Empty gestures of the pious and unprincipled

An acquaintance of mine recently wrote this:

“So a friend in Brooklyn, an orthodox Jewish girl that I’ve talked to quite frequently over the past 2 years, has removed all male friends from her contacts, both on fb and phone. The reason she gave was that her cousin was quite ill and she wanted to do something “for his merit.” Religious Jews know that phrase means, and the belief is that she can credit her good deeds to her cousin and thereby help him in his illness. This is our religion…oh people with the highest IQ’s :).”

To which I responded with the following:

if she were a principled person–or aimed at being one–I would advise her that those gestures are ridiculous: she need not, in the first place, have any person–male or female–in her phone that she can so easily disavow (as if being undependable is a virtue). no illness required; also, based on the same argument, she likely does not have a facebook account worth maintaining. so on neither count is she really doing something admirable.

in the end, her choice does not surprise me: in my experience, the more pious someone is, generally (with plenty exceptions), they live by the letter of laws, not the spirit of laws–and are often looking for ways to justify what they consider to be amoral, even immoral. whereas the secular (including Jews) might not have as many rites and rights and wrongs weighing on their mind–but at least they are philosophically consistent, reminiscent of Schopenhauer’s admonition about small libraries:

“A library may be very large; but if it is in disorder, it is not so useful as one that is small but well arranged. In the same way, a man may have a great mass of knowledge, but if he has not worked it up by thinking it over for himself, it has much less value than a far smaller amount which he has thoroughly pondered.”

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