2-½ minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Eikev – Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Yes, the ice cream variety. It’s not a typo in the headline. Remember, Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. What does making an ice cream concoction have to do with making moral decisions? Ah, Parshas Eikev will show you:
“…G-d will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to you…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 7:12)
In this Sabbath’s parsha, Moses talks about the reward the Children of Israel will receive for keeping the mitzvahs (usually translated commandments). He warns against letting prosperity seduce them and reminds them of their history.
Absolute Morality Versus Moral Relativism
Knowing the long list of ordinances they have to follow to earn their reward, can you imagine the Israelites might be a little scared? From the great patriarch Abraham, they learned the Almighty does righteousness and justice. With so many dos and don’ts, some must have thought, “Wow, I’ll never remember, let alone be able to follow, them all.” Despair could set in.
So G-d reminded the Israelites He would balance justice with kindness. The resulting blend, compassion, would be the standard.
No one value stands absolutely. We revere life. But when required to murder someone to save our own life we have to die. We honor truth. But when a killer asks where his victim is we should lie as convincingly as possible. In both cases, a sacred value must be balanced against the destruction that would be caused by upholding it.
Not there is no moral relativism in these cases. Nor is there an absolute moral principle. Rather, you must combine hallowed precepts to find the ethical, virtuous solution.
Finding Balance in Your Values
When you have to navigate your way through a difficult ethical issue, do it like you’re making a sundae.
- First, comes the foundation, the ice cream. It’s tempting to choose your favorite. But with so many good choices, make sure you pick the best one for the moment. What core principle is at issue? It forms the base from which you’ll build your response.
- Second, comes the sauce. Choose the right flavor to counterpoint and enhance the ice cream. Ladle it with care. Laid on too thick or thin, it overwhelms or gets lost in the ice cream. What value contrasts with the core principle you’ve chosen? Apply it to your solution in just the right amount to balance and deepen your solution.
- Third is the whipped cream. It takes a deft hand to bring it to a peak. What aspect of the person involved have you overlooked? Does he have a sensitivity that if taken into account will make your resolution more powerful? What value will connect him to your plan?
- Fourth are the nuts. Sprinkle them so they dot the whipped cream adding a pleasing crunch amidst all the softness. Most of us have a difficult time facing the hard realities of life. We can swallow them more easily when they’re enveloped by a more palatable presentation. Carefully communicate your response so it goes down smoothly.
- Last comes the cherry, tasting tart and sweet. Perched at the pinnacle of the sundae, it embodies the totality of your ice cream creation. When crafting a solution to a moral quandary, make sure to unify all the crucial values and emotions.
Five steps may seem a lot. But consider the stakes: a relationship, your reputation, your connection to G-d. Taking the time to see all sides of an issue and fashioning a balanced, principled response will save you and others from a longer period of agony.
A well-built sundae is to be savored. Think how much more satisfying it will taste to use your values well.
How do you decide your response to an ethical challenge? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!