Question of Values
The question of “values” was raised in the
recent presidential election. Yet, according to
the figures released by polling organizations, only about a quarter of the
voters said that “
values”—whatever that means—were the most important factor
in their choice of president.
Which values are we talking about? Feeding the hungry?
Curing the sick? Being responsible
stewards of God’s creation? Establishing peace in the world? Maintaining
reason and learning?
These values that are of primary importance in Judaism do not seem to be
the values that
are respected in the current American climate. Instead, we place our highest
values on an “
ownership” society fueled by concentration on consumerism, and especially
consumption. Indeed, we are told that if we don’t buy what is pushed
at us, our entire
economy will be in danger of collapsing. Gone are the values of prudent
use of what we
have, of satisfaction with adequate resources, of saving for a rainy day.
These values are
now considered a threat to “growth,” “expansion,” economic
domination, superiority in the
hurly-burly of competition.
Nowadays, corporations that fall even one cent below profit expectations
poor performers whose stocks plummet in value on Wall Street.
When the rabbis of Pirke Avot asked what are the primary values of society,
their own question. They said: Upon three things (values) is the world
upon the Torah, upon service (alternately understood as the service of
God or prayer, which
has replaced the Temple sacrifices), and upon good works. And in another
place: The world
is established upon three values: On Truth, on Law and on Peace. These
values, again, are
not the ones recently mentioned in the popular press but they are important
enough to be
inscribed upon the walls of our synagogue.
It is important that we Jews continue to promulgate the values that we
cherish as a people
dedicated to the perpetuation of our ancient gift to humanity, and not
be detoured by flimsy
distractions meant to draw our attention from the really important issues
of our day.
Excerpted from the January
2005 bulletin (PDF)