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Jewish Ethics & Morality

A Collection of Questions and Answers

How does G-d decide what's right and what's wrong? Can one be a "good person" without being religious? What gives us the right to kill animals? What's the difference between a cult and a religion?

What Is the Torah Perspective on Safe Spaces, Trigger Words and Political Correctness?
First, we need to understand an underlying philosophical difference between the Constitution and the Torah.
Is It Ethical to Regift?
Is it wrong to regift? My uncle just came back from Hong Kong and brought me a very expensive green tie with red zigzags. I would not be caught dead wearing it. But I have a friend with the same taste as my uncle who would love it, and it's his birthday next week. Is there any issue with me passing it on, rather than letting it gather dust in my closet?
Is My Teacher Responsible for My Confiscated Smartphone?
Was she allowed to confiscate it? If she was, is she responsible to reimburse me?
Why Can’t I Be Vengeful Like G-d?
With one phone call, I could ruin his career and shatter his entire life. Should I do it?
I Quit My Unethical Job
Part of my duties was to copy and paste articles from various websites for a weekly bulletin. The CEO wants me to make as if he himself wrote all the articles. I felt that every time I sent out the mass emailing I was committing a crime. I left the position. Was I right?
Should We Bear a Grudge Against a Murderer?
There are dozens of people I know who never use bad language, however, now they are writing things like, “I would kill him myself.” I understand the anger, shock and grief, but is this how we are supposed to respond, with a thirst for vigilante justice?
What to Do if Your Boss Calls You a Fool?
If a worker makes a mistake can his boss call him a fool?
Can a Person Be
Is it better to keep Shabbat and eat only kosher but be unkind and dishonest, or to be a good person who is not as observant?
How Can I Live Without Causing Harm?
With every dollar we spend, we relinquish control of the ethical direction of our money. Taxes on profit will buy bullets, fund factory farming, etc. The only solution seems a self-sustained collective...
Who Needs Religion, if It's the Cause of So Much Violence?
Since all the wars of history were caused by religion, wouldn't the world be better off without it?
Does Religion Cause War?
There are a number of ways of approaching the issue. Let us try a scientific approach
What Defines a Person As Religious?
Is it spirituality? Belief? Is it obedience to G-d?
Should I Pray for the Death of Terrorists?
The murder of others, even if they are the oppressors, seemingly amounts to a glorification of war... Prayer, I am told, is an act of enlightenment. Am I to pray for the brutal demise of the enemy?
Does A High Arab Birthrate Threaten Israel?
The Arab birth rate continues to outstrip the Jewish rate--and the government continues to discourage large families. How are we ever going to ensure that this place remains the Jewish homeland?
Torn Between Torah and Science
"Every single item in the general doctrine is denied, but the conclusions from the doctrine as a whole are retained. The result is a complete muddle in the scientific thought, in philosophic cosmology and in epistemology..."
Is Over-Obsessing Okay?
The Jewish take on becoming compulsive
How scrupulous is too scrupulous? At what point does religious observance start to become neurotic?
Is There a Cure for Jealousy?
I am struggling with jealousy in many areas in my life and in my relationships. Any words of advice for me?
There’s so much hypocrisy!
Have you ever done any carpentry or one of those Ikea do-it-yourself jobs? They always tell you not to tighten the bolts until the whole thing’s been put together.
I Had an Abortion and Regret It
Is Guilt Good?
I know that I can't reverse what I have done, but is there some way to alleviate my burden? Or must I resign myself to carrying the guilt with me all my life?
How Do You Fight Evil?
Should we combat it? Ignore it? Is it possible to do both?
How Does G-d Decide What's Right and What's Wrong?
Are good things G-dly or are G-dly things good? What would the Chassidic masters say of the Socrates- Euthyphro debate?
Where Do Ethics Come From?
Should we clone people? Is there such a thing as a life not worth living? When is it correct to go to war? But the real question is: on what biases do we answer these ethical dilemmas?
On the mitzvah to kill innocent Amalekite and Canaanite civilians and children
Did G‑d once not just promote, but command genocide, including women and children, even infants?
Why Is There So Much War and Violence in Torah?
Why do we have to "wipe out" Amalek and the Canaanites? Why administer capital punishment? Shouldn't G‑d's message be one of love?
Does Torah Promote Genocide?
Why does the Torah command us to annihilate the seven Canaanite nations? Why would G‑d put the everlasting guilt of wiping out entire communities upon any group of people, especially those he favors? If there were populations that were so evil, why wouldn't He take care of it Himself?
Should a Jewish State Have an Army?
Isn't it un-Jewish to kill people? How would Judaism apply the law from the Ten Commandments, "You shall not kill" in modern Israel?
Why Aren't We Vegetarians?
If Judaism requires us to be kind to animals, shouldn't we be vegetarians?
Judaism and Vegetarianism
For better or for worse, meat is an undeniable favorite on the kosher menu. Is this good? Let’s have a look . . .
What Gives Us the Right to Kill Animals?
From man I expect good and bad. From G-d I expected only good. Until I learned about the animal sacrifices. Apparently G-d actually wants them. Imagine, a place set aside for slaughter -- in a temple!
Who Wants a Religion of No's?
Don’t eat dairy together with meat. Don’t wear a mixture of wool and linen. Don’t turn on a light on Shabbat. Don’t gossip… Is this what religion is all about?
