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94 SHOFAR SECTION THREE: JEWISH ETHICS-A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY Byron L. Sherwin A bibliographical essay on a given subject assumes a prior understanding of the nature and the parameters of that subject. However, as the preceding contributions to this volume indicate, there is no unanimity as to the nature and the appropriate parameters of Jewish ethics. Indeed, for some, the very existence of such a distinct area of Jewish studies-Jewish ethics-is in doubt. If one takes the restrictive view that Jewish ethics does not exist, then no bibliography is necessary. If one takes an expansive view, no bibliography would be manageable, as it would require a listing of thousands of titles. For example, if (as Peter Haas suggests above) the primary place to look for Jewish ethics is in Jewish law, then all responsa literature, legal codes and perhaps even most of talmudic and midrashic halakhic literature would merit inclusion in a complete bibliography. Or, if as Joseph Dan suggests, Jewish homiletical literature is but one subcategory of Jewish ethical literature, then all Jewish homiletical writings, including most of hasidic literature (both sermonic works and hanhagot) would also merit inclusion. In the essays above, Menachem Kellner, Daniel Breslauer, Louis Newman , and I suggest the intersection of Jewish ethics with other areas of Jewish thought and literature. These include areas such as theology, law, rabbinic aggadah, philosophy, and kabbalah. It therefore is difficult, if not impossible, to bibliographically separate Jewish ethics from the literatures represented by these areas. The broader one's conception of Jewish ethics is, the more inclusive and the more complicated the composition of a complete bibliography of Jewish ethics would become. The more narrow one's definition of Jewish ethics is, the easier the construction of an ideal bibliography becomes. However, such a restricted view of the nature of Jewish ethics is replete with historical and conceptual problems, some of which have been discussed above. What follows, therefore, is not a complete bibliographical survey, but rather a sampling of works that may prove helpful to the instructor desiring to teach this subject and to one seeking an entree to this field. While most of the following bibliographical listings are in English, some significant Hebrew studies which may prove indispensable to the Hebrew reader are also noted. Highly recommended are the two enormously helpful annotated VoLume 9, No.1 FaLL 1990 95 bibliographies prepared by Daniel Breslauer: Contemporary Jewish Ethics: A BibliographicaL Survey (Greenwood, 1985) and Modem Jewish Morality: A BibliographicaL SUlVey (Greenwood, 1986). The contents of each of these volumes is informed by Breslauer's working distinction between morality and ethics. In the introduction to Modem Jewish Morality, Breslauer sets out this distinction: "Morality concerns the specific decisions a person or group makes during the course of existence. Ethics refers to the standard or yardstick , the general principles used in making this distinction." An indispensable starting point for the Hebrew reader is Joseph Dan's Sifmt ha-Musar ve-ha-Dernsh (Jerusalem: Keter, 1975). This work surveys Jewish ethical literature, primarily in the medieval and early modern periods. It also contains an extensive bibliography. For those not at home with Hebrew , Dan's articles "Ethical Literature" and "Homiletical Literature" in the Encyclopedia Judaica and his short book Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986) may be consulted with great profit. In my view, one should be cautious of Dan's approach which sees Jewish ethical literature as a subversionary endeavor. My own view is that Jewish ethical literature is more part and parcel of traditional or "normative" Judaism than Dan suggests. It is difficult to sympathize with Dan's view that a work like Bahya Ibn Pakudah's Duties ofthe Heart is a "radical and revolutionary work" which "denies the existence of an intrinsic religious value in the performance of basic Jewish rituals." Having mentioned Bahya, it might be helpful to note a number ofworks from Jewish ethical literature (even narrowly defined simply as the siftut hamusar of the medieval period) that are available either in English translation or in bilingual EnglishlHebrew editions. Bahya's Duties of the Heart (Hovot ha-Levavot) is available in two English translations (and in translations...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 94-98
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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