- 55 Questions on Judaism
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- (The following is a list of questions posed to Mesora.
We felt it valuable to post our response so you may read them
- General Questions
- 1. What does it mean to be a good person?
It means following God's code of morality
as outlined in the Torah.
2. Why be good?
God gave us each a soul. Our primary goal
is to discover truths and use those truths to perfect ourselves.
This is the will of God, as this is the "good".
3. Is it possible to be a good person and not be a member
of your religion?
- Not unless the Gentile in question
is following the law God gave for gentiles, otherwise, one cannot
have the objective "good".
- 4. Is it possible to be a good person and no longer
believe in your religion i.e. can an apostate be a good person?
No, it is not possible. One must follow
the objective "good", the "good" defined
by the Torah.
5. Is there a difference between religious requirements
The source must be identical i.e., originating
in God's commands found in the Torah.
6. What is the source of ethics?
7. Can someone be a good person and be an atheist?
This is an impossibility as good means
one partaking in God's will.
8. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?
That which matches God's set of morality
is right. Without an objective system, there is no way to define
objective good. You are asking, "can there be objectivity
without objectivity". A contradiction.
9. Why do bad things happen to good people?
This is a complicated subject and requires
much reading, but see our article: Why
the Good Suffer
10. Is there a difference between a religious offense
and a moral/secular offense?
Both violate God's Torah, but there may
be a difference in punishments. They also have their source in
different parts of man's psyche: Religious offenders usually
seek out security (idol worship secures rain, health, etc.),
moral offenders seek to satisfy desires (viz., sexual impropriety).
11. Who enforces the moral rules of your religion?
If one cannot enforce them upon himself,
then the courts and the police.
12. Should the moral rules of your religion apply to everyone?
To Jews only.
13. What role should religion play in secular society?
Judaism does not recognize "secular
society" as an added consideration. Society was taken into
consideration when God designed the Torah.
- Use of Force
- 14. Is killing ever justified?
Yes for food, defense and destruction of
15. Is war ever justified?
Yes, for defense and destruction of evil.
16. Is violence against innocent people justifiable?
17. Can someone be a conscientious objector?
18. Is force justifiable against children?
It does not have to be a "physical"
force. "Verbal" force such as rebuke without anger
is appropriate and can be used according to the level of a child's
understanding and with the child's best interest in mind. This
not so easy and a parent must be aware of his/her own motives
of rebuke. If physical force is warranted, then it should be
done. King Solomon taught, "spare the whip, ruin the child",
which means to say that refraining from punitive measures will
spoil children. It is for this very reason that in one passage,
Adonyahu, King David's son, was described to have rebelled and
had taken over the kingdom, he was also described as handsome,
and that David never rebuked him. I believe it teaches us that
due to his good looks, David pitied him and never rebuked him,
and this resulted in a child who knew nothing of disappointment.
He therefore rebelled without fear of punishment.
19. Is force justifiable against a spouse?
"Physical" force used against
a spouse due to one's own anger is not justifiable. However,
"verbal" force such as rebuke if done with the spouse's
best interest in mind, is justifiable. Again, a spouse must be
aware of his/her own motives regarding rebuke.
20. Is suicide ever justifiable?
No. Only the Giver of life may take it
21. To what extent is martyrdom acceptable? One
is always required to die rather than worship idols, commit murder
or engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, regardless of the
motives of the person forcing him to choose. The only time the
intent of the coercer factors in is when the Jew is commanded
to violate one of the other mitzvot (not the 3 primary laws)
of the Torah. In such a case, ten Jews must also be present for
self-sacrifice to be required.
22. Is it right to kill an innocent person in order to
save the life of another?
Only if the innocent person is the fetus,
then it lacks full human status, and may be killed to spare the
mother. But once its head exits the mother, you cannot kill it.
It is a full human.
Is capital punishment acceptable; if so, for what offenses?
Many offenses require capital punishment
as a means of deterring others, and ridding society of evil influences.
- Science and Medicine
- 24. Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion
Safety of the mother.
25. Are autopsies allowable; if so, under what circumstances?
They are not, we demonstrate thereby that
even our bodies are God's, and not ours to mutilate.
26. Are there rules about body modification e.g. tattoos,
cosmetic surgery or amputations?
- Health needs allow whatever operations
are needed. Tattoos are prohibited as they are idolatrous in
origin. Cosmetic surgery may be allowed if it eases a distraught
state of mind.
27. Are transfusions allowed?
28. Should extraordinary means be used to prolong life?
Yes, in general.
