Monday, November 14, 2005

Mirror Mirror on the Wall...

There was a comment on the last post about morals being universal, and not being dependant upon social mores. That statement would have been correct if 'universally' we all held ourselves accountable to a higher authority. In that case, it wouldn’t be up to how man ‘felt’ about a particular situation – there would have been instructions to dictate the appropriate course of action.

Once it is up to man to decide what is moral and what is not, then morality is what the current generation deems it to be. It is always easy to look back in judgment and declare what wasn’t moral in the past. Being that we live in a different era and we value different things, it is easy for us to view things differently. It would nonetheless be foolish and highly presumptuous of us to cast aspersions on the past.

All we can do is look at the here and now, and see so obviously how far we’ve fallen.

Today’s society, that some so want to defend as a wonderfully colorful world – while indeed exciting, it has lost sight of the basic fundamentals of life.

It is difficult to reason with modern man’s thinking – and his ability to rationalize behavior. But while the rationalization works, the life it dictates doesn’t. We’ve taken Descartes’ "Cogito ergo sum” and turned it into the new gospel. It has become the daily mantra of so many who want to believe that they are the creators of original thought. Yet all the while they are bound to believing that they can’t rely on reason they don’t understand – not taking into account that just maybe certain concepts go beyond reason. Regardless of how well one can justify the wrong - it doesn’t become right.

So while we all are certain to understand and know why we do what we do, we fail to take note of the side effects that are disastrous!

At one point the term ‘premarital sex’ encompassed a behavior deemed ‘immoral’ yet it slowly became more prevalent and acceptable. Under the guise of that name, adults that were dating and knew that it would eventually lead to marriage decided that they could wait no longer and consummated the relationship a short time prior to the actual joiner, the wedding. It went from those relationships that would lead to marriage, to those that possibly could lead… Once that idea became the norm, and sex was no longer relegated to the marriage institution, premarital sex turned into something that can only be called ‘casual sex’ or ‘recreational sex’. It no longer was even reserved for an exclusive relationship. As a matter of fact, an interactive relationship wasn’t necessarily required prior to, or even after. Sadder than anything is the fact that today’s youth do not see what is so wrong with this change in direction.

The fact remains though, that young adults remain unmarried for a lot longer, if not indefinitely. Single women raise children on their own. And traditional family life, once the cornerstone of a society, is deemed old-fashioned and a thing of the past.

Take this other example: Of course it makes sense that if people are unhappy in marriage they are entitled to divorce. Without going into detail of what constitutes an ‘unhappy’ marriage – let us just look around at the prevalence of single parent families. There is no doubt that many of the divorces were legitimately called for, just as there is no doubt that too many were hastily made decisions. As soo many statistics have proven, children raised in a one-parent home suffer through grade school and ultimately suffer in adult life in general – and in their future relationships in particular. No amount of reasoning for the parents decisions will change the basic fact that today’s youth has more children raised in a single home environment, thus ensuring that the future generation will be one of emotionally thwarted adults attempting to form relationships to resemble that elusive traditional family life – which they know not how to emulate.

This is not based on, as Hella Winston described it, our erroneous assumptions that the secular world is engaged in sex 24/7. And while it is so simple to justify the ‘freedom’ of people doing as they pleased – we need to remember that even when reason can defend, it does little to make our reflection look better in the proverbial mirror.

There are so many other directions to go with this topic - to point out the prevalent immorality. Although I might do that at a later date – I believe I’ve made my point.


At November 14, 2005 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Today’s society, that some so want to defend as a wonderfully colorful world – while indeed exciting, it has lost sight of the basic fundamentals of life."

Is Williamsburg included in today's society?

At November 14, 2005 3:13 PM, Anonymous getalife said...

Regardless oh how well one can justify the wrong - it doesn’t become right.

Wouldn't u say that if its justified it is no longer wrong?

Having ‘premarital sex’ isn't wrong because of the consequences its wrong because its wrong and for those that believe that its not wrong, its not,regardless of the consequences.

If right and wrong was decided on the consequences of the actions of the irresponsible, then I would have to conclude that having a lot of children like we do, where most people don't have the know how to raise them is wrong.

At November 14, 2005 3:45 PM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Why don't you talk about the immorality of the past? In today's United States, overt racism is unacceptable, slavery is unacceptable, sexism is unacceptable, wife-beating is unacceptable. At various points in history, all of these were acceptable.

