Rabbi Hillel’s Three Questions: What Did He Mean?

I have always been drawn to the deeper questions in life and I spent quite a bit of my life defending clients charged with death penalty offenses and I confronted those questions on a daily basis. I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

I believe that, as long as we remain alive, we retain the capacity for redemption, no matter what we have done.

As we tread water waiting for Judge Lester’s decision on Friday regarding the defense motion to disqualify, I have taken the opportunity to establish some guidelines and rules for the site.

To further set the tone for a new way in the blogosphere to learn about law and grow in wisdom together, I decided to provoke some philosophical thought and discussion regarding Rabbi Hillel’s famous three questions.

Rabbi Hillel

Wikipedia states:

Hillel (הלל) (born Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE[1] in Jerusalem) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaïm (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Christian Era.

He is known for many things, including this expression of the Golden Rule:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

The man had a way of cutting through the bullshit and getting to the essence of things.

I do not mention him for any religious purpose. Instead, I mention him as a sage and, specifically, for the following three questions he asked his students.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?

What are your thoughts?

83 Responses to Rabbi Hillel’s Three Questions: What Did He Mean?

  1. boar_d_laze says:

    Permit me to begin with a couple of picayune niggles.

    Important to note that Hillel’s formulation of the golden rule, “Do not do unto others…” was given in response to the challenge (by a couple of Alexandrian pagans) to state the whole of Judaism while standing on one foot.

    Also important to note that Hillel was the first great rabbi during Judaism’s tradition from a priestly to a rabbinic religion. The difference from an individual standpoint is that human beings must answer particular questions, rather than putting them to G_d — who had (according to the rabbis) decided not to speak directly to human beings anymore.

    If I am for myself only, WHAT am I? Not “who am I?”

    The three Hillel questions are formulations of the basic ethical dilemma of human existence and have been repeatedly asked by nearly every “existential” philosopher.

    As you’d expect from the great existential questions, any answer to Hillel’s merely reformulates them. For instance: You are responsible for taking care of yourself. If all you do is take care of yourself you’re empty. If you put off acting too long, you’re actions and existence become meaningless.

  2. Professor, I would like to thank for this particular blog. I have never heard of Rabbi Hillel before and it certainly has me comtemplating the three questions.
    I love the quote above about “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” It is such a contrast to the Christian quote, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  3. crazy1946 says:

    Can anyone with knowledge of the Sanford area, look at something that while not really a key point, where is the Target store (the one Zimmerman was enroute to when he saw Martin) located in relation to his residence? To go to the Target store in question, would he have, as a normal route, gone past the area where Martin was? I suppose what I am trying to do is figure out what caused him to notice Martin, such as he spotted him on what could be called a normaly expected route or he for some unknown reason went a way that could be considered unusual… I know this may sound lke a strange question, but Zimmerman going grocery shopping alone, could also be called strange (to some people)…… I know that some will respond and say they do it every day, so that will not be a surprise!!

    • GrannyStandingforTruth says:

      Target is in an entirely different direction. It is my belief that Zimmerman first saw Trayvon walking on Oregon Ave. and made a U-turn and followed the victim.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        Is there a possibility that GZ was called by Frank Taffe when Trayvon entered the community along the commonly used shortcut that allowed access right past Taffe’s townhome? Zs phone records have not yet been released as discovery, so we don’t yet know who else he called or was called by.

        I don’t know where Zimmerman might have been at the point of a possible call from Taffe, but he could have been headed toward Target in the other direction, as GST states.

        Per the timeline shown by the 7-11 video and the timing of the NEN call, TM appears to have been taking his time while walking to the Green condo from the 7-11, strolling slowly and pausing at times in more than one place to take shelter from the rain, and simply for freedom’s sake, I assume, as he talked to his friend DeeDee (and at one point, according to father’s girlfriend’s son, TM called him to say he was on his way home).

        Certainly there may have been enough time for Taffe or someone else to have observed TM and called GZ. GZ’s air marshall friend was also in the community around that time, was he not?

      • Two sides to a story,

        It is possible. Is there evidence to support it? Not that we know of and we know virtually everything at this point.

        It’s one thing to ask about the possibility and it is quite another to ask about the possibility and then expound upon that possibility to the point of ridiculousness.

        • Come on, now.

          We most certainly do not know “virtually everything at this point.”

          We do not have all of the discovery that the police and the prosecution have generated. We are missing lab reports and bench notes, for example.

          Do not be surprised if the prosecution holds back some significant evidence and parcels it out bit by bit for maximum tactical advantage.

          Also, you need to understand that the investigation is ongoing and will continue until the case is submitted to the jury after the closing arguments.

          Investigations typically pickup and intensify exponentially a few weeks before trial as the prosecution team focuses on getting ready for trial.

          I’ve said this before and I will say it again because you are not listening.

