TEHILIM # 10: Morality without God?

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In this Psalms David HaMelekh touches upon a very important and relevant question, even (or specially) for today’s society. Can you be a moral man if you do not believe in God? He says that a person who does not believe in God is accountable to no one, in the moral arena, but to himself. And since it is virtually impossible to see ourselves with objectivity, for King David, a person who does not have HaShem as his King is condemned to act with no-morality. As our rabbis have said: kol derekh ish yashar beenav,”All what a person does is right in his
own eyes.” We become very poor judges when it comes to view critically our own actions. When we do not accept an objective code of right and wrong, moral reltivism is unavoidable.

At times, David haMelekh says in the opening verse of this Mizmor,  (10:1) it seems as if God “stands far off, turning away in times of distress”.  How so? When the wicked man chases the poor, and the weak is caught in the wicked man’s devices (10:3), this feeling of “I can get away with injustice”,  makes the wicked think that he succeeds because there is no God. This is considered  an offense to “heavens”, blasphemy, (10:4) behaving as if there is no Judge in heavens. For David haMelekh actions are a direct consequence of beliefs. In other words, injustice, corruption, robbery, murder, all these acts are a testimony of the perpetrator’s belief that there is no God.

The wicked is confident of his success, he says to himself (10:6) since there is no God “I will not stumble”, I will not fail. As long as my plan is a good plan and I have all angles covered, there is no external factor (=God) that would undermine my schemes.

(10:5) “His ways are uncertain in every hour”. The moral standards of the wicked are erratic. One day, if it suits to him, this act is right, and the next day, if it does not suit to him, the same act is wrong. For the righteous Jew, morality is measured by the way an act is perceived by God, as prescribed in His Tora. For the wicked is not about God’s view, but how the perpetrator “feels” about it. Something is good if it makes you feel comfortable with yourself. There is no moral GPS, but your own sense of comfortability. And as we know our mind and imagination is fantastic at finding excuses for everythig we want to do.

Therefore, David asserts, (10:7) the wicked would not hesitate to lie or swear falsely “His mouth is full of promises, his tongue is guile and deceit”. If there is no God, he is accountable to no one for his false promises.  He will always find a way to feel comfortable with what he did, justifying to himself why he had to break his promise…

The following verses describe other deplorable actions of the wicked: he ambushes, he kills, lies, he snatches the poor, consistently telling to himself: God does not exist. And even if He exists, (10:11) He is not looking. He ignores what we do. He does not get involved. He does not care!

From now on, David haMelekh turns to God and prays for justice. In times when it seems that You are standing away, I implore You HaShem: (10:12) “Rise, oh Lord, do not forget the oppressed” (10:14) It is YOU Who helps the orphan. It is YOU who would break the arm of the wicked (10:15). The world should know that YOU are indeed the King, the Supreme Judge, forever. (10:16) YOU do listen to the cry of the weak (10:17) and YOU will do justice, and let no man oppress another man in Your world (10:18).