Morals In Religion

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  • #1885351
    Doing my best
    Participant

    In this Coffee Room, morals are often discussed as the absolute decider between good and bad. However i think that a very basic point is very commonly missed. This is the idea that today’s morals are the most basic starting point, for example the idea that stealing is bad for no reason other than because it is stealing, and stealing is bad. This usually comes along with the idea that this is the reason why Hashem made stealing assur.
    But i think that this is completely untrue. The reason why stealing is bad is because by stealing you are going against the will of Hashem. Not for any other perceived moral reason. There is no action in the world that is inherently good or bad, and to believe so is to believe in an authority higher than Hashem.

    #1885415
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    This is a literally millennial old discussion it din’t arise in the coffee room it is known as the “Euthyphro dilemma”
    I am not going to spend to long on this , because I think reasonable people can disagree. I will point out a few things that don’t quite fit with your take:

    1) Avrhom says “חָלִ֨לָה לְּךָ֜ מֵעֲשֹׂ֣ת ׀ כַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה לְהָמִ֤ית צַדִּיק֙ עִם־רָשָׁ֔ע וְהָיָ֥ה כַצַּדִּ֖יק כָּרָשָׁ֑ע חָלִ֣לָה לָּ֔ךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט֙ כָּל־הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה מִשְׁפָּֽט׃” How does this make sense in your view? There is no good/bad outside of Hashem?

    2) Rashi Beresishis on “Mitzvosi” דְּבָרִים שֶׁאִלּוּ לֹא נִכְתְּבוּ רְאוּיִן הֵם לְהִצְטַוּוֹת, כְּגוֹן גֶּזֶל וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים: Ie if Hasehm did not command us not to steal, we should know not to. How?

    I am inclined towards a third option that the two statements are both true ie it is a definition and the question is a false dichotomy. For example is a an object round because it is a circle or a circle because it is round, this is a false dichotomy both are true.
    So is an act moral because Hashem commands it or does Hashem command it because it is moral? Both! Sacks discusses this in one of his books

    Again, I am not trying to convince you and you can disagree wit al points ive said. I’m just pointing out that it isnt so black and white

    #1885451
    Doing my best
    Participant

    I have a little bit of a hard time wrapping my head around your third option. Do you know which book it is in?

    #1885458
    Doing my best
    Participant

    And by the way, with your third option I think you run into issues when Hashem commands immoral thing. Like killing the whole Amalek. Or if you don’t think Amalek poses issues, in parshas Mattos, when Moshe tells his army to kill all the male children and grown women (even those that did not participate in the sin) from the POW’s. I think that Hashem has to be above morality in order for this to work.
    (I’m not arguing, just pointing out)

    #1885489
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Ubiquitin,
    I think it is unreasonable to assume that this was an old discussion going back for millennia. The early polemics (Saadya, Eight Chapters) make a forceful conclusion, that seem to indicate that it was not a topic of conversation in those days.

    #1885493
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    DMB

    its in “To Heal A Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility”
    excerpts are available online.

    It might not be exactly as I say it . My point is the 2 are inseparable There is no god independent of morality nor is there morality independent of God

    #1885492
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Doing,
    Stealing is bad because of what it is. If one could not decipher that on his own, how would the commandment ‘enlighten’ him to realize that it is bad? He would think ‘the Torah forbids all the good stuff’, and would deny the very basis of moral ideas.

    #1885509
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    N)m
    “I think it is unreasonable to assume that this was an old discussion going back for millennia. ”

    not an assumption. Plato wrote about it. He lived in the 4th century BCE
    look up “Euthyphro dilemma”

    #1885533
    Doing my best
    Participant

    Nm,
    “Stealing is bad because of what it is.”
    That’s not a very logical statement, although it does feel good.

    “ how would the commandment ‘enlighten’ him to realize that it is bad?”
    I don’t think that that is the point of the commandments. I think the point is simply to let us know what God wants.

    “ He would think ‘the Torah forbids all the good stuff’, and would deny the very basis of moral ideas.”
    See, you’re going in circles. You’re trying to address my point, but your using your ideas to do that. So when you say “ deny the very basis of moral ideas“ I don’t think that’s even a issue simply because I don’t think you can have a basis for morals that isn’t God.

    The basic idea of what I’m trying to say is, that to believe in morals coming before religion is to believe that there is a power which comes before God which is not something that Judaism believes in.

