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Friday, 27 June 2014

Do Jewish Values change?


Taanis 16

What are Jewish values?  Nowadays, people will justify all manner of campaign and cause in the name of Jewish values.  According to the recent Pew study, almost half the people polled believed that having a good sense of humour was an important Jewish value! 

What are Jewish values?

Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice upon Mount Moriah.  What is the meaning of the name Moriah?  According to Rabbi Levi the son of Chama, the word is related to ‘horaah,’ meaning instruction.  The word Torah comes from the same root.  Since horaah came from the mountain, it is called Moriah.  According to Rabbi Chanina, the word is related to ‘mora’ meaning fear, since it is the “mountain from where fear came forth for idol-worshippers.”

Rashi explains Rabbi Levi’s teaching based on the words of Isaiah, “For from Zion shall go forth Torah.”   The Prophets and Sages who were the moral compass of the world gave their instructional message from Mount Moriah.  He elucidates Rabbi Chanina’s teaching as referring to the fear held by those who would ignore the great message emanating forth from Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

We were given a special gift from the Almighty called the Torah.  The Torah is an instruction manual or guidebook charting the course of Heavenly morality.    Without the Torah, who is to say what’s right or wrong?  Everyone has their own personal feelings!  The Torah gives us a basic standard for ethical living.

“From Zion shall go forth Torah,” means that the nation of Israel was entrusted with the special role of teaching morality to the world.  At times, the world has embraced our message, but often it has been rejected out of a deep-seated fear of what a moral, ethical life entails.   We should not be surprised, says the Talmud – the twin factors of instruction (horaah) and fear (mora) were woven into the very fabric of Mount Moriah.

There is a puzzling phenomenon amongst many Jews today that twists this role of instruction.  Instead of conveying the Torah’s standard of morality to the world, they believe that their role is to convey the world’s standard of morality to the Torah!   And by some befuddled understanding, they then contend that they are promoting Jewish values!   How can you teach the Torah what Jewish values are?!

Jewish values are extraordinary because they are eternal and unchanging.  G-d gave us a piece of Heaven that does not need improving – the Torah is His wisdom, it is a perfect work.   Our job is to unabashedly instruct the world what the Almighty expects of humankind. 

Some people think that chutzpah is a Jewish value.  That may be so, as long as we don’t try and use it on G-d.  His ways are perfect, His wisdom is perfect.  Any suggestion to the contrary is just chutzpah and a sad confusion of what Jewish values truly are. 


Fulfill your mission on earth.  Teach the world true Jewish values!