          This is not the time to be closing down potential avenues of investigation. Pardon me for mixing my metaphors, but every rock in this landscape littered with GZ’s lies should be picked up and examined before it is tossed aside.

          • ajamazin says:

            Professor,

            I am weary of justincaselawgic’s attempts to shut down discussion with comments that border on ridicule, his authoritarian statements, and constant repetition of the same stale points.

      • There are two ways to get to Target. One can turn right onto Rinehart and continue until WP Ball and turn left; or one can turn left onto Rinehart, turn right onto Town Center Blvd and then right into the plaza. The latter would be the quickest way.

        It is possible, no matter which route chosen, for Zimmerman to have seen Martin on Oregon first. I don’t think this has ever been part of Zimmerman’s version and I don’t know of any evidence that suggests this is probable.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic writes:

          “I don’t think this has ever been part of Zimmerman’s version and I don’t know of any evidence that suggests this is probable.”

          Truth and consistency have never been part of Zimmerman’s version.

          Of course it is possible.

          What you know may know or not know, is hardly the issue.

      • ajamazin,

        I see your conclusion is the same as mine, but you just had to get a dig in there.

      • ajamazin,

        “I am weary of justincaselawgic’s attempts to shut down discussion with comments that border on ridicule, his authoritarian statements, and constant repetition of the same stale points.”

        As I explained and apologized in advance to the prof, my comments are going to be redundant, because I’ve not been on this form before. He has, so far, allowed a little latitude in covering topics previously covered. Your complaints that I am attempting to ridicule you or others is a bit more like the pot calling the kettle black. You see ridicule when you should see disagreement. Just because I disagree with you vehemently, does not mean that my comments rise to the level of ridicule. This appears to be an attempt to stifle dissent and nothing more. Perhaps you should attend to your own comments and seek to eliminate the ridicule within.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic writes:

          ” I figured you guys weren’t mentally adept at figuring out the information and it appears I was right.”

          And justincaselawgic means that in the nicest, possible way.

      • ajamazin,

        No, I meant it in the most realistic way. There are things in this world that you are ignorant of. There are things I am ignorant of. It is the reality of our existence. So, when someone says that Martin’s body was 45′ south of the “T”, they have to be ignorant, (not mentally adept) of what the total station layout represents.

        Your attempts to attack my motives or insinuate that my fervent disagreement are personal attacks is illustrative of the perception that you seek to attack the messenger and not the message.

    • aussie says:


      showing the estate, Target, the bank and 7-11.

      IF he spotted TM outside, that would be totally normal on that stretch of road.

      If he spotted him at the shortcut that he claims, that would also be the normal direct way for him to drive from his home towards the estate gate.

      There is also the possibility someone tipped him off about a suspicious stranger, and the shopping trip was just an excuse. It makes no difference to the outcome.

      It only makes a difference to GZ’s legal standing — whether he was a normal CCW person going somewhere he’s entitled to be armed, accidentally coming across someone, or whether he went out on purpose fully armed to seek out a suspect.

  4. Mike S says:

    This has not been widely reported, but Zimmerman apparently wants his bond restrictions eased significantly.

    http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/attorney-file-motion-asking-judge-allow-george-zim/nP7sj/

    O’Mara has indicated he’s going to file a motion to effectively eliminate the travel restrictions on George. He says that Seminole County is the most dangerous place in the world for George to be and they only have $40,000 to $50,000 left and the 24/7 security is eating into that at a ferocious rate.

    However – he’s not just asking to get let out of Seminole County. He’s asking for unrestricted travel throughout the U.S.

    It sounds more and more to me like this is all about money. I’m betting that Zimmerman can’t get big names to commit to travelling to him, so he’s going to travel to them to boost his visibility and go trolling for dollars some more.

    I can’t see why the judge would grant this, nothing has changed since the last time Lester looked at this. Perhaps even more importantly, I can’t see the bail bonds people going along with this. George could innocently travel near a port town, break his GPS bracelet and be on a boat to who knows where before the bail people knew what was going on.

    I don’t know if I’d call Zimmerman evil, but he is highly self-absorbed and shows a very disturbing lack of emotion at times when you think he’d be most emotional.

    • Dennis says:

      I agree. There is not any evidence that Zimmerman is in any terrible danger. Nothing has changed since his release except the fact that his blood money is running out and can’t pay the 24/7 security detail. I doubt the Judge would grant such nonsense unless O’Mara could provide proof that Zimmerman is in danger. I don’t know if Zimmerman would run now that he does not have enough blood money to survive on his own.

      “I don’t know if I’d call Zimmerman evil, but he is highly self-absorbed and shows a very disturbing lack of emotion at times when you think he’d be most emotional.”
      I agree. I just watched the psychologist’s reaction to the SH interview. They said Zimmerman’s body language, etc… was disturbing. I was most disturbed by Zimmerman chuckling before some of the responses he gives.

