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!
And may others learn from your example.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Answered by: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky