Lazer Gurkow

Mortality or Morality

What worries you most, that we need to fear for our children’s mortality in public schools or that we need to fear for their morality?

With more mass shootings this year in the United States than ever before, we need to ask ourselves why the mortality of our children is at such risk?

The easy answers span the gamut of all the relevant political issues. Gun control, mental health services, lack of security on school campuses, and more. But it really boils down to one simple fact:

Most people would not pull their gun to kill innocents no matter how tough their day was;

But some would.

How you attain the power to kill or the tool to murder is irrelevant to the question of why you might choose to use it. Those who use it, do so because they don’t believe that someone else’s morality should to dictate their moral choices. Just because someone tells me that killing is wrong, doesn’t mean that it is. It might be wrong for them, but it might be right for me. If they were in my shoes and in my head, if they were living my life, they would agree with me too.

It begins with the post-modern concept of moral relativism. Today, the prevalent belief is that there are no categorical rights and wrongs. There is only relative right and wrong. Greed or jealousy or cheating is wrong if you think it is, but if someone disagrees, it might be right for them.

Most of us draw the line at hurting others, but what categorical authority compels others to submit to our categorical red line? If we are intellectually honest, we would admit that we created our own beast. By telling people that they can choose their moral rights, that they can decide on all issues, from bigotry to bigamy, and need not submit to any authority, we taught them that there is no such thing as a categorical moral truth.

Once the horse is out of the barn, it is too late to shut the door. We can’t act bewildered when someone tells us that he refuses to draw the line at hurting others and believes that this too is a matter of choice. If I like to hurt other people and you don’t, it is no different from my liking pasta and your liking rice. It is a matter of choice, morality is a matter of preference, and I choose to hurt others.

Several decades back people were more influenced by religion and felt the weight of its moral authority. They thought twice before hurting others because no matter their personal opinions they respected a higher authority. Today we have slain the higher authority and wonder why no one submits to it.

I hate to say this, but I believe it is true. We have a choice to make. It is either morality or mortality. If we teach young children to accept a higher authority and show them the path to morality, we won’t need to fear for our children’s mortality. If we insist on being morally free, we will need to worry in ever increasing measure about our children’s mortality.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at
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