    • GrannyStandingforTruth says:

      Oh wow! Does Zimmerman think that he should be given “special privileges” that no one else being tried for murder, which is a serious crime, would be allowed to have? That’s mighty pompous of him and arrogant. Frankly speaking, I do not believe that his life is in danger. If he feels like his life is in so much danger, he should have stayed in jail. Judge Lester called it right! Zimmerman seems to think that he is above the law—the laws don’t apply to him. That’s my impression.

      • GrannyStandingforTruth says:

        I can just see it now. The next motion for his privileged client O’Mara will be filing is to let Zimmerman to be his own judge and jury. Smh!

    • GrannyStandingforTruth says:

      I guess staying in top-notch, ritzy hotels, living the life of Riley, 3 square meals a day are free of charge for King Zimmerman.

  5. Justkiddin* says:

    I do not agree that Judge Lester is not a good judge. I recently read this article
    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-07-26/news/os-zimmerman-judge-poll-20120726_1_lowest-rated-judge-poll-participant-george-zimmerman
    And his peers give him a high rating. I believe if he commented on his ruling today then he would have to recuse himself. I thought Bill Sheaffer made the comment about this information or another news station. Here is a snip from the article:

    Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., who presides over the George Zimmerman murder case, is one of the highest-ranked jurists in Central Florida, according to a recent poll of criminal defense attorneys.

    Lester, a 15-year veteran of the bench who works in Sanford, received uniformly high marks for his legal knowledge, demeanor, impartiality and diligence.

  6. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” This is another way of saying, “love thyself or no one truly can.”

    “But if I am only for myself, who am I?” This is another way of saying, “love thy neighbor”. If you are ONLY for yourself, you are selfish.

    “If not now, when?” “Why put off til tomorrow, what you can do today.”

    Basically, love yourself and others and don’t procrastinate. Pretty simple and worthwhile advice.

    • I suspect an appeal will be forthcoming. The judge simply said no with no additional explanation, like a parent would a child.

      • ajamazin says:

        A judge need not give an explanation.

      • Obviously. However, Judges typically offer more than a statement that the motion is insufficient. A Judge, by law, has to assume that the motion’s allegations are true, but he can comment on why they don’t meet the level of sufficiency. It raises my eyebrows when someone in power fails to support their contentions.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic.

          I beg to differ.

          A motion, although reduced to writing, is not a pleading, and does not require a written answer.

          The judge may comment but is not required to do so.

      • I’m aware of the requirements, or lack thereof, in this case. I’ve not argued otherwise, so we do not differ. My contention is that, I would have liked for the Judge to state why the motion is insufficient. Not doing so leads me to having the same questions I had before.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic,

          I doubt that O’Mara was surprised with Judge Lester’s decision, and I suspect O’Mara needs no explanation.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic,

          “I’m aware of the requirements, or lack thereof, in this case.”

          Then why did you state:

          “Judges typically offer more than a statement that the motion is insufficient. A Judge, by law, has to assume that the motion’s allegations are true,….”

      • ks says:

        As ajamazing said it was a motion not a pleading and didn’t require additional written explanation. The idea that the judge should have commented anyway on why the defense’s claims were legally insufficient is specious.

        Now let’s cut to the chase. The defense’s motion was grandstanding nonsense and got exactly the consideration it deserved. An appeal (based on what?) would be further pointless foolishness.

      • ks,

        I never said it should have had an explanation, just that I would have liked to see one. There is nothing specious about that.

      • ajamazin,

        “I doubt that O’Mara was surprised with Judge Lester’s decision, and I suspect O’Mara needs no explanation.”

        I doubt this as well and expect to see an appeal.

        —-

        “Then why did you state:

        ‘Judges typically offer more than a statement that the motion is insufficient. A Judge, by law, has to assume that the motion’s allegations are true,….’”

        I fail to see the point of your question. The Judge is not required, but can provide an explanation. There is no contradiction. The Judge has to accept the allegations in the motion as true. That is the law. There is no contradiction in what I stated previously or now.

        • ajamazin says:

          justincaselawgic

          “Then why did you state: ‘Judges typically offer more than a statement that the motion is insufficient. A Judge, by law, has to assume that the motion’s allegations are true,….’”

          You are confused.

          I did not write that.

        • ajamazin says:

          I believe that Lester will never be accused of being an outstanding
          judge and that he must struggle to be a competent judge.

          The statements Lester made in his Order to Revoke Bond were unnecessary and counterproductive.

          Knowing that his language would later prove to be problematic, I have long questioned his motives.

      • ajamazin,

        “You are confused.

        I did not write that.”

        It’s easy to get confused on these forums, but I am not. I am the one that wrote it. You questioned why I wrote it and I didn’t understand the point of your question as there was nothing I stated previously, afterward or in that quote that was contradictory. Make sense?

