“Is there anything which is right or wrong for all time and in all places?”
In his sermon of April 17, 1966, Rabbi Olan begins his quest for a universal moral standard by acknowledging that our moral values have always changed with changing circumstances. He illustrates this with many examples from ancient and recent history.
Where can we look for absolute moral guidelines? Rabbi Olan asks. Even the Bible is not an infallible guide, since it endorses animal sacrifice in the Temple, and at times, the murder of enemy captives. “For many of us,” Rabbi Olan concludes, “the Bible is a human book in which men of different ages try to understand God’s will.” Nor is the personal voice of conscience sufficient, since it is not the voice of God, but rather “it is experience of the past speaking
However, Rabbi Olan does finally articulate a moral standard that he believes is as universally applicable as the laws of physics. Take some time to reflect on what you think it might be, and then read his sermon to find out what he concluded.
*Written by Frances M. Olan & Lionel S. Joseph.*