What an interesting question! And I think it is a great idea.
Jews are admonished not to follow in the ways of the heathens (Vayikra 18:3), and specifically not to follow their religious practices or their immoral lifestyles. We do not mimic their behavior, clothing or even their hairstyles, all designed to foster in us truly Jewish values, behavior and commitment.
The Rema (Rav Moshe Isserles), the great Ashkenazi sage of the 16th century, states that the prohibition not to follow the traditions and styles of non-Jews applies to “something that the idolaters observed for the sake of licentiousness,” or “for religious purposes,” but if it has some “benefit, like a doctor’s uniform,” then it is permissible (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 178:1).
In this case, the “purity ring” serves the exact opposite function of the concern of the Sages; rather than steer the wearer towards immoral conduct, it instead guides the wearer away from the immoral and towards the objective standards of modest and respectable conduct that religious people of all faiths should share.
Sad to say, Jews have too often been in the forefront of First Amendment expression that has accelerated a decline of moral standards in society. The Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 39b) contrasts two seemingly contradictory verses in the prophetic book of Yechezkel (Ezekiel): the Jewish people were criticized for “not acting according to the ordinances of the nations that surround you” (5:7) and also criticized for “acting according to the ordinances of the nations that surround you” (11:12). How can both verses be reconciled? The Talmud explains: “You didn’t behave like your refined and civilized neighbors [when you should have], but you did behave like your debauched and degenerate neighbors [when you shouldn’t have].”
The Torah is the source of the very morality that Christian groups are applying in order to limit the decadence that pervades society and devastates teenagers. It is the Torah that demands abstinence until marriage. It is a shame that Jews are not the ones in the vanguard of the movement for greater morality. Although a ring is not necessary to lead a moral life, and the word of the Torah should suffice by itself, the “purity ring” certainly might help someone otherwise subject to peer pressure, a consequence of the false notion that “everyone is doing it.” It could certainly help young women maintain their self-respect and their dignity that is under assault from a society that readily objectifies and exploits them and perceives abstinence as the province of provincial prudes and antiquated moralists.
Western society would benefit from a little more self-control and self-discipline. The “purity ring” is a simple step that indicates that the wearer dissents from the prevailing immoral norms and has chosen a different, holier path. If the ring has no overt Christian symbols, and the wearer will feel emboldened to withstand the tidal wave of decadence, debauchery and self-indulgence that threatens to engulf us, then I say: go for it!
This is an interesting question. There is nothing inherently problematic about making a commitment to abstinence until marriage. That is itself a very positive choice and indeed is the expectation of the Halakha. It is also, as we know, a very difficult commitment to make in contemporary society in which multiple societal factors push hard against such a position. One of the ways that we reinforce our tradition’s expectations of proper behavior, especially when those expectations diverge from what is happening around us, is through positive social pressure – through creating sub-communities of religious values in which these expectations are the norm. So the principle of encourage teens to actively join such a circle fits perfectly, in principle, with Jewish values.
But the very fact that purity rings are symbols of such a circle of commitment means that it would be quite problematic for a Jewish teen to wear one, regardless of its symbols. Purity Rings are an exclusively religious phenomenon, created by a series of fundamentalist Christian groups. More importantly, they are not simply personal accessories. They are symbols of membership in a circle of peers whose intent is to reinforce each other’s commitment to the principle of abstinence. These are precisely sub-communities of shared religious values – of deeply Christian values which extend far beyond the single principle of abstinence. And these groups tend to be not only devout but evangelical, in the sense of feeling a strong obligation to spread the Good News (of Jesus) to those who have not yet accepted it. So wearing such a ring would involve intentionally joining a circle of peers who firmly embrace fundamentalist Christianity and are strongly motivated to convert others.
Even if one has no interaction with such a group, purity rings are unquestionably Christian religious objects, with or without explicit Christian symbols. Think of a Christmas tree, which seems inappropriate for a Jewish home even though many secular people have them – these rings are far more closely associated with a specific religious movement. It also sends a troubling signal to others that the wearer has embraced such a movement, one which could lead others to explore them. I would applaud the principle that the question represents, but would strongly encourage the questioner to look for a less fraught way to express it.
Does it go against Jewish law (Halachah) for a Jewish teen to wear a "purity ring" that features no Christian symbols?
Since Judaism traditional endorses sexual modesty and holds that sexual relations should take place in the context of marriage, I cannot think of a single reason why a “purity ring” with no Christian symbolism would violate Halachah.
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