      • “I believe that Lester will never be accused of being an outstanding
        judge and that he must struggle to be a competent judge.

        The statements Lester made in his Order to Revoke Bond were unnecessary and counterproductive.

        Knowing that his language would later prove to be problematic, I have long questioned his motives.”

        I completely agree and why I expect an appeal.

        • Apparently, you don’t realize the criminal defense bar recently rated Judge Lester as one of the best judges in Central Florida.

          The statements in the order merely refuted arguments that O’Mara made, but did not support at the bail hearing.

          O’Mara chose again to try the case in a bail hearing, but he did not put his client on the stand to testify. That was a wise move on his part because GZ would be torn apart on cross by any reasonably competent prosecutor and de la Rionda is certainly that.

          However, he scored no points with the judge because he resorted to telling the judge what GZ would have said, if he had testified.

          A Lawyer cannot testify in a case and most certainly cannot testify for his client to protect his client from a brutal cross examination.

          That was a bush league move and Judge Lester called him out on it and proceeded in the order to point out why O’Mara’s arguments were invalid.

          I think O’Mara asked for it by opening the door to irrelevant subject matter at a bail hearing and substituting his oral statements that were not under oath or subject to cross examination for his client’s testimony. He did this to keep trying his case in the press and to fish for dollars.

          Like I said this is bush league stuff that merely highlights his awareness of his client’s likely vulnerability on cross and his fear that his client’s credibility will be irreversibly destroyed, if he ever testifies.

          I will be blunt. O’Mara basically admitted to the world that his client is not going to be a credible witness and he did it at a bail hearing when it wasn’t necessary to once again attempt to try his case in the press.

          Judge Lester shot down his unnecessary and embarrassing effort by sumarizing evidence in the record that refuted the arguments O’Mara made.

          If O’Mara and his client did not like what they heard and invited, they should not have attempted the improper procedure.

          I have no sympathy for their whining.

          They did not satisfy the legal standard for disqualification. The motion was frivolous and should have been denied.

      • Recreantnejos says:

        Even if the judge offered an explanation, I think it would have been appealed. This will almost certainly be appealed. (By the way, I don’t think you could have been much clearer that you understood an explanation wasn’t necessary).

      • Recreantnejos says:

        “An appeal (based on what?)”
        An appeal based on his the legal error of his ruling.

      • aussie says:

        Don’t forget the entire motion was based on the fact that he DID give an explanation the previous time, about the possibility of GZ fleeing the country.

        This time he may be playing safe, not giving MOM anything else to get stuck into.

      • ks says:

        @Recreantnjeos:
        “An appeal based on the legal error of his ruling”

        What specific “legal error” are you imagining the judge made in his ruling? The defense brought the motion, the prosecution responded and the judge denied it.

        If you read the defense motion and the prosecution response it was quite clear that the defense’s position was very weak. The fact that the judge indicated that he was required to assume the defense’s claims were valid and STILL ruled that they were legally insufficient should tell you how weak the claims actually were.

        The defense can appeal as a matter of legal formailty and process but that appeal won’t suddenly gain more legal merit than the original legally dubious claim that JL rejected today.

      • ks says:

        @aussie,

        Indeed. In any event, nobody outside of “certain circles” thought the motion for recusal had any serious chance of succeeding. IMO, it was generally considered to be a long shot frivilous motion and it was treated as such.

      • Prof,

        “Apparently, you don’t realize the criminal defense bar recently rated Judge Lester as one of the best judges in Central Florida.”

        I am aware of this and it doesn’t change anything I stated.

        —–

        “They did not satisfy the legal standard for disqualification. The motion was frivolous and should have been denied.”

        I disagree. As held in Deauville Realty Co v. Tobin and later affirmed in Brown v. St. George Ltd, “A statement by a trial judge that he feels a party has lied in the case is generally regarded as indicating a bias against such party.” Such statements have previously been sufficient grounds for disqualification.

        From the July 5th Bond Order:

        “The Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so.”

        Manipulation is a form of deceit. To deceive someone is to lie to them.

        If you wish to disagree with this characterization, that is your choice, but it is undeniable that the Judge’s remarks can be seen as a declaration that he believes the Defendant has lied.

      • Prof,

        For a former criminal defense attorney and former law professor, the words you choose are surprising.

        You said, “Shellie Zimmerman committed perjury,” and yet we all know this is alleged and has not been proven. Conviction of perjury is notoriously difficult, so I would suggest it is more likely she will be acquitted of the perjury.

        We also know that it is improper to suggest that the charge against Mrs. Zimmerman bears no relevance to the charge against Mr. Zimmerman and it is interesting that you would bring it up.

        O’Mara’s tactic with regard to his client is another matter altogether, so I see no reason why that was brought up.