The Glory of Not Sinning
The Story of Yankel, the Master of Sins
What does G-d want with sinners like me? What did He put such a louse of a creature here for? I just want to know: does He appreciate at all the effort I put into trying not to be what I am?
How Does 'Forgiveness' Work?
How can a person be forgiven if the effects of his or her crime still exist?
Getting Forgiven
How do you know when you have been forgiven? Or does the guilt just go on and on?
What is Humility?
"And Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth". Very nice compliment, but who wrote this verse? Moses himself! Is that called humility?
Are Religious Jews Narrow-Minded?
"I try to be open-minded spiritually. Why is it that religious Jews are so closed to the wisdom of other religions?"
The Difference Between a Rabbi and a Rav
Are “rav” and “rabbi” not synonyms? And why do I need a personal rav? Isn’t it one Torah for everyone?
Why Do Observant Jews Have Such a Tranquil life?
I'm not sure what exposure you have had to observant Jews, but judging by your question, it seems to have been from a distance...
Is Judaism a Cult?
I have nothing against religion, but could it be that religious Judaism is a cult? I bumped into an old classmate who has become totally religious. After speaking to her, I felt that she is brainwashed . . .
Is it Okay to be a Hypocrite?
Can I wear tzitzit if I drive on Shabbat?
How Do We Know Whom To Believe?
When we find a teacher inspiring and compelling, when we are enthused by people who seem spiritual and pious, how can we be sure that they are not charismatic charlatans preying on our vulnerability for their own selfish gain?
Why is My Family Insulted by My Kosher Diet?
My sister says that I am being "holier-than-thou" and my parents say that I am tearing the family apart. What can I do?
Why Honor the Rich?
I am nauseated by the way the Jewish community honors rich people. Every corner of my synagogue has some plaque in the name of some major donor. If I'm not mistaken, the hand dryer in the men's room is in honor of the ____ family...
Must I Forgive Everyone?
But we don't need to take an "all or nothing" approach. If restoring the relationship is impossible it is not always necessary to terminate all contact or become antagonistic...
What If I'm Not in the Mood?
Isn't it better to do less of the obligations but with a fuller heart, than to fulfill them with an unenthusiastic heart?
How Could a Religious Person Commit a Crime?
A high administrative official in our synagogue embezzled a great sum of money from the congregational offerings. He is well versed in Torah, and certainly knows the difference between right and wrong. So, how is it possible that he did such a thing?
Are You Jealous?
A Talmudic Antidote for Envy
Jealousy cannot just be eradicated. It needs to be supplanted with a positive antidote...
What If I Have No Time for Spirituality?
My week is packed with work, family commitments, fitness, a little socializing and time to relax. I don't see where I can fit in spiritual activities. I don't want to burn out, do I?
How Do You Treat Animals?
I can’t understand how “Do not eat the limb of a living animal” would be in the top seven most important things for all humanity to observe.
How Should I Rebuke Him?
There is one person in my synagogue whom I feel the need to rebuke. Are there any sources in Jewish law that I can show him to convince him that his behavior is inappropriate?
How Do I Get Inspired and Motivated?
How can I inspire myself so that I will be more excited to do good things?
Is Religion a Crutch?
I think that G-d is for the weak and the needy. Don't you have the independence to get through life on your own?
Why Jews Greet With Shalom Aleichem
Explaining the Jewish Hello
I was told that there is no translation for “hello” into Hebrew. I was told that Jews say “peace” instead of “hello” and “goodbye.” Could you explain these peculiar Jewish customs?
The Jewish View on Hunting for Sport
Does Judaism have anything to say about hunting as a sport?
Loan to Someone Who Cannot Repay?
A friend of mine who is known to burn money and not repay loans is continuously asking me for a loan. I have heard that one should always give a loan when asked. Should I be giving him a loan?
Is Prisoner Exchange A Jewish Value?
Judaism’s take on redeeming prisoners
Redeeming captives is nothing new for Jews. What does our past experience and the decisions of our sages have to teach us about prisoner exchanges today?
Should I Serve G-d With Marijuana?
I was wondering how the Jewish, and especially chassidic, mystical teachings would regard marijuana as a way of getting closer to G‑d.
I Have No Time to Help Others
I know that it is important to help others, but I cannot seem to find time. How can I help people when I’m so busy?!
Is Turning the Other Cheek a Jewish Value?
I have been under the impression that “turning the other cheek” to your enemies is not a Jewish approach. But recently a friend pointed out the verse in Lamentations (3:30), “Let him offer his cheek to his smiter; let him be filled with reproach.”
Can I Stop a Co-Worker from Smoking in the Office?
There is a chain smoker who sits near me in the new office. According to Jewish law, am I allowed to ask him to stop smoking?
If I ask forgiveness from the person about whom I spoke, I will feel much better, but it will embarrass him immensely.
Is Marijuana Kosher?
Rabbi, marijuana is a plant. Since when does a plant need to be certified kosher?
Is Judaism Socialist or Capitalist?
What exactly is our ideal society?
Can I Use Grandma's Parking Permit?
I feel a little guilty about it and thought maybe I should give it up. On the other hand, am I doing anything wrong by just leaving it there?
Moneylending and Jewish Law
The Torah prohibits a Jew from borrowing, lending or being a party to a transaction that involves charging another Jew interest.