Monday, October 26, 2009

Metascruples

A few days ago, at the most ridiculous Shabbos table, someone mentioned that she didn't know what 'the metascruple' is. The circumstances then did not allow we to explain, but here, where you all come to hear me hold forth, I figured I can do this topic justice.

We encounter all sorts of things in life (e.g. pork, MOTOGs, rainbows, etc.) Scruples are principles that help us relate to the things we encounter (don't eat it, don't talk to it, say some Hebrew words but don't stare at it).

We encounter all sorts of scruples when going through life. A frum Jew, who is subject to a constant barrage of scruples, may find him or herself with a bunch of contradictory scruples (the tefillin daters) or lots of scruples which he or she cannot implement (e.g. stay up all Thursday night AND go on mivtzoim all Friday afternoon AND farbreng Friday night AND say tehillim Shabbos mevorchim morning AND learn Chassidus before davening AND daven b'avoda AND farbreng Shabbos afternoon AND go on tahalucha AND learn Chitas Rambam AND meseches Sota [if it happens to be shabbos mevorchim Iyar]) or one especially difficult-to-implement scruple which he or she breaks regularly (e.g. not listening to non-Jewish music, not talking to MOTOGs, and not killing millions of unborn and unconceived children).

A metascruple is a principle that allows us relate to the scruples we encounter. "I'll act the way I was raised," WWJD, and "let me call my mashpia" are all examples of metascruples. I think the Rebbe believed that for people coming closer to Judaism, a good metascruple would be not worry too much about the consistency between one's scruples; rather one should focus on making as many of one's actions as possible fit with as many of the Torah's scruples as possible.

If one is completely metascupleless, a common affliction is guilt: without a metascruple to sort through your different scruples, how can you avoid breaking some of them now and then?

My personal metascruple, which I often inaccurately refer to as 'the metascruple' is good at eliminating guilt. It is: If you will have a scruple, then implement it; if you won't implement a scruple, then don't have it.

28 comments:

  1. How did you remember that comment from December? Very impressive.

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  2. So, you’re the kind of guy who burns bridges to your scruples, huh?

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  3. trs: we didn't go straight from that conversation in December to the ridiculous shabbos table. As certain milestones were being passed--when December was not so far in the past--I was reminded of that conversation in December. So it wasn't to hard to think of it when writing the post.

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  4. CA: if by burning bridges you mean dropping any scruple once it's been violated once, then no, I don't burn bridges.

    After violating a scruple, you can either drop it and burn the bridge, OR you can resolve not to violate it again. What riles me up is people who, when confronted with their scruplelessness say things like "nu, nobody's perfect," or "that should be my biggest sin." These slugs don't plan on keeping their scruples nor do they plan on dropping them. They're willing to jump on both sides of the fence indefinitely.

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  5. Uhu. Interesting perspective.

    Food for thought, thought for food, through it all out the window and party! (That's
    P-A-R-T-Y.)

    Drag racing is fun. And stuff. And other stuff.

    Okay well good for you. The shegitz has scruples after all. Who would've thunk.

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  6. The third to last paragraph is not very clear conceptually and the last paragraph is not very clear linguistically: Not having "a guide to scruples" doesn't 'necisarily' make one feel guilt, and just because you have scruples doesn't mean you can always implement them...

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  7. super awesome post.
    first of all, wow. incredible blast from the past. and incredible memory.
    and awesome erudition of the concept of the metascruple.
    the third paragraph is hysterical.
    and i really enjoy your conception of the Rebbe's metascruple for us peeps.

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  8. By burning bridges I mean not recognizing your weaknesses. Bob generally believes smoking is bad. He is careful not to smoke. But sometimes, he will just lose control and have a cigarette. Or will have a cigarette when situation calls for it (after the end of a super-stressful day, where he doesn’t give a shit about anything anymore). Now, Bob still does believe that smoking is bad, and that belief keeps him from smoking a lot of the time.

    Compare to Joe, who thinks smoking is bad, but knows he will slip up, so he just smokes, without any effort not to smoke.

    (OK, I know smoking is a bad example, because it’s a very strong addiction. Use, umm, poking your nose. Stealing office supplies. Not returning back to the lab because you forgot to turn off the gas, since you can’t be bothered.)

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  9. Interesting new term. I especially like how it sounds like a super power.

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  10. I'm not convinced. Just sounds like you are making excuses for the things you do.

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  11. Pure genius. Go become a mashpia.

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  12. altie: ???

    C: religious people seem to be unable to understand that irreligious people really don't care about religious scruples. Therefore any explanation the irreligious give as to their scruplulessness is seen by the religious as excusing a personal weakenss. Believe me, if I thought it was worthwhile, I would be as scrupulous as the best of them

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  13. Modeh: My chavrusa used to call me a molester of minds.

    CA: I'm not saying you should do bad things b'shita if you think you won't be able to control yourself. The fact that you can't control yourself doesn't make the bad things good.

    What I am saying is, if you find yourself falling through again and again, don't continue to guiltily fall through. Rather examine whether falling through is really all that bad. If you conclude that it is that bad (as Joe ought to) then stop falling through.

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  14. shriki: 100% complete metascrupulousness is impossible. It's not a good idea to abondon every scruple that's hard to maintain. But don't hold scruples that you don't have any plans of maintaining.

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  15. E- @@@@@@ !!!!!! ^^^^^^ &&&& ******

    I have scruples. You have scruples. Good.

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  16. no. I don't.

    You be careful old man. I am mean when I don't like you.

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  17. e: THe very definition of a mashpia/mashgiach. Eventually I'll have to form my own yeshiva because nobody else will take me. Then you'll have a job.

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  18. It is patently absurd that this intelligent and thought-provoking thread gets 22 comments while yet another mechitza hock gets 220+

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  19. Actually, it’s to be expected. People don’t like to think, but they do like machloikes. The authors of Gemara knew what they were doing.

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  20. The fact that it's expected makes it no less absurd.

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  21. interestingly enough, i have found myself quoting and misquoting this post numerous times over the past couple of weeks.

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  22. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this description of the Rebbe's metascruple is excellent. And it prevents people from succumbing to one of the greatest fallacies in Yiddishkeit.

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  23. :) Heretics kenen oichet farshtein an inyan.

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Forth shall ye all hold.