the Fourth Week of Lent
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
The quality of being godly, e., godlike, manifested in character and conduct expressive of the conscious recognition and realization of man's divine origin and destiny, and in the discharge of the duties therein involved. Regarding man as fashioned in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26,27), Judaism predicates of every man the possibility, and ascribes to him the faculty, of realizing godliness. According to its anthropology, this faculty was never vitiated or weakened in man by original sin.
In the Authorized Version "godly" corresponds to the Hebrew "á¸¥asid" (Psalms 4:3, 12:2 [A. V. 1]); but the term 'áºaddiá¸³" (righteous; Psalms 1:5,6) equally connotes the idea. The characteristics of the godly may best be derived from the fuller account given of their antonyms. The ungodly ("resha'im"; Psalms 1:1,5) are described as men compassed about with pride, clothed in violence, speaking loftily and corruptly, denying God's knowledge, prospering by corruption in this world, and wrongfully increasing their riches (Psalms 73). They are those that make not God their strength (ib. 52:7). Godliness is thus also the antithesis to the conduct and character of the wicked ("mere'im"), the workers of iniquity ("po'ale owen"; ib. ), "who whet their tongue like a sword"; who encourage themselves to do evil, denying that God will see them.
The godly, by contrast, is he whose delight is in the Torah of Yhwh (ib. 1:2), or who, to use Micah's phrase, does justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8). The godly may be said to be actuated by the desire to learn of Yhwh's way, to walk in His truth, and to keep his heart in singleness of purpose to fear His name (Psalms 86:11). "To walk in God's ways" (Deuteronomy 13:5; "halok aá¸¥are middotaw shel ha-á¸³adosh baruk hu": Soá¹ah 14a) is the definition of "godliness," with the explanation that man shall imitate God's attributes as enumerated in Exodus 34:6,7a (comp. Yalá¸³., Deut. 873). As God is merciful, man also should bemerciful; and so with respect to all other characteristics of godliness.
Charity the Essence.
According to the Rabbis, the beginning and the conclusion of the Torah relate deeds of divine benevolence. God clothed the naked; He comforted the mourners; He buried the dead (Soá¹ah 14a; B. á¸². 99a; B. M. 30b based on Mek., Yitro, 2 [ed. Weiss, 68a; ed. Friedmann, 59b]; comp. the second "berakah" in the see Shemoneh 'Esreh). Godliness thus involves a like disposition and readiness on the part of man to come to the relief of all that are in distress and to be a doer of personal kindness to his fellow men ("gomel á¸¥asadim"; comp. Ned. 39b, 40a). Thus, whatever is involved in "gemilut á¸¥asadim" (Charity) is characteristic of godliness. Matthew 25:31 et seq. is an enumeration of the implications of Jewish godliness, the context ("then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory"; ib. 25:31) indicating that this catalogue was derived from a genuinely Jewish source (comp. Midr. Teh. to Psalms 118:20, ed. Buber, p. 486). Jewish godliness also inculcates modesty and delicate consideration of the feelings of one's fellow man. According to Eleazar ben Pedat, "to do justly" (Micah 6:8) refers to judgments rendered by judges; "to love mercy [love]," to the doing of acts of love ("gemilut á¸¥asadim"); "to walk humbly," to quiet, unostentatious participation in burying the dead and the providing of dowries for poor girls about to be married. "If," he continues, "for the prescribed acts the Torah insists on secrecy and unostentatiousness, how much more in the case of acts which of themselves suggest the propriety of secrecy" (Suk. 49b; Mak. 24b). He who is charitable without ostentation is greater than Moses (B. B. 9b). Greater is he that induces others to do kindly deeds than one that thoughtlessly or improperly performs them himself (B. B. 9a). He who does justly and loves mercy fills as it were the whole world with divine love (Psalms 33:5; Suk. 49b). Jewish godliness is not an "opus operatum," as is so often held by non-Jewish theologians. Charity without love is unavailing ("en áºedaá¸³ah meshallemet ela lefi á¸¥esed she-bah"; Suk. 49b). It comprises more than accurate justice, insistence being laid on "exceeding" justice (Mek., Yitro, 2, cited above).
Consideration for Others' Feelings.
Godliness also comprehends the sense of dependence upon divine grace and of gratitude for the opportunity to do good. "Prayer is greater than good works" (Ber. 32b). The question why God, if He loves the poor, does not Himself provide for them, is answered by declaring it to be God's intention to permit man to acquire the higher life (B. B. 10a). Jewish godliness is careful not to put another to shame (á¸¤ag. 5a, on public boastful charity); God's consideration for the repentant sinner (Hosea 14:2) is commended to man for imitation (Pesiá¸³. 163b). He who gloats over the shame of his fellow man is excluded from the world to come (Gen. R. ). "Better be burned alive than put a fellow man to shame" (Soá¹ah 10b).
It is ungodly to remind the repentant sinner of his former evil ways; as is it to remind the descendant of non-Jews of his ancestors (B. M. 58b). There is therefore no forgiveness for him who puts another to shame or who calls him by an offensive name (B. M. 58b). Godliness includes the forgiving disposition (Proverbs 17:9; Ab. 1:12, 5:14; R. H. 17a). To be beloved of God presupposes to be beloved of men (Ab. 3:13). Slander and godliness are incompatible (Pes. 118a). Pride and godliness are absolute contraries (Proverbs 6:16-19; Ta'an. 7a; Soá¹ah 4b, 5a, b; 'Ab. Zarah 20b: humility is the greatest virtue). To be among the persecuted rather than among the persecutors is characteristic of the godly (Giá¹. 36b). "God says, 'Be like unto me. As I requite good for evil, so do thou render good for evil'" (Ex. R.; comp. Gen. R. ).
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Godliness'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​g/godliness.html. 1901.