CLERGY CORNER: “Ought” and “Ought Not”

Posted on 17 September 2014 by LeslieM

Someone who comes to services voiced her upset because during my sermon I said that we are SUPPOSED to live our lives a certain way and I went on to say that we OUGHT to do as many mitzvot as possible.

She told me she couldn’t stand when somebody tells her that she is “supposed to do something.” You see her idea of freedom is the ability to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, no matter how much it may hurt another.

Rabbi Bradley Artson, wrote about a conference organized by Elie Weisel. Weisel had seen so much hate in his life, and having survived the Holocaust he knew what hate could lead to. The main questions that arose during this conference had to do with why people hate and why people band together to express hatred. But there was another question that arose that I wanted to pose to you today.

Many people have historically criticized Judaism as being a religion of law instead of faith and love.

And yet, when Nobel Lauriet Elie Weisel held a conference on hate, the question was posed — what is the opposite of hate? You might think that the great minds at the conference immediately thought that the opposite of hate is love. But I have a surprise for you. These amazing minds felt that only a belief in an execution of the law can defeat hatred.

Rabbi Artson notes that this confirms the Jewish conviction that law is the indispensable expression of love and decency. And, when people abandon law, it is at the peril of their own character, justice and survival.

The mitzvot that are given in the Torah are a list of laws, a list of the things we are supposed to strive to do. They are a list of oughts. So, today, I am dubbing The Commandments and The Golden Rule as “OUGHTISMS.” If you look up the word “ought” in the dictionary, you will find that it refers to obligations; it refers to things we owe to G-d, to others and to ourselves.

It is also defined not only as a duty or moral obligation, but as a natural expectation. And we certainly have natural expectations of others and of ourselves. For instance, we ought to honor our parents, we ought to avoid stealing, we ought not murder and we ought to find ways to help others.

Someone came up with a very clever idea for helping others. They came up with this idea of raising money through a bucket challenge, not a bucket list; but a bucket challenge, where one would use a bucket full of ice and have it dumped on them to raise money for the Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis (ALS) foundation.

This ought to have been a wonderful way of raising money for this cause. And indeed a great deal of money has been raised. Even a young teen with Autism wanted to help. And when classmates approached him, he was delighted to get the chance. But these rotten kids did something that I simply can’t comprehend; instead of using ice, they dumped a bucket full of feces and urine onto that boy. They ought to have known better; they should have behaved differently, but they didn’t. It would seem that the laws of human kindness have no meaning to them.

I have been asking myself all week — if one of them was a child of mine, what on earth would I say? What would I do? How would I feel?

Dear readers, I hope you take some time this week to think about what you would do!

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Shalom of Deerfield Beach just South of Hillsboro Blvd. on Military Trail. You can come and hear his message of the week during regular Shabbat Morning Services (9 – 11:30 a.m.).

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