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The Day Civilization Began

“The Jews started it all – and by it I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings … We would think with a different mind, interpret all our experiences differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.”

Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels

It all began on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, when Moses ascended Sinai to receive the Torah.  This week we celebrate the holiday of Shavuos when, on the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people became a nation guided by divine law and moral freedom.

In an age when individual autonomy, relative truth, and non-judgmentalism have become the lodestones of our new “enlightenment,” we would be well-served to reflect on how critical personal responsibility and a well-calibrated moral compass are as the bedrock of civil society and a healthy world.

To learn more about the Festival of Shavuos, click here.

A Tale of Two Icons

trust-me2What’s the difference between Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton?

Obviously, gender.

Less obviously, expectations.

In an interview with NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, Mary-Hunter McDonnell of the Wharton school of business explained the difference between how men and women are judged by their peers for ethical infractions.

Professor McDonnell and her colleagues asked volunteers to recommend a jail sentence for a hospital administrator who filed a false Medicare claim. When the volunteers believed that the administrator was a woman, the average suggested sentence increased by over 60%.

The researchers also analyzed over 500 disciplinary proceedings in 33 states by the American Bar Association. They discovered that women were disbarred more than twice as often for similar types of misconduct.

The assumption here is that, since women are expected to be more ethical, they are punished more severely when they violate ethical standards.

This may be unfair in practice, but in principle is makes perfect sense. Moral people are expected to behave better than immoral people; consequently, we find their moral lapses less tolerable.

Which brings us back to the Clintons.

Click here to read the whole article.