prophets primarily focus on so to speak on universally understood ideas and not the laws unique to the Halacha?

  3. Can this phenomenon be a source for the idea of Hillel that the entire Torah is really the concept of "What you would not want done to yourself do not do to others"?

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    One could argue that the people were observing, more or less, the ritual aspects, especially when it came to the temple service. The prophets focused their rebuke on where it was needed.
    – Joel K
    Commented Apr 16 at 5:18
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    Yeshayah (in chs. 65-66) upbraids those who eat non-kosher foods. Yirmiyahu (17:4) states that the Jews will be exiled for failure to keep Shemittah, and indeed the 70 years of the Babylonian exile made up for 70 such failures (Divrei Hayamim 2:36:21).
    – Meir
    Commented Apr 16 at 19:21
  • @Meir very nice source!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Apr 17 at 10:56

1 Answer 1

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There is a great principle in Torah:

המעשה הוא העיקר

The action is the main thing (based on Pirkei Avot 1:17)


I think you've spotted a pattern, and are trying to understand it with modern tools, such as "social justice", and therefore arriving at an incorrect conclusion that the ritualistic side of Judaism is meant to somehow give way to the interpersonal side. Not quite.

I think a change in how you view the Torah will provide the context to reach the correct conclusion. The gemara (e.g. Shabbat 105a), and the deeper sources (e.g. Zohar), describe the Torah as Hashem commiting Himself to writing. Therefore we view it as Him describing, from His point of view, His relationship with us, and therefore can be viewed as a love letter to mankind, especially His people who accepted the Torah, Israel.


The first thing He tells us in the Midbar is that the action is non-negotiable. Most of the 613 commandments involve some sort of action or behaviour. They are actions and behaviours that serve Him, because they are His wants and needs in the relationship, and are therefore non-negotiable.

This (correct) way of looking at the Torah - that it is about the relationship between Hashem and His creations, as e.g. Hoshea explains - now means things make sense, because every relationship has rules, boundaries, for the sake of doing right by each other. These rules and boundaries are based on the desires and needs of those involved.

We cannot wait until we understand them, or until our heart is ready to perform them with feeling and desire, but we must start learning and doing them immediately. Working on the heart must begin immediately, but that is expected to take time, and maturity.

Therefore the trajectory of our ever blossoming relationship with our God starts with the action, then gets to the heart, through all of the Tanach that He wrote for us and said to us.

He first tells us about the action in Tanach (after our origins, and His side of the events of history), and the focus is on its non-negotiability. Sefer Devarim goes into this, and Moshe our Teacher does His best to burn into our souls how vitally important the Mitzvot are, while also beginning to reveal some of the heart behind things...

After this, it gets more about the heart. The reason is not because the action and ritual should give way to the heart, but because the action without the heart is like a body without a soul. Back to our context of a relationship: a husband indeed should do the action of giving flowers, but it must also be accompanied by his love for his wife, and his desire to please her, in the context of her everpresence in his heart. Without that, it's next-to-worthless for her, and indeed can end up being a grave offense. Especially after the relationship is not young and new, but mature and developed.

Even when the Nevi'im put a lot of emphasis on justice, corruption, and the interpersonal mitzvot, it is still in order to serve Him, because this is what He wants from His creations. It is just as much His will as the ritual ben-adam-leMakom mitzvot!

So, the Nevi'im relay for us that our hearts are not in it enough, and we see a more personal side to Hashem, who is looking into our hearts constantly. While reminding us, throughout that the action is non-negotiable ("If only they'd abandon Me, if it means they will do the Mitzvot" - Eicha Rabbah on Yirmiyahu 16:11, indeed the Nevi'im are replete with exhortation to keep the Torah), He also tells us things like, a sacrifice without the heart is not what He wants (Hoshea 6:6).

In the Ketuvim, it becomes very close and personal. Tehillim, love songs for Hashem. Shir Hashirim, the Kodesh Kodashim. King David telling King Shlomo to know the God of his father (I Chronicles 28:9).


Now we can get to your questions.

  1. Bli neder I will find specific examples, but hopefully what I have explained above has cleared up the misconception you have that the Nevi'im are not focusing on the action because they view it with less importance. Instead, they take it as given, and refer to it generally all over the place, with phrases such תּוֹרָתִי לֹא שָׁמָרוּ - they did not keep My Torah.
  2. The Nevi'im exhort us to serve Hashem with our hearts, because this is a real relationship of love, like a marriage. We may have been keeping the Mitzvot on the outside, but on the inside we were doing it without love or desire. Working on these aspects takes place in a more mature stage of our relationship, and thus is the focus of these later Nevi'im.
  3. Hillel is capturing all of the above in his statement. Don't do to others what you find hateful. Treat people properly in the way you act, and put heart into it (because you hate it when people make you feel alone by mistreating you, or even treating you well but without having you in their heart at all). This includes treating Hashem properly, including the ritual Mitzvot, as well as the interpersonal Mitzvot.
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  • Thank you. However, you last point regrading Hillel's statement is extremely novel and hard to understand. I don't see how we can consider Hashem to be the "other" in Hillel's statement as in someone that can be hurt in any way. Furthermore, we are only told to not to harm others and treat them with respect, but we wouldn't have to fulfill their unexplained myriad wishes. Therefore, the analogy doesn't follow to Hashem. I obviously agree that Hillel knows we are obligated to fulfill "Bein adam lamakom", but maybe the point is to perfect our character.
    – Bpsb
    Commented Apr 16 at 21:41
  • @Bpsb indeed, the idea is not novel at all, although it does go against certain grains. It's totally fair if this answer doesn't speak to you but hopefully will be of use to someone. Thanks for asking a great question and I hope you find an answer that satisfies your curiosity
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Apr 16 at 21:53

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