As for sex, the morality of that changed with the introduction of birth control. Once the pill was invented, it was probably inevitable that sexuality would be more free.

At November 14, 2005 4:12 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Get a life - Ironically, the only aspect you got right, was where yo concluded that we might be doing something wrong.

Justification does NOT make anything right. Right is right for more reasons that what one believes in. For those that don't care to believe and truly think that it is up to them to decide right and wrong, it is they who do indeed need to look at the consequences of their 'thought out' lives.

At November 14, 2005 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who deciedes right from wrong in Williamsbugger?

At November 14, 2005 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are we talking about WIlliamsburg, when the authors of this blog both live in Boro Park

At November 14, 2005 6:13 PM, Blogger Also A Chussid said...

to the last anonymous, please email me at

At November 14, 2005 7:32 PM, Anonymous hell(of)a self-promoter said...

Anon - Don't forget about the third author - the one that lives in Manhattan.

At November 14, 2005 8:48 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

JA - For starters, I did indeed address the past. I mentioned too that it would be impossible for us to presume to understand what was, or even IF it was - acceptable in eras gone by. The fact that the aforementioned are not legal in America has done little to stop it from being rampant. And the fact that what today is considered immoral did exist centuries ago only proves my point that morality is what the people believe it to be.

As for your second issue: Various forms of birth control always existed, and the sudden increase of its use was the much needed ANSWER to the sexual revolution. If we were to blame birth control for the sudden rise in promiscuity, then we would have to look for statistics that would find that the rise of STDs is acting as a deterrent. We’d be hard-pressed to find any – since it isn’t. Unfortunately, the fact that immorality is so rampant has less to do with the availability, and a lot more to do with acceptability.

At November 14, 2005 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friends, there is no right and no wrong. Are the Amish wrong? Are Mennonites wrong? of course not, it's their lifestyle and belief.They don't harm anyone and don't blow themselves and others up! If a group of people want to live like their ancestors lived in Eastern Europe, so be it! In the word of Mel Brooks "luz'lem gain"

At November 14, 2005 10:18 PM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

And the fact that what today is considered immoral did exist centuries ago only proves my point that morality is what the people believe it to be.

You don't spell out your solution, but it seems you believe that your community has the Right Way. I doubt it, but perhaps you do. Even if you did, though, that's not to say it's Right for everyone. The treatment of homosexuals, for example, in your community is still appalling.

Various forms of birth control always existed, and the sudden increase of its use was the much needed ANSWER to the sexual revolution.

The Pill was invented in the 50's and submitted to the FDA for preventing pregnany in 1960. It was the first time that women had control of birth control. The "sexual revolution" happened afterwards.

At November 15, 2005 12:38 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

JA - I don't believe that the 'treatment' of homosexuals is appalling - I find that it is more of a situation of the issue not being addressed at all.

While indeed wrong, you could understand though that a community that hides any overt signs of sexuality – figuring out how to deal with homosexuality is bound to be a stumper.

And for heaven's sake! I never said our community is perfect. The argument was about what is 'moral' and what isn't. It wasn't regarding the community at all.

At November 15, 2005 3:28 PM, Blogger Hirshel Tzig said...

why does atheists purport to care about homosexulas and other "opressed" minorities?

Is it because they need to show that they too have a set of morals?

At November 15, 2005 3:52 PM, Anonymous yamakah said...

I think its because they too were created bztelem elokim. Look there is a medresh that tells us why Biliam's donkey died so not to be mevaish biliam kal vchomer stam gays bzman hazeh.

At November 15, 2005 4:26 PM, Blogger Shtreimel said...

Before I comment here, I must disclose that I still have a hard time defining the term “morals” or “ethics”. I’m not lonely here, for philosophers and even theologians to this day grapple with this issue – not too successfully, I suppose. However, maybe some of them did come up with good definitions and it’s just my lack of knowledge that allows me not to know it for certain.

The dictionary's definition is unsatisfying to say the least. “Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character” sounds good on paper, but what is goodness or badness? It is therefore that IMHO that morals are what society defines as good or bad – without a higher authority interfering.

Once you put God into the equation, it becomes the word of God, not necessarily society’s will. There are countless examples where things that would be considered immoral, even back in the days*, is allowed by religion, at least the ones I know.

