How Do You Give Ethical Principles?

In a 1997 lecture on Exodus 21: 26-36, Dennis Prager says: It’s easy to give rituals laws. How do you give ethical principles? You would have to have an encyclopedia the size of the Encyclopedia Brittanica on how to behave because on every given moment, there’s an ethical question:

* Do I laugh at the ethnic joke somebody at work told me?
* I’m at a high school party and the fat kid has nobody talking to him. How long do I have to talk to him to be a good person? Five minutes? Just say hi? Don’t make a bad joke about him?

It’s impossible to have an encyclopedia of ethics. You can have an encyclopedia of rituals. But you can’t have one of ethics because every day the nuances change. How many people do I let in in front of me on the freeway? At what point do I block somebody?

In a 1997 lecture on Exodus 22: 18-24, Dennis says: The Torah never forbids beliefs in other gods. The Torah is a behavioral document. It does not say that whoever believes in another god shall be put to death. It’s whoever brings a sacrifice to another god. What you believe is between you and God, what you do is between you and society.

* Use your own suffering to create empathy, not anger or bitterness. You have two choices if you suffer — learn to treat people beautifully or learn to treat others as you were treated. The notion that suffering ennobles is nonsense. Suffering ennobles those who wish to be noble.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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