Why Can’t We Change the Rules?
Answer: Because they don’t need to be.
There is a very common fallacy argued by many people. They contend that people change, therefore the rules should change. This is a logical argument, and should not be ignored. It deserves discussion.
The truth is that the only major thing that changes about people is their opinions. People do not change, and truth does not change. People are motivated by essentially the same things by which we have always been motivated. People have essentially the same desires we have always had. Human nature has stayed exactly the same, and this is why people say that history repeats itself.
The only thing that really changes from culture to culture and from time to time is what public opinion holds to be right and wrong. And that is the basic flaw in popular cultural mores. Malleable moral standards are fallacious and unreal concepts. Anything transitory cannot be fundamentally true.
However, Judaism believes that G-d created the Torah first, and used the Torah as a blueprint from which to design the universe. Thus, the Laws of the Torah are as eternal as the universe.
Throughout all the ages, the Jews have been exiled in many lands. The Egyptians practiced incest. The Jews maintained that incest is wrong. We still do, and we always will.
The French have no qualms about extra-marital affairs. Rabbinical works of long ago mention this as a problem centuries ago. The Jews maintained it was wrong. We still do.
There were cultures that practiced theft and crookedness to degrees that would put Ferengi to shame. The Jews have always maintained it is wrong. We still do.
I am not claiming that we have never had sinners who practiced these and other immoral acts. But we never changed Judaism to reflect the mores of other cultures, or of the dominating society.
I once met a Jewish woman who insisted that it was time for Orthodox Judaism to modernize, as she had. She couldn’t exactly explain what she meant by «modernize,» but subsequent discussion revealed that she was completely unobservant, and had finally become reconciled with the fact that her daughter had married a gentile.
This was the modernization we should embrace? The loss of our culture through syncretism and assimilation? The adoption of popular culture and ideals, to the detriment of our own?
The fallacy is in thinking that Judaism actually once fitted into society, but is now outdated. Actually, we have never fit into «society,» nor were we ever supposed to.
When the Jews were in Egypt, we kept ourselves separate. We dressed differently, we did not intermarry with unconverted Egyptians, we spoke our own language, and we kept our own names.
When the Jews were exiled to Babylon, after the Destruction of the First Holy Temple, we still kept ourselves separate from the Gentiles. We dressed differently, we kept only Jewish names, we spoke our own dialect, and we observed the Torah as best we could under the circumstances. This is what we do today, and what we have done in every exile we have endured. Had we not done so, we would have assimilated into the Babylonian culture, and not remained Jews.
When we were returned to the Holy Land, to rebuild the Second Temple, there eventually arose a group that insisted we «modernize.» We must join the world’s general movement towards enlightenment and acceptance, they said. Yes, That means assimilating; yes, that means watering down the Torah; but the time has come to alter the Torah. We must join the world and be accepted. So they insisted.
They were called Hellenisers, because they imitated the Greeks. Modernize, they said. Don’t be so rigid and different. But we resisted, and we kept the Torah. That’s how Chanukah came to be. The Hellenisers and the ancient Greek culture are all gone today; but we still exist — we who stood apart.
The Romans came to the foreground of world politics, and similar movements sprung up. Still we resisted. The ancient Roman culture no longer exists; the Jews do.
The American culture will some day go the way of all its predecessors. It, too, with all its imitators, will dissipate, and be replaced by something even more «modern,» which will in its turn be replaced by something else new.
And we Jews, with our «archaic culture that can never seem to fit in,» will still be here.
So is our culture archaic?
Whatever the society, whatever the abomination, we did not fit in. Judaism never accepted the beliefs and mores or any other culture, thus we were never in step with any other culture.
It would be correct to call us «archaic,» or «outdated,» if there had ever been a time when we were modern and in style. But there never was such a time. We have always been outside of the dominant style and culture. We have never fit in. We have never fit into society, thus we are not archaic. We are timeless.
And the reason? Because no matter how many times the masses change their attitudes and beliefs, right is still right, wrong is still wrong. To us, it does not matter what popular world opinion thinks is right and wrong. And no matter how society has changed, Judaism has always had whatever it needed to meet the challenge. This is why there are no new unanswerable questions in Judaism. Everything is already answered by Judaism! Hashem fashioned Judaism to be able to deal with any situation. There is nothing new under the sun….
If I feel that something is morally wrong, and the Torah says it is morally right, than I am mistaken, not the Torah.
Many people mistakenly think that our life or culture is static and unchanging. This is not true. To the degree that it is static, that is good. It means that we have been keeping our morals, and have not been assimilating. But even Judaism takes into account the changes and tides of societies and peoples.
It is also a mistake to think that «strict and unalterable» means «inflexible.» Judaism is not inflexible. Judaism takes the perfect balance between firmness and flexibility.
Likewise, Judaism takes into account the fact that people have individualistic minds and free choice. A proper study of Judaism will show you this.