29. Should family and/or patients have the right to end
No. But one may pray to God to end one's
misery as the Rabbis had done on one such occasion.
30. Does anyone have the right to hasten death?
Only the courts as accepted punitive measures
outlined by God's Torah, individuals in defense of one's life,
he may kill another if that is what is needed.
31. In the case of conjoined twins when both will die
if nothing is done to separate them but only one will live (and
the other die) if the operation takes place, is the killing of
one acceptable in order to save the life of the other?
I am not certain, as the question here
is not simply can you save one, but can you kill another.
Even though both will die later, perhaps you cannot kill one
now. However we do learn that one who is about to die does not
have full human status, therefore, killing him is not considered
equal to killing another. But perhaps it might be permitted if
you are not certain of the one you are killing.
32. Is genetic engineering permissible?
I do not know.
33. Is the theory of evolution compatible with your religion?
Man was created with eternal life. Animal
was created from dust and returns to dust-there is nothing eternal
in animals creation. Therefore, evolution from animal to man
is not possible according to Judaism. (Hirsch)
34. Are environmental concerns part of your religious
Yes.We are not allowed to destroy produce
trees with no cause, as an example.
35. Do animals have any moral standing?
Only that killing for pleasure (hunting)
is not allowed. But animals do not have rights.
36. Does your religion predict an end of time? If so,
when will that be and what will the world be like for humans?
We do not predict an end to time.
- 37. Is sex outside marriage permissible?
38. Is sex only for procreation?
No. After menopause sex is still permitted,
as is when the woman is already pregnant.
39. Is masturbation allowed?
Not for men. Spilling seed is prohibited.
40. Is genital sex the only morally permissible type?
No, anal sex may be performed, but not
as a regular practice.
41. Are there moral codes regarding dress and hairstyles?
Yes, we do not copy idolaters' styles.
Many of our laws exist to distance us from violating monotheism.
42. Is transvestism immoral?
Yes. If we understand the basic idea that,
"Male and female He created them" then transvestism
has no appropriate place. It distorts the seperateness of God's
two human creations and also leads to sexual promiscuity.
43. Is homosexuality immoral?
Just as in the above answer, homosexuality
too, distorts human creation. In addition, the spilling of seed
which is prohibited also leads to sexual promiscuity and no offspring
can result from this union.
44. Should all people have equal rights under the law
even if they engage in immoral behavior?
Yes. One violation is limited to its own
sphere. But some violations require death, so equal rights would
not exist in such a case.
45. Should gay marriages be recognized by the state?
No. The Jewish state should not recognize
same sex marriage as it is contrary to the ideal that the union
of man and woman is how marriage is defined.
46. Is it immoral to have more than one spouse at time?
Permission from the original wife was always
sought by our Patriarch's who took on additional wives. In the
marriage framework of our Patriarch's, additional wives were
taken and no violations were incurred. Are you asking if a person
can have a male and a female spouse? Judaism does not allow for
this. More than one spouse of the opposite sex? The Rabbi's in
their most thorough investigation were against this.
47. Is divorce acceptable?
Yes, and needed many times.
48. Are the roles played by men and women a moral issue?
No, they are philosophical.
49. Are men and women separate but equal?
50. Is the use of drugs and/or alcohol allowable?
Drugs may not be prohibited in many cases
but they do incapacitate one's thinking. Alcohol is not only
permitted in acceptable quantities, but is even required for
gladness on the holidays. But drunkenness is prohibited.
51. Should prayers be allowed in public schools?
Recognition of reality should be in all
schools, and this must start with knowledge of the Creator. Otherwise,
all knowledge loses its purpose without must culminate with the
appreciation of the Designer.
52. Should the state subsidize religious schools or programs?
Not a Judaic issue.
53. Is the food a person eats a religious and/or moral
Laws of Kosher exist to temper one's appetitive
drive according to Maimonides. Such tempering sets the stage
for one to be calm enough emotionally so as to spend hours engaged
in study. The same applies to sexual laws.
54. Is gambling allowed?
Yes. No philosophical or moral violations
exist. However, we learn that a regular gambler cannot act as
a witness. Perhaps, his lifestyle is demonstrable of one who
feels he is subjectively better than others, and entitled to
more than other, thus, he gambles as he really believes he will
win. This subjectivity is contrary to the requirements of testimony,
to be an objective witness.
55. Is smoking allowed?
Yes. A single cigarette does no measurable
bodily damage, and therefore each act of smoking a single cigarette
cannot be prohibited.