Secular Morals Have Gone Bankrupt, Again

In recent weeks, we witnessed once again the lack of morals, ethics, and even basic civility from both students and leaders at prestigious universities. Pirkei Avos reminds us at the start that Torah is the only source for good, pure, and true guidance.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

Even as we are still under the influence of Pesach, zman cheiruseinu, we are experiencing a surge in antisemitism and general unrest in the world.

We read in the Haggadah: והיא שעמדה and this, Hashem’s promise of protection, is what has stood by our fathers and us. For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation, they rise up against us to destroy us; and Hashem saves us from their hand.

The word היא is an acronym for three words: ‘אם ירצה ה.

What kept our fathers strong, and what keeps us going? ה.י.א, the knowledge that everything is from Hashem.

This isn’t just a message for the Pesach seder, it’s a way of life and the message our children need to hear from us during such times.[1]


This week we start learning Pirkei Avos.

Misechta Avos begins with the mesorah, the Torah’s chain of transmission. Why did Rabbeinu HaKadosh put it here of all places? Would it not have made more sense to put it at the very beginning of mishneh?

Avos is all about middos chassidus, morals and ethics.

When we study any area of mishneh we easily see that the subjects at hand are from Hashem’s Torah. Avos is the one place we can become confused and say that these teachings are products of the human mind just like any other moral teachings. For this reason, our chachomim made a point to emphasize that Avos is part of the mesorah of Torah just like any other area of Torah.

Secular wisdom also boasts morals, ethics, and civilities, but theirs are based on and limited by human intellect and experience. Our morals are very different from the world’s as ours come from Hashem’s infinite and unchangeable Wisdom.[2]

One would expect that institutions offering higher education would also be places of higher morals. In reality we see that today’s colleges are unusually devoid of morals, ethics, and even basic civilities, more than most other places. This is because when the human mind is free of Hashem’s direction, it will go astray. We don’t need a better example than Nazi Germany.

As Yidden, we must remember that our only source for good, pure, and true guidance is Torah. We should be wary when someone’s credentials for counseling are from the beliefs and theories that are products of warped and corrupted human minds.

May we embrace the great gift that Hashem has given us and experience the freedom it provides. And may we see in open and revealed ways how עצת ה’ ה.י.א תקום.

[1] See Ohr HaTorah, siddur pg. 90-91

[2] Bartenura. In Chanoch L’naar, the Rebbe Rashab elaborates on this point.

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