    #1885579
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Ubiquitin,
    I read the OP as the revelation versus reason debate. Because it included not stealing as the Will of Hashem. I assumed this was not a single divined oracle. Rather the Revelation of the Torah. Now that you pointed it out, I reread the OP. It fits much better with the whole paragraph. But if we are discussing the essence of morals in relation to His Essence, (without the Torah) Why would Rashi suffice as a counter proof? We would think that theft is immoral of it’s own nature but we would be wrong.

    #1885604
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    Dmb,

    Didn’t Hillel tell the future גר, “מה דשנאי לך אל תעשה לחבירך״ and that’s כל התורה כולה

    #1885606
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    DMB

    “The basic idea of what I’m trying to say is, that to believe in morals coming before religion is to believe that there is a power which comes before God which is not something that Judaism believes in.”

    Aside from several pesukim and mamrei chazal that indicate that this isn’t quite so. There are also a few logical problems with this

    1. It is a bit funny assert that ultimately all mitzvos are purely random, and arbitrary. There could have just as easily been a mitzvah to steal, and an averia to give tzedaka
    granted not an impossible assertion but clearly one that doesn’t fit very well with most classical Jewish thought

    2. You approach removes all impetus to serve/obey Hashem other than fear of punishment. to serve out of say Ahava, and recognizing all that Hashem does for you… Well who says Hakaros Hatov is a good thing?
    It creates a bit of a circular reasoning,
    Again not impossible to assert that ultimately the ONLY reason to listen is “well if you don’t your in big trouble… ” but I don’t think that fits with most classical Jewish thought.

    Again there are questions on the other tzad as well.
    I’m just offering food for thought

    #1885608
    The little I know
    Participant

    CA:

    The dilemma described in the OP doesn’t hit me quite that way. In my mind, the Torah is the absolute truth. There can be no other system.

    Imagine we had a world where the Torah did not exist (obviously not reality). It would be incumbent upon us to establish a moral code, since without one, the world would quickly deteriorate into chaos. However, the inherent bias we have to ourselves would guide us and influence us to create a code that was somehow pleasurable to us. The restrictions we know of would never emerge from a code that is based only on our own thinking.

    So the basics of morality must emanate from a spiritual source. What follows is that there can be no true conflict between Torah and morality. What I need to take from this is that anything that is moral has its root in Torah somewhere. Hillel derived a general rule from Torah. He proceeded to instruct the individual to pursue the details and related values through Torah study.

    #1885612
    Doing my best
    Participant

    Ubiquitin,
    I agree that there are sources problematic to my view, but I think that it is a much bigger issue to say that there is a set of rules preceding Hashem. (Your 3rd option might address this, but I don’t really understand what you meant)

    #1885611
    Doing my best
    Participant

    Ca,
    Well yes, and that means that Hashem coded being nice into the Torah. That doesn’t mean the Torah isn’t the reason to be nice, just that the Torah says you should be nice.

    #1885646
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Doing,
    One can ascertain that there is a Moral Will being dictated without there being any Divine Revelation. Much like one can believe in Hashem but doubt that he would ever Hear from him personally. Many people believe in God’s Will, but do not have religious practices. And they claim not to know of Revelation.

    #1885647
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear The Little,
    Your first point is an excellent one. On your second point, we could claim that punishment is a good thing. Or, that there is no such concept as good and bad.

    #1885671
    opinionated-2
    Participant

    Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world (including human logic, morality, law and order) based on its laws.

    #1885693
    hershh
    Participant

    the Mishna In perek keitzad mevorchim (Brochos 5) sstates, one should not say’ al kan tzipor yagiu rachameca’ meaning just as you have rachmanos so have mercy on us, rashi explains ‘hashems mitzvos are not to be taken as having mercy, but as a mitzvas hamelech

    #1885695
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    Tlik and dmb,

    Doesn’t it say if we didn’t have the Torah we would learn middos from the animals

    #1885761
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    There is a difference between chukim and mishpotim. By chazir it says don’t say I don’t like chazir but say I like it but Hashem forbade it. This does not apply by stealing which is self understood that it is wrong as the Ibn Ezra says not to desire what belongs to someone else as a villager does not desire a princess, being out of his reach.

    #1885789
    SchnitzelBigot
    Participant

    This question comes up in regards to slavery. We all, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise, consider slavery abhorrent. The Torah does not. These questions began to rise with Moses Mendelssohn and German Jewry, so I think R Hirsch deals with this subject thoroughly.