        Please show me where I am wrong in my interpretation of the law, since it has been shown that Judge Lester’s comments can be seen as biased.

      • Dennis says:

        @justincaselawgic

        Shellie Zimmerman DID commit perjury. She has not been convicted of said crime but the evidence is solid against her. We’ve all listened to her jail calls. The prosecution released the bank transfers which were being made before the bond hearing where Shellie claimed they were broke. There is nothing to debate regarding Shellie’s perjury charge. She will be convicted unless she plays “lets make a deal”. I’m shocked at the many people that claim the charge against Shellie is a “witch hunt”. There is no witch hunt. She lied under oath to a respectable Judge’s face. The law demands that she pay for her crime. A 3rd degree felony and a minimum of a year in jail sound like a decent punishment for aiding and abetting a murderer.

      • Dennis,

        The presumption of innocence says she didn’t until proven otherwise. That is my point and one I would expect a criminal defense attorney to respect.

        The rest of your conjecture is irrelevant.

      • ks says:

        @justincaselawgic

        What part of “legally insuffcient” don’t you understand? To repeat, JL indicated that he was required to accept the defense claims in their motion as valid but, they still were not a legally sufficient reason for him to recuse himself.

        Your interpretation of the part of the case law you cited is flawed. Even statements that may show bias against a defendant are not AUTOMATIC grounds for recusal. Also, in this case, “the manipulate the system…” is, frankly, a statement of fact. What else would you call it when a defendant gets caught orchestrating a blatant scheme to conceal funds from the court in an attempt to be granted a favorable bail? You are trying to seperate the judge’s comments from GZ & Co’s actions. That’s not going to work.

      • Dennis says:

        @justincaselawgic

        Frederick is here to analyze the case and not just from a defense attorney’s perspective. He has analyzed all of the jail conversations and even he says Shellie committed perjury. If you still believe she did not commit perjury, go grab a dictionary and look up the word “indigent”. Poor people don’t have $150-200k in blood money donations sitting in multiple bank accounts. Now tell me a logical jury won’t convict her.

      • Dennis says:

        @justincaselawgic

        I would like to add that part of the perjury charge requires they prove that the defendant knew the statements were lies. Shellie made at least one to two transfers before the date of the bond hearing. That is enough proof she intentionally lied under oath.

      • crazy1946 says:

        By Florida rules, Lester is not allowed to deal with the substance of the factual allegations from the defense motion. He must assume those facts are true, but can rule on whether the allegations are sufficient to force him to step down.

        Perhaps that will enlighten you on why he left no comments in response to the motion…..

  7. Vickie Votaw says:

    “the kid got annoyed & attacked him.”
    If I do not have the right to say that GZ profiled this kid, how do you have the right to infer that Trayvon got annoyed & attacked him. I am more inclined to think GZ scared the bejesus out of Trayvon, I would have thought he was a pervert if I were in Trayvons place.

    • If I were TM’s age, I would have feared that GZ was a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer.

      I believe he feared for his life, was justified to do so, and died in terror without knowing who Zimmerman was or why Zimmerman assaulted and shot him.

  8. ed nelson says:

    It ain’t that much unusual, because, like if you read “the sociopath next door” a book that is good:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+sociopath+next+door&sprefix=the+sociopa%2Cstripbooks%2C309 where the thesis is: that there are many many… maybe as many as 15% of the pop…. In other words… there are about a huge number of the population… that are sociopathic…

    … Say what?… well what that says is: that there are a lot of monsters doing what monsters… tend to do… !!

    this is important

  9. katieunc says:

    But if I am only for myself,who am I ?
    I would love to hear George Zimmerman anwser this question. If you set aside the night of Feb 26 and look at his life as a whole, it does not surprise me that he is in his current position. I dont think he has had a stable moment in his life.
    I do not believe in the death penalty because I am of the christian faith, and feel that I have no right to decide how or when another human dies. What is bothersome to me is that he has no regrets. Really?
    I have been able to record and watch all of his court proceedings and interviews. I even took a few minutes to view his renewed website; The Real George Zimmerman. There is a severe lack of emotional connection with this young man, his affect seems totally flat.
    I only believe in redemption if a person can own their mistake and understand the consequences of their actions. I think we are dealing with some psychological pathology with George and his irratic behavior. His lack of sympathy or regret gives me chills.

    • Recreantnejos says:

      I was actually having trouble seeing a plausible segue into George Zimmerman but you just went right to it.

      “But if I am only for myself,who am I ?
      I would love to hear George Zimmerman anwser this question.”
      One of the many ironies is that George Zimmerman is far more similar to his persecutors’ than to his defenders.

      Contrary to the professor’s skepticism, I am quite convinced that George and his wife mentored children. He also quite highly spoken of by those who knew him (with very few exceptions.) He also, and this has already been proven, spoke out on behalf of a homeless black man who had been battered for no good reason. He also helped out his neighborhood in part by volunteering to help protect it as a neighborhood watchman.

