What makes rich and powerful men act so despicably?  

When the news hit that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was arrested for allegedly raping a hotel maid; only days earlier Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a child with a former member of his household staff. And it seems that every day a different Congressman is getting caught in some state of undress. 

Of course each of these individual's are responsible for their actions, but I think society helps to enable such behavior. Day in and day out, the regular rules that apply to us mere mortals are suspended. The rich and famous are whisked through a line at the airport, or indulged by a sympathetic cop who looks the other way at an impropriety.  

On the outskirts of Paris sits a bar of metal, kept in a triple-locked vault. It is the International Prototype Kilogram, the standard by which all other weights are measured. But there’s one problem. The metal in the bar is eroding, ever so slightly; over the last 100 years it has lost 50 micrograms (the approximate weight of a grain of sand). This breakdown in the universal standard threatens to impact science, manufacturing and trade.  

When it comes to ethics and morality, the Torah is our constant.

Its laws are immutable. For while the affectations of our lives may vary over the generations – from papyrus to iPad, from horse-and-buggy to a thousand-horsepower Bugatti – the essence of human nature never changes.  

This week is the holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. The 49 days leading up to Shavuot are when we count the Omer. Each of the 49 days represents a unique dimension of one’s character that can be improved and developed. The 49th day, the final day of counting which leads directly into Shavuot, is Malchut sh’b’Malchut – the pinnacle of self-control.  

That is what receiving the Torah is all about. And that is the very secret of Jewish survival – and thriving – for the past 3,300 years since receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. 

Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger and all the others got into trouble because they lacked a solid benchmark to gauge their behavior against. And without that, they failed to adhere to the core of true kingship – restraint and mastery over self.  

Everybody has struggles. No one is perfect. But if we are committed to Torah, at least we stand a chance.