The question really is, can we as a society judge other societies or generations for things they did immorally. I don’t know if it’s answerable but, again IMHO, if we can fight evil in other societies (- read countries) why can’t we say that slavery was always unjustifiable and wrong. Killing entire nations is never moral, and so on. This is why I thought – and still do, that morals are universal.

Before you all brand me an Apikoros who is still the heretic claimed to be a while ago; maybe you’re right, perhaps I still have heretical thoughts, but those are of a different nature. Judaism does have precedents to overrule God’s will or at least the nature of certain rules when it clashed badly with morals. Takoonas HaShuvim, The Pruzbul are things that come to mind, the whole concept of a “beis din” who kills more than once in 70 years might be another example. In any case, some might argue – in vain – that it is within the realms of the Torah, indeed, this might be true, but it does not controvert my point.

As for your premarital sex obsession, you did not explain what is immoral about it. Judaism requires even ‘earthly’ things do be done in a certain way - making blessings before and after food, marrying before sex and so forth. In reality eating without a Brocho is as unethical as sex without exchanging vows or rings, or to be more exact sex without having ‘bought’ your wife in advance. One might argue, perhaps convincingly, that having kids without a committing father is immoral but nowadays with contraception and morning after pills, why not? If we need more education on safe sex, then again, why not?

* the first Rashi in Chumish.

At November 15, 2005 9:48 PM, Blogger shlomohamelech said...

This is an issue where we lose our perspective of Judaism.

First, Judaism only applies to Jews. All the morals of the Torah, apply to Jews only. All others are considered bnei noach and they have to follow the seven laws, which does not include pre-marital sex.

To decide, from a Jewish perspective, what is morally wrong for gentiles, is not a morally Jewish.

Shtreimel, as far as I know, the difference is simple. Ethics are man made codes of conduct. Morals, on the other hand, stem from human emotion and therefor they "are to be" universal to mankind. Just to give you an example: it is unethical to meet the president in the White House not wearing proper attire. Is there anything wrong with such behavior? no. But people have decided that it's wrong. Every proffession has its code of ethics. They are simply a bunch of rules decided by some people.There are countless of such examples. Ethics change from nation to nation, from society to society.

Morals, on the other hand, are emotionally decided rules and they "are to be" universal, however, it never is. What is moral today is immoral tommorow; what is moral to this person is immoral to another. Think of the Nazis on one side and vegetarians on the other. The Nazis had no moral issue with killing people, and vegetarians have a problem killing animals. There are many factors that affect somones percieved morals or emotions, including education, sociaty, family and culture.

Religion (I am talking about Judaism), however, is neither ethics nor morals; it's simply laws and rules. The genesis of religion does not have a human component.

A jew has to observe the Shabbos. Is it immoral to desecrate the Shabbos? Somone who descrates the Shabbos is violating the law and may be killed after following the proper procedures, but can you say that it was immoral? The same is true to not shokeling lilev and hearing the shofar. By extension, the prohibition to kill another person has no human component. Even if society would have no problem with killing other people, it is still prohibited.

Just to follow up on what you said about takunes hashuvim and the pruzbul. Again, it has nothing to do with morality. God has given us the Torah sh'beksav and sh'baal peh. This gives the aurhority to the rabbis to add or in a certain way to limit or alter the laws of the Torah. When the rabbis have decided to enact the takunes hashuvim they simply did what God told them to do, that is to do what they think they have to do.

Yet, since religion dictates that a person live his life his life a certain way, his emotions, morals that is, are formed in accordance to his lifestyle. That is why morals in a particulars religion would, more or less, stay within a cerain parameter.

The more society becomes estranged from rligion, the more the morals will change and with greater latitude. That is why we see how over the past 50 years such radical changes. From extreme right to extrem left and now slowly back to extreme right.

Is it a good thing that society dropped religion or is it bad? To tell you the truth, I don't care. I trust in God, and he will take care of his world. As long as he didn't make into his prophet to go and tell the world how to behave, I don't have to. God sent Yona to Ninveh and other prophets to other nations. I have to do what he wants from me and that is written in our Torah.

At November 15, 2005 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once we agree!


At November 23, 2005 10:50 PM, Anonymous sister said...

great post shlomoh. I completely agree.


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