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    Conventional morality – Acharei Mot

    On Yom Kippur we read a section from Acharei Mot, warning us to ensure that our intimate relationships follow the laws of the Torah, not the ways of ancient nations that lacked a strict code of morality.

    The warning commences, “I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 18:2). This is more than merely a general introduction to the laws that now follow.

    Rashi quotes Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, who says in the Sifra that God foresaw that in time to come Israel would become lax in its adherence to these laws, so He told them that as both “The Lord” (HaShem) and “God” (Elokim), He would watch and respond to their conduct.

    As HaShem, exercising His attribute of mercy, He would reward them for obedience; as Elokim, exercising the attribute of justice, He would punish them for any transgression.

    Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi is said to have been referring to the period of Ezra, when, according to the prophet Malachi (2:13), men “acted treacherously” against their wives (Sifra). Ezra therefore needed to re-establish the integrity of Jewish marriage (Ezra 10).

    Our own age seems to echo the problem. It is an era of so-called “political correctness”, when anyone who stands up for conventional morality can be and often is subject to criticism and condemnation and accused of holding medieval attitudes.

    Of course Torah morality is even older than the medieval era, and there is no evidence that going away from Torah principles of morality has made the world a better, safer or happier place to live in.

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