Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “For us, the means justify the end.”

It says in the Talmud (Hagiga 6b) that the Torah was given with both general rules and specific details.

Indeed, the Torah can usually be divided into parts that deal with broad pronouncements of legal principles and parts that deal with how these principles play out in practice.

But the truth is that although the Torah does devote much of its attention to larger questions, the basic principles of our belief system lie in the small details, and not in the few explicit articulations of our major tenets.

If our sages – whether in our own time or in previous generations – were charged with writing the Torah from scratch, it would no doubt include much more information on spirituality and the larger questions of life.

However, the Torah is not built that way. In saying, “These are the ordinances that you shall set before them” (Ex. 21:1), the Torah gives primacy to the details, leaving the exalted and lofty matters for certain special occasions and places.


Because the Torah itself is characterized by those same dry ordinances that deal with life’s details.

This basic characterization has implications in other areas as well and is crucial for understanding the whole orientation of the Jewish world.

In a nutshell, Judaism takes the slogan, “the end justifies the means,” and turns it on its head.

For us, the means justify the end.

The detailed and minute laws are more important to us than the lofty aims.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz