In the play "Becket", King Henry asks Becket when is one immoral and when is one amoral. Becket smiles and replies "It depends what you mean". In the dictionary, "amoral" means not admitting to moral judgements or values, not caring about right or wrong. "Immoral" means contrary to established moral principles.
Which is worse? Depends what you mean. Immoral means something obvious - evil, bad, violent. It fits in well with good and evil, if one talks about being immoral. Duality is very comforting; you're either one or the other. Christianity can be considered dualist; God or Satan, Heaven or Hell. Judaism can travel the dualist path as well.
But there's something else about Judaism that considers something worse than heaven or hell. And that is nothing. Oblivion. What may be considered a desirable state in some Eastern religions is intolerable in Judaism. To have nothing, to not exist is the worse thing that can happen, literally the disappearance of the soul. No wonder one of the greatest Jewish fears is not having someone to say kaddish after you're gone. No wonder one of the harshest curses or oaths is to have someone's name vanish.
Amorality may be considered a form of oblivion while still being physically alive. And a form of amorality that threatens all of us is passivity. Going with the flow, just doing your job, not making waves. Almost everyone does it to some extent because the alternative can often be unpleasant, painful, even dangerous. So what's so bad about it? Two things. Eventually it is a horrible way to live. Secondly, it can make God mad.
Balaam was a man who, depending on your view, was a prophet or a sorcerer. He was ordered by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites. Okay. But then God told Balaam not to curse them. Okay. Balaam goes back and forth between God and Balak with some real comedy. There was the talking ass seeing the guardian angel where Balaam didn't. There's Balak acting so enraged he might explode like the fairy tale troll at the bridge, and so on. It ends up with Balaam stating to Balak face-to-face why he blessed, not cursed Israel. And Balaam rides off into the sunset.
Now on the surface, Balaam looks good. He says wonderful things about Israel, including a verse found in our liturgy "How lovely are thy tents". So why am I picking on him, and why do a lot of Jewish commentators pick on him as well? When I agree with many of the ancient ones, I get nervous. I have problems with Balaam because he reminds me of the corporate suits that say the right thing to everybody, whether he believes it or not. He reminds me of a Tanakhic George Stephanopoulous, with just the right level of involvement between two big, conflicting clients.
At one point, God gives Balaam a choice to go or not go to Balak and his clique. Balaam went, angering God. Apparently Balaam didn't himself see that what he was participating in was wrong. Later, after the taking ass and angel incident, Balaam asked the angel what he should do, after abusing his more discerning donkey. Balaam said to Balak that he could only say what God told him to say. Numerous times afterward, Balaam did not go one inch outside of what God told him, but did not tell Balak to hang it up, letting the incident just peter out.
Jewish commentators scorned Balaam as later turning to sorcery, inducing Israel to idolatry and dying ingloriously later on. I have problems with Balaam because he seemed to have no moral center, doing what ever he was told to do by a strong enough voice, or purse. As unspeakable as evil is, it does serve a purpose if only to really show us what it is to be wrong. Pharaoh gave clear lessons in being wrong. Korah gave clear lessons in being wrong in his rebellion against Moses and God, although Korah's lineage did survive
Ambivalence leading to amorality can happen to the best of us; that's why it's so dangerous. It can be the gateway to evil, as the force of nature hates a vacuum. Noah can be considered to be ambivalent or amoral when he didn't confront God over the Flood. Perhaps that's why Noah drank himself into oblivion. Job can be considered to be ambivalent or amoral when he did not confront his children over their decadent ways. Amorality is just as dangerous as evil, maybe even more so, because it can appear so nice. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be nice. Amen.