      His persecutors will poo-poo every one of those things, but the fact remains that Zimmerman has a history of acting on behalf of other people.

      “If you set aside the night of Feb 26 and look at his life as a whole, it does not surprise me that he is in his current position.” I don’t think you even know his life as a whole. You know what the prosecutors have dug up on him. People aren’t looking at his whole life, they are simply combing through it looking for the worst.

      “What is bothersome to me is that he has no regrets. Really?”
      No, not *really*- at least not in the way that people are claiming that he meant it. He has already said he is sorry this happened, etc., wishes he could have done things differently to have avoided being in the position he was in. Has said he prays for the Martins. (But you probably know this and just disregard it.)

      “I only believe in redemption if a person can own their mistake and understand the consequences of their actions.”
      I don’t think there is any credible evidence that Zimmerman acted in a malevolent (or even haphazard) way. Just a guy trying to keep an eye on a kid in his neighborhood- when the kid got annoyed and attacked him.

      What happened to judge not, lest you be judged? You don’t even know George Zimmerman. None of us do.

      • angela_nw says:

        To say George Zimmerman was ” just a guy trying to keep an eye on a kid in his neighborhood- when the kid got annoyed and attacked him” – as an explanation for Zimmerman killing Martin – is naive and presumptuous, and even laughable if it weren’t tragic. Zimmerman had no business keeping an eye on anyone in the guise of an authority while carrying a loaded weapon.

      • You said,

        “What happened to judge not, lest you be judged? You don’t even know George Zimmerman. None of us do.”

        If we were to accept and apply that statement literally, instead of symbolically as it was intended, we would always accept a defendant’s story without regard to the forensic evidence or whether the statement made any sense in light of reason, experience and common sense.

        We also would not need trials.

        Police would ask a suspect if he or she committed the crime. If they denied it, the police would release them.

        That’s not going to work.

      • Recreantnejos says:

        I wrote: “What happened to judge not, lest you be judged? You don’t even know George Zimmerman. None of us do.”

        Professor wrote: “If we were to accept and apply that statement literally, instead of symbolically as it was intended, we would always accept a defendant’s story without regard to the forensic evidence or whether the statement made any sense in light of reason, experience and common sense.”

        I am not referring to forming judgments on an objective or factual level, but on a moral/character level. It’s one thing to find Zimmerman legally culpable for a crime, but another to say that he is a ‘bad person’ or assigning negative traits about his entire life, etc.

      • KA says:

        James Holmes also mentored children. He, in fact, spent a summer being a counselor in a camp for disadvantaged children.

        I do not believe that Zimmerman mentored children voluntarily. It is not because of the person I feel he is, but it is the fact his terminology in talking about his “mentoring” is not consistent with anyone who would mentor kids as a socially responsible act. Mentoring is not an act, it is a relationship.

        I also do not believe he has had a stable moment in his life. His work, education, family, and social history shows that clearly.

        Would that automatically make him a murderer?

        No, but the multifaceted evidence that does not make his own story plausible is probably enough to convince 6 people, as well as the majority of America, that he is.

        I suspect the prosecution’s theme will be “Self defense does not falsify.”

      • There is an element missing with George’s apology and I will call it sincerity. How can anyone appreciate an apology when he is then asked would you do anything different, including getting out of his car and his answer is no.
        Why wouldn’t George say something like, yes I would of stayed in my car and waited for the police! That way Trayvon would be alive today and my life would be going smoothly. You would think he was some sort of hero for killing Trayvon. Or perhaps that is what he thinks his supporters believe so he is further manipulating the situation for more money.
        When he then adds that it was all God’s plan I was blown away. I know that people are saying it is because of God that George is alive to tell his harrowing story of how he almost lost his own life. But the catch is he, George Zimmerman wouldn’t do anything differently. Which means he holds no value for Trayvon’s life, only his own which retracts any sincere apology.
        His ridiculous statement about it wasn’t his gun, it wasn’t Trayvon’s gun, it was THE GUN was jaw-dropping. About that time I expected to hear the herald of angels opening up the heavens in praise! Interestingly enough there isn’t any DNA of Trayvon on THE gun or the holster.
        I don’t think George Zimmerman is evil nor stupid. His interview of course was appeal to his base (I cannot even believe I said that) and I think it is pure genius on his part to get a website started for his defense and living expenses.
        All this and so much more from a guy who never even flinched when his wife lied under oath about the money they were pushing around, happily paying off their bills and claiming indigent.
        You are right I don’t George Zimmerman and I know very little about his past but I know enough about him today that makes me question anything he says.

