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What Ethical and Moral Standards to We Need Today?

Parashat K'doshim discusses ethical and social codes given to the Jewish people. In this Dvar Torah, I will consider the role of two of these norms in the 21st century. First, the Parashat states that, "...you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor." In other words, in the modern-day world, we need to treat people equally and strive for fairness. It is wrong when rich people are treated better than poor people simply because of their status. It is also wrong for poor people to be treated better than rich people because they are poor. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, we need to judge people "by the content of their character."

Parashat K'doshim includes the well-known but controversial prohibition on homosexuality ("If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death--their bloodguilt is upon them.") From a 21st century perspective, this is profoundly demeaning. A same-sex couple who is dedicated to one another can have a wonderful and devoted relationship. It is the quality of the commitment that counts.

I would like to end with a question: "How do we balance traditionally Jewish ethical and social norms with American norms?" As established by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, American Jewry lives in two civilizations. The discrepancies and similarities between American and Jewish civilizations keep us vital, thinking and questioning. This questioning helps us to be moral.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah