What’s The Moral Upshot Of Orthodox Judaism?

I’ve been asking Orthodox rabbis if simply knowing that someone was Orthodox told you anything about their ethics.

The rabbis say no.

What if you knew the person davened three times a day? Does that say anything about their ethics?

The rabbis say no.

What if they really sway in their davening and beat their chests and really get into it, davening with great intention? Does that say anything about their ethics?

The rabbis say no.

What if they daven at ______ (and I listed off various Orthodox shuls in Pico-Robertson). Does that tell you anything about their ethics?

The rabbis say no.

“America has this secular-religious divide and Americans take this into their lives,” says one rabbi. “They consider religion and business different realms.”

What if you know that someone graduated from 12 years of Orthodox Jewish education? Are they more likely to be ethical?

The rabbis say no.

Scandals in business ethics in Orthodox Jewish life in the United States over the past few years have occurred primarily among the charedim. But that’s not because that group is less ethical than the Modern Orthodox.

A far higher percentage of charedim (ultra-Orthodox) are businessmen than the Modern Orthodox (who tend to be professionals). How many businessmen go to Bnai David-Judea for instance? A few. How many teachers and academics? Two dozen. How many doctors? Two dozen. How many lawyers? Fifty. How many accountants? Several.

At your typical chareidi American shul? There will be very few professionals because all the professions require extensive secular education and the chareidim are not into that.

The opportunities to cheat and make a killing are highly limited for doctors, lawyers, accountants. There’s not much incentive. The opportunities to cheat and make big bucks are much greater in business.

In World War II, fewer Orthodox Jews proportionately were in the professions. They were in business. A rabbi could come through and raise tens of millions of dollars. That doesn’t happen today. Orthodox Jews, consequently, gave far more charity 50 years ago than today.

Golda Meir came to the United States in 1947 to raise money to fight a war. In one meeting in Chicago, she raised $150 million. You couldn’t do that today.

When a shul selects a rabbi, does it primarily want an ethical leader? Or does it want a Torah scholar? Or a good fundraiser? A good CEO? A good speaker?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Ethics, Orthodoxy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.