  10. Digger says:

    Agree, a person’s heart never “closes” on pain, it only lessens with time and busy. This brings to mind how much a persons actions are brought about by pain that has been drawn into a place of hiding, how life is lived by most in a private pain that can not be shoveled onto others. Friends, if they are committed friends, share pain and it helps, after which they may be embarrassed to have done so. while others who have no friends or family, experience losses, betrayals, sneers harassment of many kind until their heart gives out, doing it quietly, all the while being advised to be happy, live, and “forget about it” mine is worse than yours! “Just let me tell you what it is really like” and so on. Then there are handicapped who live giving encouragement to others, to be admired. Some being only mentally handicapped end up in sessions under psychiatric evaluations and I can’t say that it helps or doesn’t help but at least they get it out to be heard. Others who can not appreciate the others pain, we know, commit violent acts which makes me wonder it they are not “driven” by the overflow of their own pain. For some unexplainable reason, many take other lives, inviting justice to take theirs yet when they get to that entry will do everything they can to go on and survive.

    Respect, the three questions Prof. Leatherman has put to us. How
    much time is involved in giving respect? Does it also include being respectful enough to” listen”? Often one is caught in the middle of disrespect, forced to choose, each side clamoring for the most understanding while the middle innocent are in dismay as to how we make a problem from no problem or one they have not yet had the “pleasure of experiencing”. The pleasure to have learned and earned respect. (Not excluding myself.)

    Having respect for oneself and giving respect to others is free but it sure “buys” a lot.

  11. ajamazin says:

    If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

    But if I am only for myself, who am I?

    If not now, when?

    The answers are known, but we, as a society, have chosen to live in denial or ignorance.

    If we were to acknowledge the answers, we would be faced with
    the issues of actualization.

    Few have evolved intellectually and spiritually to accept the responsibility or make the sacrifice required.

    • Few have evolved intellectually and spiritually to accept the responsibility or make the sacrifice required.

      Indeed, you are right, but now each of us in our own way is being called.

      Who will respond, when, and in what way?

      • ajamazin says:

        I can only speak for myself.

        I accept responsibility because to do otherwise is no longer
        a choice.

        My well being is directly proportional to my contribution to the welfare of others.

        I realize that whatever I do will be insignificant, but it is very important that I do it.
        .

  12. nan11 says:

    Indeed, your closing contains ’the’ three beautiful questions that could guide us through the ‘bull’ in life and find our balance. The world would be a better place if we would all stop and ask ourselves these questions about three times a day.

    I, too, am in opposition to the death penalty; and, aspire to believe in second chances as well as redemption. (Sometimes I fall momentarily off the path.)

    In spite of how hard I work at believing in these fine principles; I often find myself feeling that justice always falls short.

    For justice (even when given), only offers up a bit of balance to the (understandable) outrage of sudden loss. It always irks me when reporters talk about closure—I dare say a person’s heart never ‘closes’ on a lost loved one.

    When I see beautiful and brave Sybrina Fulton standing before a crowd, saying that she understands that her son is gone, I shiver for her. Her pain has only just begun.

    Even if we see justice served—meted out in some measure—it won’t be enough. It can’t right the terrible wrong committed against the soul of Trayvon Martin.

    Still, it’s all we’ve got to offer.

  13. recreantnejos says:

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?” A balance must be maintained between the needs of the individual and the needs of the community.

    “If not now, when?” Don’t let rationalizations be an obstacle to doing the right thing.

  14. ed nelson says:

    An indeterminent or “for life” incarceration in a featureless box with sensory deprivation as a concerted applied vengeance seems just about as bad as a death penalty, but since it is true that some would prefer not to loose all hope and life in one fell swoop, then so I could see that the death penalty is too final.

    But for those who being locked up in a sensory deprivation condition 24/7 with really no chance of getting out of it, then they should be given a choice to end it. In other words: the crime of suicide should be made legal in those kinds of situations where the life is made too onerous to be a good or pleasant thing.

    Too, there are some accounts of real criminals/monsters… ” running the asylums”, in some instances through out history, alleged to have been the case in “far off foreign countries, eg., Nazi’s, Stalin’s, (mainly, histories of the “Holacaust” and the ”Gulag system”: per writings of, F. Dostoevski, or A. Solzhenitsyn. Where conditions are almost unbearable.

    It reminds me of something from the English historian, Davies, who wrote of the WW2 from more of a Polish perspective. The Russians supposedly, emptied out the Gulag inmates, including the whole range of psychopathic types to political dissenters, as shock troops against Poland and German territories to the south, followed up by the regular infantry, who were to fire on them from the rear when encountered, so as to motivate the first wave.

    The thing is, that the condemned can have a purpose or a use, that is better than a barbaric dungeon experience that the only real side benefit to, is that it provides “object lesson in terror to the rest of the population.

    And last but least, these criminals should be housed and retained in a normal conditions as possible… 3 star hotel with bars… ? and studied by criminologists and students of administration of justice, etc. in a more normalized setting. Or sent to outer space to Mars, Penal colonies, give them a useful life, or let them choose not to.