    #1885792
    Doing my best
    Participant

    Reb Eliezer,
    Stealing is self understood to be wrong, but that does not mean that this self-understanding would be true. Without a higher authority, there is no reason why anything should be good or bad besides for the way I feel. This is actually how the liberal left ended up the way they are.

    #1885793
    Doing my best
    Participant

    ca,
    I believe that to mean on a practical sense more than a moral one. For example we would learn from lions that it’s not a good idea to eat each other just like lions don’t eat members of their own pack.

    #1885818
    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubiquitin, Rashi say the opposite. Even if they were not written they would have been commanded. That is to say, people would prohibit them.

    Doing, Rav Shimon Shkop addresses this in Shaarei Yosher. How do we allow a possessor to retain a disputed object where there is no proof? It is a safek d’Oraita of robbery and therefor we should be stringent and leave it aside until there is proof. He answers that before an object can be considered stolen the law must say that it does not belong to the possessor. The whole idea of the mitzvot is that there are actions which are inherently bad, in the case of the sheva mitzvot, or bad for us, in the case of the Taryag. Good and bad obviously were created before people as the Tree of Life was created before Adam and Chava.

    #1885845
    Toi
    Participant

    R’ Chaim Soloveitchik famously said that Hashem created the world in a way that the things which are assur and morally reprehensible are only destructive because they are assur. Had Hashem not assured murder, the world could exist perfectly with everyone murdering each other, even though that’s a reality we could never fathom. There are no absolute morals, the Torah is koveiah what things are moral and what aren’t.

    #1885846
    PuhLease
    Participant

    I think that the first point of morals in any discussion is the difference between morals and ethics.
    Morals are society’s definition of right versus wrong (keeping in mind that different societies have different morals)
    Ethics are whether or not you choose to FOLLOW the “rules” set by the society you CHOOSE to live in.

    Religion, yiddishket, frum, charedi, whatever term you want to use, is a society of it’s own, but each sect has it’s own concept of what is moral. And it’s not our place to judge or determine that one sect’s moral code is wrong just because it’s different than another’s interpretation of Talmud or Gemorrah when it comes to halachah. That being said, it is difficult to have a true conversation on morals (and ethics) in Torah, because if two people are having a halachic discussion and they are from different sects, they will have different interpretations of what is morally right or wrong, and they would both be correct,
    It’s like the “Schroedinger’s Cat” (physics example, look it up) of religion.

    Just my two cents.

    #1885850
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    Avi
    ” Rashi say the opposite”

    Thats isnt the opposite. that is what I said

    #1885862
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    Dmb,

    I don’t think that’s what it meant it says middos and it says cleanliness from a cat

    #1885865
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Another reason why stealing by the dor hababul was so grave to destroy the whole creation on it is that one denies a ruler over him saying leis din veleis dayin. By nilah on Yom Kippur, one averah is specified stealing from Hashem by using his providence for our own purpose and not for His service.

    #1885866
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Dubner Magid explains that a person might go to a beis din for two different reasons. Either to make sure that the other did not take something that belongs to me or I did not take something that belongs to him. Moshe Rabbenu said to Yisro, if they have a dispute, he comes to me. Should have said, they come? As he is arguing in the second case behalf his friend, one side is enough to come. The Chasan Sofer explains that their dispute comes to my heart to act on it.

    #1885900
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    CA, תלמוד בבלי מסכת עירובין דף ק עמוד ב
    אמר רבי יוחנן: אילמלא לא ניתנה תורה היינו למידין צניעות מחתול, וגזל מנמלה, ועריות מיונה. דרך ארץ מתרנגול – שמפייס ואחר כך בועל

    #1885952
    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubiquitin, Rashi does not say that we would not know that stealing is wrong. Quite the contrary, people would prohibit it. However, according to Rav Shimon Shkop the Torah tells us what is and is not stealing. It also gives custom and dina d’malchuta a say. For example, if Reuven admits that he stole Shimon’s object the bet din will give it to Shimon even if it is not factually correct. Similarly, if the government seizes property it belongs to the government. Thus, we can travel on roads and bridges that were built through eminent domain (Baba Kama 113b).

    #1885942
    Doing my best
    Participant

    Anyways, we would have no obligation to follow this learned middos as they would not necessarily be good or bad. We would just see what animals do and then do the same.
    But my point being that morals are all fluid in the absence of a higher power because otherwise there is no mekor for the rule, why should i listen to your morals if I can make up my own?
    R’ Uri Zohar mentions this in his book. He says that he was at a party and while drunk he stole something and his wife got mad at him. And he says that he remembers thinking to himself that if there is no higher power then what makes stealing wrong besides because that’s what society said.

