THE DAY AFTER THE HOLIDAY
As happens every year, on the eve of the Shavuot festival we had a nighttime learning session. Subject matter was Jewish law, since Shavuot celebrates our ancestors receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. This year being lockdown time, our learning was conducted via Zoom. But “virtual” participants still asked questions, volunteered relevant information, and – guess what – argued.
Then came two days of celebration, complete with some memorable cheesecake, and now it’s the day after. One subject we discussed online sticks in my mind. How does today’s life style relate to religious law?
Many of us conduct ourselves by moral principles. We accept Divine law as we understand it. We don’t murder, we don’t steal, we don’t testify falsely. We may even honor our parents and take one day off every week as a Sabbath. Those laws are 3,000 years old. What about today’s sexual standards? Do we accept “same-sex marriage”, even though the Torah defines it as a capital offense called perversion?
And if a male and female want to live together and maybe have children, do we consider them a family whether or not they bother to have a wedding? No doubt about it, the family institution is in trouble in many parts of the world. All through human history the basic unit of any civilization – from tribal to industrial – is the family, consisting of one man, one woman (in most places, but as many as 4 women in other societies), and one or more children. Not reliable lately. The number of conventional families in the U.S. is in serious decline.
Current protests raise a similar question. If a police officer kills someone he is arresting, that action certainly breaks the law, both civil and religious. And when other people stage violent protests and set fire to homes and public buildings and ransack the nearest stores, are they not breaking the law?
Here, to my view, is the bottom line. If and when my standards of conduct conflict with the laws of my religion, one of us is wrong. Usually, if not always, I’m it.