“These are Aaron and Moses, to whom the Lord said; ‘Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their hosts’” Exodus 6:26


The Israelites were not to depart Egypt as a disorganised horde. By Divine command, they were to travel stratified by family, tribe and hierarchy. When one considers their perilous existence in Egypt and Pharaoh’s capricious vacillation, surely they should have seized any opportunity and fled, even at the risk of appearing disorderly? Why was regimentation so vital? 

In Judaic tradition, orderliness, decorum and the resultant dignity is of enormous importance. Insistence on orderliness and cleanliness has saved Jews on more than one occasion. In the fourteenth century, as the bubonic plague swept across Europe, Jewish observance of ablution laws and ritual washing before eating and after relieving oneself were deemed key determinants of a lower Jewish mortality rate.

The headship of the great Lithuanian talmudic academies, including the renowned Rabbi Nathan Zvi Finkel (1849-1927), known as the Saba (Grandfather) of Slabodka, placed enormous emphasis on seder v’nikayon, orderliness and cleanliness. He exhorted his students to remain faithful to this ideal, “for man is created in the Divine image of God” and those studying God’s law must don becoming attire and appear respectable and organised. 

Such store does Judaism place on order that its prayer book, which organises liturgy, is referred to as a siddur, which means “order”. Of similar etymology is the most famous annual Jewish meal, the Seder, which commemorates the Egyptian exodus. And in Israel today, the ubiquitous way one expresses that things are functioning smoothly, is by saying hakol b’seder, literally meaning “all is in order.’ 

However, Judaism stresses order in the spiritual realm in addition to the corporeal world. In ancient times, Judaism provided the order and stability of monotheism amid a backdrop of paganism where pantheons of indifferent and promiscuous gods and goddesses were obsequiously worshipped. 

Today, there is restless impatience with morality and once-hallowed social norms have given way to unbridled gratification of the senses. Lawless licentiousness and selfish impulse rule. Amid all this tempestuous chaos, the ancient moral code provided by Judaism continues, unblinkingly, to radiate its timeless message of order, duty and dignity. 

Only through scrupulous obedience of these life-giving laws is humanity’s welfare vouchsafed and its joy guaranteed. That is the power of moral order.

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