Photo Credit:
Mozilla Firefox in the eye of a firestorm

I think this played a huge role in the Mozilla saga. Younger people have a hard time seeing gay marriage as a debatable issue. To Millennials, it’s almost like being in favor of racism. It’s simply not an issue up for discussion. So when young people, who I believe are disproportionately influential in Silicon Valley and the Internet Activist community, are exposed to something that does not meet their threshold for legitimate debate, the result is outrage without nuance and without sensibility. I think this explains some of the blind rage and demand for blood.

There is a Orthodox Jewish angle here and it’s not the obvious one. If you think about it, Eich made his $1000 pledge when there was minimal social objection to supporting Prop 8. He is of a generation that is slowly adapting and changing its collective mind on gay marriage. But it is completely inappropriate to judge his donation or even his opposition to gay marriage from the perspective of a 27 year old. Eich didn’t grow up in the same world as that 27 year old. The 27 year old didn’t grow up in the same world as Eich. We share a planet and some common experiences and values, but in essence the world is a completely different place. (I’ll be writing about some of these differences one of these days.) It is not only unfair, but I think it might be immoral, to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world. As the sages teach us in Ethics of Our Fathers, ”Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.”


It’s not a 1:1 comparison, but there are some parallels in Orthodox Judaism. There are ideas, and freedoms, and rights that exist today that never existed at any time in history. The world is flatter than it has ever been. Diversity is not only accepted, it is revered and cherished. International discussions and debates are completely normal. Our grasp of history and science is unparalleled. It will certainly continue to improve, but as it stands now, an American school child should know more about the hard sciences and history than the greatest scholars of yesteryear. They were extremely handicapped by their lack of knowledge. We don’t blame them. We don’t insult them. We don’t look down on them. But if we are honest, we are forced to concede that the geniuses of ancient times or medieval times were on the ground floor. We are standing on their shoulders.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge our Torah giants with modern glasses. Even if we think our modern glasses are true and good and moral and Torah consistent, we cannot possibly expect anyone who was not given the blessing of information bestowed upon us to reconcile with our ideals. Yet, the Torah is somewhat malleable. It has adjusted in the past, especially with the imprimatur of the generation’s leaders and general public opinion. So let’s appreciate what we have for what it is. Let’s not be upset when it doesn’t meet our modern expectations. So much of great wisdom is eternal. It may need a little tweaking and fine tuning, but we are confident that our Torah, which has withstood the test of time, will endure.

It’s no small thing. Whether it’s a secular debate, discussion about morality, or political issue, social conditions and environment play a gigantic role. Keeping this in mind can help dial back some of the outrage and open the door for improved communication and cooperation. But in order to talk, we need to understand each other. In order to appreciate the greats from our past, we need to understand them too.


Previous articleJimmy Carter Backs Abbas’ Appeal to the UN
Next articleNo Child Left Behind: A Jewish Value
Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.