For the Love of God and People
A Philosophy of Jewish Law
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Jewish Publication Society
Title Page, Copyright Page
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It may seem odd to think seriously about theory of law at all, let alone Jewish legal theory. After all, there are more than enough problems to concern us in the world, both practical and intellectual, so why bother with this, let alone write a whole book about it? Beyond that, what is a theory of law anyway, and why does it matter?...
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Part I: Foundations
Chapter One: Bringing the Topic Down to Earth
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The very topic of this book, a philosophy of Jewish law, probably makes some people’s eyes gloss over. They rightfully ask: What is a philosophy of law? Why should I care? The purpose of this chapter is to answer those questions and to make the topic understandable...
Part II: The Core Concepts of My Theory of Jewish Law
Chapter Two: The Body of Jewish Law: How It Resembles Other Legal Systems
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Now that I have explained what a theory of law is, I can describe my own theory of Jewish law. In my 1992 book, Knowing God: Jewish Journeys to the Unknowable, I described Jewish law as a way to know God.1 Here, I would like to go further: Jewish law...
Chapter Three: The Covenantal Soul of Jewish Law: How Jewish Law Is Unique
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Human beings are body and soul, and the two constantly interact and affect each other. What we think, feel, and desire and our relationships with other people—what I am collectively calling our “soul”—has major effects on our bodies, and the reverse is true as well...
Part III: Implications of My Theory for Key Aspects of Jewish Law
Chapter Four: Motivations to Live by Jewish Law
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Why should I live my life in accordance with the law? Most people immediately think of enforcement: I must follow the law because if I do not, I will be punished. Mordecai Kaplan, in fact, thought that Jewish norms should no longer be seen as law precisely because...
Chapter Five: Continuity and Change in Jewish Law
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No legal system can exist very long without change. New issues emerge. Old assumptions no longer hold. Whether technological, scientific, economic, social, political, moral, or simply a matter of style, changes occur in life, and any legal system that does not adjust is doomed...
Chapter Six: The Relationship of Jewish Law to Morality and Theology
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How does one make moral decisions?1 If you are a Catholic, you ask your priest and, ultimately, the Pope. Catholics have room for individual conscience in their moral theology, and Protestants are to be guided in their use of conscience by the Bible and by the policy statements...
Chapter Seven: Jewish Law and Custom
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Custom is slippery. By definition, customs are a set of norms that arise out of the practices of the people. (This is different from practices, which describe what people commonly do but do not establish any norms about what they may or must do.) Because customs are rooted...
Part IV: Explaining My Theory through Comparisons and Applications
Chapter Eight: Comparisons to the Right and the Left
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Defining a term or concept involves describing what is included within the term in question as well as what is outside its limits. The Latin root of the word “define” literally means the setting of limits or boundaries (finis) around the thing being defined. (The same is true...
Chapter Nine: Applications of My Theory of Jewish Law to Specific Cases
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The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Theories of law are not only intellectually interesting but also have practical import. As described in Chapter One, theories of law are based on specific views of human nature and human societies, the ideals toward which they should strive...
Bibliography of Modern Sources
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Publication Year: 2007