October 31, 2010
The Real Meaning of 'My Brother's Keeper'
This is such an elementary point that I fear making it will seem silly. On the other hand, so many people seem so completely in the dark about it that it is worth stating the obvious. Claiming to be "my brother's keeper," as President Obama is so wont to spout, is an insult to the brother!I suppose the confusion is perfectly understandable since most of us encounter the phrase in its English translation and not the original Hebrew, and numerous otherwise-well-meaning organizations have taken it as their motto. See here, here, and here for examples. After all, Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "to keep" as "to watch over and defend esp. from danger, harm, or loss." But Webster's also defines "to keep" as "to restrain from departure" and "to retain or continue to have in one's possession or power." So which meaning does "brother's keeper" have in its original usage?The phrase comes, of course, from...(Read Full Article)