    #1885986
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Dubner Magid interprets the above Hilel with a mashel. A young man hired his uncle as a financial advisor.
    He constantly told him that he is losing money. Eventially he had enough. The young man went to someone else. He was told, separate yourself from your uncle as he is a ganev and pocketing the money. The interpretatiion is, whoever has hatred towards you, don’t make him your friend. This refers to the yetzer hara.
    He acts like a friend but realy he is your enemy. When go out to the battle, know that you are fighting your enemy. Recognizing this, you will succeed and Hashem will give him into your hands to defeat him.

    #1886106
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    Avi

    ” Rashi does not say that we would not know that stealing is wrong. Quite the contrary, people would prohibit it”

    Yes. that is what I said

    #1886144
    charliehall
    Participant

    “morals are often discussed as the absolute decider between good and bad”

    Actually the opposite is true — many insist that Donald Trump, who has no morals at all, is a good person.

    #1886171
    PuhLease
    Participant

    But you see @Charliehall, that, precisely is the point. Many feel Donald Trump has no morals. Many feel he does have morals. What morals are, is a matter of opinion, granted, it’s a societal decision, regardless, it’s opinion.

    #1886227
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    Thank you Reb eliezer for bringing the source

    Who would’ve guessed Charlie would have brought the president in a non political topic

    I’m telling you Trump lives rent free in people with TDS

    #1886275
    opinionated-2
    Participant

    The Donald Syndrome??

    #1886345
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Before the sin of the Eitz Hadaas there was an innocence like children. We did not need physical action to perform mitzvos as the mind was clean. Someone on the level of navi regains this innocence as King Shaul was shedding his clothing when he prophesized.

    #1886346
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Toi,
    Can you source that statement? It seems ridiculous to me. And it contradicts the oft repeated saying of Reb Chaim , that Bava Kamma is shverer vi Parah Adumah.

    #1886349
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Shnitzel,
    The line of questioning you mentioned, received attention from Menashe ben Yisrael. Mendelssohn wrote just about as full a thesis as there is on the subject. His ideas are mainstream to the modern day. Rav Hirsch, the Malbim, Rav Yisrael Salanter, and almost every notable jewish thinker of the nineteenth century agreed with the theory. It is still in place in the modern day, in the works of Reb Aryeh Kaplan and Reb Avigdor Miller.

    #1886350
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Opinionated,
    My understanding is, Hashem created the world based on The Torah Itself, Not merely it’s Laws.

    #1886357
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Doing,
    Morals that transcend our existence, are intrinsically beyond our ability to determine. Even with Divine Revelation, we cannot say that something beyond our recognition is moral. (Such as how gods treat each other.) Because it is beyond our dimension, we could never grasp the moral of it.

    However, things that are within the sphere of our individuality, we can and must define an ethic for it. (For example, what lengths to go to on personal hygiene.) We would not be able to cultivate ourselves without it. As we develop into social circles and civilizations, the need arises for a common moral good. Such as being determined to avoid theft. This will be subjectively good, when it enhances the growth of society. But it is completely and objectively good at doing what it is intended to do; sustain the respect for other people’s property.

    On this basis, Kant, Hegel, Locke, and who knows how many others, demonstrated that theft is bad because it leads to the ruin of civilization. Though it could be argued, that in if our view would transcend the small perspective of humanity, we might be convinced that the ruin of civilization is the ultimate good.

    #1886373
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    “The Donald Syndrome??“

    Close,

    Trump derangement syndrome

    #1886377
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    How did Avraham Avinu know that hachnosas orchim comes before kabolas hashchina before Kabolas Hatorah?
    They say that 613 body parts are against the 613 mitzvos as in the end of Koheles, his legs carried him towards the orchim.

    #1886382
    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubiquitin, I reread and you are half right. We should know but that does not mean that there would be a law. We should know to honor our parents even without a commandment but there si no law requiring it.

    #1886456
    charliehall
    Participant

    “Many feel he does have morals. ”

    No frum Jew would think that someone what a history of cheating on all three of his wives, of repeatedly cheating customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, lenders, and business partners through decades of business misconduct, and of repeatedly lying about just about everything, would have morals. The Torah objects to all of this.

    #1886484
    n0mesorah
    Participant

    Dear Charlie,
    He definitely has some morals. But I question your ethic, in making this post about him. Who cares?

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