    No more, warehousing in sensory deprivation!

    • Assuming he is convicted, a life sentence doesn’t necessarily mean he will die in prison. There would be a 25 year mandatory minimum that he would have to serve because the crime was committed with gun, but he might be released after that on active parole or community supervision for a lengthy period of time. I’m not certain how that might work because I have not researched it, but that’s a ball park description.

      Florida is turning over most of its prisons to private corporations that have a deplorable record of human rights violations while running prisons for profit.

      Whether they would subject GZ to solitary confinement is unknown at this time, but it’s certainly a possibility.

      • ed nelson says:

        In reply to the Professor’s reply: that in observance of this great quote in the post:
        “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
        But if I am only for myself, who am I?
        If not now, when?”
        Then it seems to an outsider like me… a “Goy”… that this is really a cool poem, and like poetry is supposed as it has been said, to distill from as few words possible the maximum of meaning, it is real good stuff, and shows that the Jewish Religion, has some “Bonifides”.. from the likes of: Hillel.
        However as it may be you don’t approve of “The death sentence”, do you approve of the indeterminent sentence, and the “Life w/o parole… abomination?
        _________________________________

        And also in the post:
        [“Whether they would subject GZ to solitary confinement is unknown at this time, but it’s certainly a possibility.”]
        Au contrar Barnie!… we weren’t talking about specific cases! ( GZ included, and I don’t think any of them/us are special, if there is competent observance of a viable “rule of Law”. Isn’t it supposed to be… “fair” to all the… subjects/citisens/denizens?

      • TruthBTold says:

        @Professor,

        Call me crazy, but I have a feeling you are not a fan of the privatization of prisons?:)

      • Dennis says:

        Couldn’t the 10-20-life law come into play since he fired his weapon during the commission of a crime? That sure would be nice for them to add 10 extra years to 25 years equaling 35 years minimum sentence. I appreciate your time and thoughts regarding this case. Marissa Alexander is serving 20 years minimum in Florida because of this law even though nobody was hurt, regardless of whether she intended to shoot her husband.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      That too, is rather bizarre. I see ideal jails as places where people should be housed in decent conditions to heal . . . there has to be better balance between retribution and healing / purifying.

      • Right now it’s all about punishment, torture and exploitation.

        Little or no effort is being expended to to educate and rehabilitate.

        The goal appears to be to incarcerate as many people as possible and use them as state paid revenue units.

        The goal used to be to reduce recidivism, but now it’s to increase it to increase the revenue flow.

        This is one of the primary reasons for incarcerating so many people for non-violent marijuana offenses,

      • Dennis says:

        I agree with you and Frederick. As Val Kilmer said in the movie Felon, “this place is designed to break you”. It is getting ridiculous that police are putting people in jail for non-violent offenses like mere possession of marijuana. I feel that is terrible to label someone as a criminal for life because they chose to engage in activity that did not harm anyone else. It is a victim-less crime.

  15. Two sides to a story says:

    I think there is a thread of truth that runs through all spiritual philosophies (and Rabbi Hillel is certainly one of the giants) and that we must carefully consider all these sages’ thoughts. I feel that the average modern person (and perhaps the average person of any age) doesn’t ponder the words of wise men of any persuasion enough or they react to them in a pragmatic or dogmatic way instead of a more discerning way. People often exhibit what they think are logical, moral reactions, such as SYG laws’ permission to “kill you if I feel my life is in danger whether it really is or not.” Bizarre, in my book.

  16. Vickie Votaw says:

    I don’t know much about Jewish history. I don’t believe in the death penalty. I kill bugs in my house & outside sometimes. I think “primitive ” people are more civilized than “civilized” people. I think whatever wakes a person up, is what was needed. I don’t like the double standard that runs through our country. I have hope, 🙂

  17. Two sides to a story says:

    I’m a student of Tibetan Buddhism, which considers any death penalty improper because in essence, we are all dead men walking. Our lives are short and always end in death. The punishment of death serves no one well and is little more than state-sanctioned revenge.

    One great Tibetan sage, Milarepa, a real historical person who is a national hero in Tibet, caused the deaths of 34 of his family members because his mother desired revenge for losing her property and assets to them. Through his deep remorse as well as years of physical labor and meditation practice under the tutelage of a Tibetan master, Milarepa became a spiritual master himself, reaching enlightment before the end of his lifetime.

    Therefore, an example like Milarepa shows us that we should use caution in judging or condemning any criminal. We all have the capacity to not only redeem ourselves for our transgressions, and we all have the same capacity to become spiritually enlightened. Hard time in jail is a more appropropriate step toward purifying karma caused by negative acts. Even jail is not necessary if a person is remorseful and works hard in other ways to redeem a negative act.

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