Sunday, July 8, 2018

Knowing The Difference Between Those Who Are Righteous And Those Who Are Not

We live in a seemingly confusing world where it is hard to decide what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. There are certain actions we all instinctively know to be wrong - no matter what culture the person was raised. Everyone agrees that to indiscriminately kill or steal or lie is wrong. Everyone agrees that to be kind and generous is generally good. It is universal that a smile is positive and that a scowl is not. Even a baby can sense the difference.

But the gray areas are subject to debate: Euthanasia, abortion, birth control, human cloning, gun control etc. etc. etc. are all hotly debated topics and each side has seemingly valid arguments. That is why the US is split about 50/50 between right and left, conservative and liberal. And even within each camp there are countless debates and nuances of opinions on various matters. 

So how do we distinguish between truth and falsehood, right and wrong? 99.9 percent of people don't seem to be bothered by that question. What THEY think is their arbiter of good and evil. But that is very faulty because what "we think" is subject to societal influences, familial influences, genetic makeup, experience etc. etc. all of which cannot determine objective morals. So what is the OBJECTIVE truth? 

Some claim that there IS NO objective truth. That is the famous "religion" called "post modernism". That is a BIG PROBLEM. People actually raise their children to believe that there is no real right and wrong and it is all a matter of taste. In India, for many centuries, their "taste" was that widows have no value so they were burned alive. In ancient Greece babies needed to be "tough" in order to merit survival so they were left out in the freezing cold to see if they would make it. But we Jews believe [and know] that there IS an objective yardstick of right and wrong, good and evil!!:-) 

How do we know? BECAUSE G-D TOLD US!!!:-) That is the ONLY way to determine objective morals. HE told us what is right and wrong, good and evil. We are then expected to adjust our perspective to be aligned with His. That makes sense. He is an all knowing G-d and even created the very concepts and categories of good and evil so of course He can tell us what the relative merits and demerits of any action or belief are.  

So for example, loaning money with interest doesn't seem like such a bad thing. What is the big deal?? One can rent out his apartment so why can't he rent out his money? It is consensual and both parties gain??!!! But one who does this is EVIL in G-d's eyes. A novel idea! [I know an otherwise religious Jew who would never in a million years eat a cheeseburger or do most aveiros but has an lending with interest business.] 

Or how about someone who eats an apple from Israel that hasn't been tithed. An APPLE for crying out loud!! But G-d said that someone who does so is liable to the DEATH PENALTY!!

But in our Orthodox world, even the so-called "Charedi" world, all too often the standards for who is a great person and who is not are fudged, blurred or straight out convoluted and twisted. It doesn't matter whether a person believes in G-d or not [believing in some vague notion of a creator doesn't count as believing in G-d. It merely takes one out of the category of "complete fool" who believes that the entire vast cosmos are just an accident but doesn't make one a believer], whether he eats kosher, keeps Shabbos [the violation of which incurs the DEATH PENALTY under certain circumstances], davens, wears tefillin etc. etc. etc. EVERYTHING goes out the window as long as ... he is/was a nice guy and maybe had some other redeeming qualities. So he ate lobster, what does that matter, he was a conservative! The halacha says that one must first lose ALL OF HIS MONEY before doing an aveira [from the Torah] and when a person does them routinely day after day with zero regret  - that is OK because he was a neat guy. And so successful!! And if a person supports the State of Israel - then he can do ANYTHING he wants. [By the way - I never received an answer].  

Two recent examples of this are here [when I write comments on this website expressing alternative opinions to the non-Torah ideas they spread, they are deleted. They print the comments of Christians and agnostics but not of people who have spent decades learning Torah. Wonder of wonders...]  and here. Thousands of good, ehrlich, upstanding Jews who passed away don't merit a mention on these sites. But an outspoken kofer merits not just a mention but a hesped worthy of a Tzadik. What about the Rambam who says that people like him have no portion in the world to come and are expelled from Am Yisrael? Ahhhh - don't be so old fashioned..... 

Rabbeinu Yonah in his Shaarei Teshuva is very sharp in condemning those who praise and heap accolades on individuals far from Hashem and His Torah. So on his shoulders I ride in doing the same. 

I must make one thing clear - ultimately, only Hashem can judge us. There are always factors of which we are unaware. But that doesn't mean that we may heap praise on people who openly rebelled against Him, His Torah and our tradition. It is educationally dangerous for our children and ourselves.