Page 3 - The Jewish Voice - June '18
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The Jewish Voice, Page 3

                                                           From the Rabbis

Ethical Treatment of Robots                                without risk of reprisal. The philosophical question that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             you treat [broken people] an elderly individual who has
                                                           the show poses is: Do we have any moral responsibilities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              forgotten his learning due to old age, sickness, an accident,
By Rabbi Paul Arberman,                                    as to how we treat creatures that do not have human-level
Temple Beth David                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                or even in his struggle to make a livelihood.”
	 In the HBO series                                        consciousness and are not “alive”?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    	 In other words, how we treat the broken pieces of the
Westworld, robot-hosts                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           tablets teaches us about how we should treat people.
appear as men, women,                                      	 A few years ago, I witnessed a sefer Torah fall out of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              	 Another example of respect for inanimate objects
and children. They are                                     its place and land on the floor. Now, it makes sense that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             comes from the description of Temple practices for the
programmed to interact with                                we hold the teachings of the Torah to be holy. But aside                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Kohanim in Exodus (20:23): “You shall not go up the steps
normal humans in a kind                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          of my altar [rather build a ramp], so that your nakedness
of old-West vacationland,                                  from worrying about any damage to the scroll, why do we                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               will not be uncovered upon it.”
where guests can behave                                    ascribe such importance to the physical book? Why are                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 According to Rashi (11th century, France), the concern
however they please.                                       we upset just to see the Torah lie on the floor?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      was that taking wide steps would cause their robes to
	 Some of the human                                        	 In fact, Judaism has many examples of encouraging                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   open below, exposing their nakedness to the stones in a
guests take on heroic roles, but others choose to act out  respect for domem or inorganic objects. A prime example                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               humiliating manner.
their darkest impulses, participating in torture, rape,    is when Moshe smashes the first set of Ten Commandments
and murder. The robot hosts have been designed so they     he gets at Har Sinai.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 “Now, if regarding these stones, which do not have the
can’t harm the guests — so these are acts of pure sadism,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        intelligence to object to their humiliation, the Torah says,
                                                           	 Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi (Talmud, Ber. 8b, Menach.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ‘Do not treat them in a humiliating manner,’ in the case
                                                           99b) quotes the Torah passage: “The tablets, and the broken                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           of your fellow man, who was created in the image of your
                                                           pieces of the [first set of] tablets were placed in the Ark.”
                                                           	 Based on this, he taught: “Be careful regarding how                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Creator, and cares about his humiliation, how much more
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 so must you treat him with respect!”
sYouaareving                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     	 The rabbis expanded on this teaching: We must refrain
          her life                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               from insensitive acts to other people, even when the other
               and so many more                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  person is unaware that s/he is being disrespected, even when
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the offender does not mean to offend, and even when the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 offense is not full-fledged (Likutei Sichot vol. 21, pg. 124).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 We could surely say the same for the treatment of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 lifelike robots. Even if we could be certain that they weren’t
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 conscious and couldn’t really suffer, their torture would very
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 likely harm the torturer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 It’s like what the philosopher Emmanuel Kant taught.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Although he saw animals as mere things, devoid of moral
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 value, he insisted on their proper treatment because of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 implications for how we treat one another: “For he who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 men.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 When the Torah dropped in shul, I saw how upset and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 disoriented everyone looked. Yes, the Torah has God’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 name in it. Yes, it has God’s commandments for us. But it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 does not have feelings. Objects are not “aware” — indeed,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 believing so is idolatry. We treat these objects with respect
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 because we are training ourselves in sensitivity.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 If we are meant to be shocked and upset when a sefer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Torah falls, how much more should we be shaken when
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 a person falls — literally or figuratively. For God’s name
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 is written in the siddurim that we kiss and the Torah we
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 received on Shavuot. But more importantly, it’s written
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 on the soul of every human being.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 Paul Arberman is spiritual leader at Temple Beth David

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 in Palm Beach Gardens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 True Meaningful Joy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 & Happiness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 By Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 In the Book of Psalms,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 King David says, “Serve
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 G-d in joy, come before Him
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 in song.” And in our daily
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 prayers we say regarding
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 G-d, “He prefers melodious
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 song...,” “There is strength
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 and joy in His place.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 	 The great Kabbalist

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Rabbi Yitzchok Luria once

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 said to his student that the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 reason he merited the holy prophetic spirit of G-d
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 was because of his great joy when performing G-d’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 commandments.

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