The Rabbi's Essays

THE TEN ABANDONMENTS. Confronting a World Which Has Jettisoned G-D


Confronting a World Which Has Jettisoned G-D

Epilogue Decalogue?

On 19th May 2022, the NSW Upper House formally passed the so-called “Assisted Dying” (actually assisted-suicide) Bill (against the advice of both major state party leaders). In so doing they joined every other State in Australia in proclaiming that life is no longer sacred and G-D is no longer its custodian.

Next week on Shavuot we shall be celebrating the Revelation on Mount Sinai. We shall be reading the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments which were heard and affirmed by our ancestors numbering some three million souls. These Commandments came to form the bedrock of Western society.

Now they lie in tatters. Western man has usurped G-D (goodbye, commandments 1-3). The Sabbath ideal (commandment 4) has been irrevocably trampled upon as businesses operate 24/7 and sacred time has ceased to exist. Those who fall by the wayside are trampled upon (down the chute, commandment 10) The guiding principles of preceding generations are held in contempt rather than honoured (adios, commandment 5). Sexual ethics have been utterly perverted (in the trash-heap with you, commandment 7) If my opinion does not square with woke ideology I am not entitled to express it or if I do I shall be “cancelled”; thus my right to self-expression has been stolen (it was nice knowing you, commandment 8). Worse still, I run the risk of being excoriated and slandered (rest in peace, commandment 9). Worst of all, human existence itself – as well as nascent life – rests in the hands of the unscrupulous geriatrician and obstetrician (bang bang, you’re well and truly dead, commandment 6).

“The Ten Commandments” have become “The Ten Abandonments” in the so-called free world, What are we doing about it?

Respecting Boundaries

The three days before Shavuot are known as the Sheloshet Y’mei Hagbala the three days of “setting-the-boundaries” commemoration. They are joyful days when tachanun (supplicatory prayers) are not recited and the mourning restrictions of the Omer period are fittingly laid aside. G-D had told Moses to set boundaries around Mount Sinai in order that nobody would trespass upon the site where the essence of the Torah was about to be revealed. As we know from stampedes that have taken place recently in different contexts (most ubiquitously by frenzied soccer fans upon famous football pitches), borders shutting off hallowed space are a near-irresistible temptation for the highly-charged to break through. Yet not one member of Bnei Yisrael broke through the boundaries, such was the fear and trepidation, the Yir’at Shamayim that coursed through the veins of Bnei Yisrael prior to the Revelation.

Has Fear Departed From Society? – Hardly!

Yet, lest we think that fear is an emotion that has disappeared from today’s arrogant self-worshipping society, the truth is that the 2020s are spawning a generation that is growing up more fearful than ever.

The world is all but doomed! We may have left it too late! These are the messages which are being given out constantly by climate change “experts” and their cohorts on social media. Like the meraglim, the scouts whom Moses sent to reconnoitre the Land, many of the climate researchers have exceeded their brief. Not content to report on the facts, they present a doomsday scenario. They resemble the sectarian Christian preachers of a previous generation who, in stentorian, terror-filled tones predicted the imminence of the apocalypse.

Except, of course, there is a “solution”. Not, as in the case of the Christian preachers of yesterday, “repent, accept the saviour of mankind and be saved!” But rather jettison coal, oil and gas and save the world! Man has become G-D! He has it in his power to redeem the universe!

Climate change is the new morality. It has, in effect, replaced the Ten Commandments in the eyes of its millions of adherents. It has become their doctrinal faith. How often have you been asked (or challenged) if you are a climate change believer or denier? (You see there are only two types of human being – believers and deniers – in the eyes of climate-change adherents just as there were for the fanatical Catholic priests at the time of the Spanish Inquisition!) And note well, please, you are required to declare that you believe in climate change! Not just “believe” it. But “believe in” it.

The Nineveh Syndrome

All this helps shed light on one of the most puzzling narratives in the whole of Scripture, namely the account of the Ninevites’ repentance in the Book of Jonah..

Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, a world power, was a towering metropolis boasting more than 120,000 inhabitants. It took three full days to walk from end to end. Its inhabitants were brash, cocksure, bellicose. Greed, corruption, violence, robbery were rife. But Jonah had a powerful message. He too preached a doomsday scenario for them. Except that his message came from G-D. To their credit, the people believed in his message. They returned from their evil way, every man, woman and child. How was this possible?

The truth is that it wasn’t. The repentance was superficial. It was based on fear of consequence, not real fear of G-D. It turned out to be a fad, a fashion, a movement, a wave. A case of everyone following the crowd. What they did would have been highly commendable had it lasted. But within forty years they had returned to their wicked ways. According to Abarbanel, they had never really given up paganism.

Mass movements of various types and variable durations occur because of the enduring propensity of people to blindly follow trends whether for good or ill.

Real faith is grounded on firm soil, not on quicksand. It is borne of profound truths, not catchy sound-bites. It is founded on Yir’at Shamayim, on fear of G-D, not fear of doomsday scenarios. The Torah was taught to three million people beginning at Sinai and continuing with an intensive course of study lasting forty years and two generations. No wonder it has endured!

What Should We Be Doing For The World?

Judaism will survive! Presently one in seven on the world’s Jews is charedi, fervently Torah-observant. By 2040, if present trends continue, it will be one in four! The challenge is not the preservation of the few. It is the reclamation of the many.

The greatest danger to the future of the world does not stem from physical sources. A generation is growing up in fear of the unknown. Unstabilising doctrines undermining the conventional family, normative sexuality, and even binary gender-labelling are causing children to grow up unsure of what their very basic identity ought to be. The only fraternity who will benefit will be the psychiatric profession.

Meanwhile, the mission of the Jew remains as it has always been: To be a kingdom of chaplains, of outreach-workers, as well as a holy nation.(Ex. 19:6).

If we believe that the main danger to the future of mainstream Judaism lies with Christian missionaries, Islamic radicals or Judeophobic neo-Nazis, we are living in the past. Rather the principal peril lies in the rampant secularism and societal narcissism that comprises today’s avoda zara (idolatry).

We would do well to join forces with practitioners of our “daughter” faiths, Christianity and Islam, which share our adherence (sort of) to monotheism and to the moral and ethical values inherent in the Ten Commandments. In doing so, we could make a valiant attempt, with a united voice – k’ish ekhad b’lev ekhad – to get our authentic message across to fellow-Jews and to open-minded non-Jews, using the most effective tools of mass communication available today. Ultimately people will recognise the truth if we can enable them to connect with it! A return to the abandoned values of the Aseret haDibrot is the only effective prescription for the moral future of society. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

Chag Sameakh!