How Do You Make Good People?

For the past two months, I’ve had a part-time job — picking up kids from school and driving them home.

This time in the car with a load of terrorists (if I don’t give them everything they want, they will make my life hell and put me at risk of a massive ticket for piloting a car with kids out of their seatbelts) has renewed my commitment to moral education.

I am available to lecture to yeshivas on this important topic.

My travails as a babysitter remind me of the need to keep Jews strapped in their halachic seat-belts so they don’t run around our spinning globe infecting the dumb goyim with transgressive notions of socialism and sodomy.

It takes a lot to make good people.

Dennis Prager has lectured on this topic much more eloquently than I can, but here are some of the necessary ingredients for making a good community (good individuals may lack these prerequisites but no good community can):

* Belief in a transcendent moral code
* A set of daily practices to hone one’s commitment to the transcendent code
* A system for transmitting that code to each generation
* A community to keep an eye on you
* Common sense

Out of all the fancy notions for making good people, there’s one that most powerfully affects me — other people.

If I am close to someone, if I love someone, I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to look in their eyes and see disappointment.

Between 1992-1995, almost all I could talk about was ethical monotheism. Then in January 1996, I directed a porn movie and decided to write a book on the history of sex in film.

I spent most of the next 12 years writing about the porn industry.

How on earth did I go from yakking about God all the time to telling five guys to sodomize Kimberly Kummings while I held the camera?

Well, for one, I’m a weirdo. It’s frighteningly easy for me to go from a mitzvah (divine command) to an averrah (sin) to a mitzva. Two, I really like sex. I like doing it, I like writing about it, and I like directing it.

(I only directed one porn movie. Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.)

But point three is the most important — I lacked tight bonds. I had a lot of acquaintances in Los Angeles, even a few friends, but I wasn’t bonded to a particular group who held me accountable for my behavior.

Yeah, Dennis Prager was my hero. I listened to him every day on the radio. I heard him preach at Stephen S. Wise temple. I introduced dozens of people to him, some of whom became Orthodox. One friend of mine from Grass Valley, Michal, got a letter from Prager in 1993 saying, "Anyone who is a friend of Luke’s is a friend of mine." But I wasn’t bonded to Prager or to anyone else. I was a free spirit. I went to shul, I screwed around, I went back to shul, I studed some Torah, I studied some porn. Rinse, repeat.

It was a pretty good life but it wasn’t a holy life and it wasn’t the stuff of which holy communities are made out of.

I did get to bang a lot of chicks, however, and while that wasn’t exactly a sanctification of the name of G-d (even though I met at least half of them in shul), it was a lot of fun.

In the summer of 2000, I went to Israel. When I came back, I returned to davening every morning at Young Israel of Century City and going to the daily Talmud class (Daf Yomi). This began to profoundly affect me. I was earning my living writing about the porn industry but I could no longer do it with as much equanimity as I had at Ohr HaTorah. I had to look Rabbi Elazar Muskin in the eye every morning and it was killing me (would’ve killed him too, only he didn’t know about, he only knew me as Levi Avraham).

I was in the process of cleaning up my life when an ex-pornographer turned me in to Rabbi Avrohom Union (June 2001) who called Rabbi Muskin and I was out the door.

Then I wandered around for a while. I went to various minyans. None of them particularly affected me because I wasn’t close with anyone in them. If I just show up to a shul where I have no meaningful connections, then, frankly, I feel like I can do anything I want once I walk outside of the shul. Who am I going to let down? Myself? Big deal.

But when I pray with friends, when I study Torah with friends, then I don’t want to let ’em down. So I’ve cut way back on my screwing around. Only on Tuesdays.

Soon it will be just every other Tuesday.

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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