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Jewish ethics is the moral philosophy of the Jewish religion or the Jewish people. As a type of normative ethics, Jewish ethics may involve issues in Jewish law as well as non-legal issues, and may involve the convergence of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics.
Ethics involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is simply satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than traditional moral conduct.
Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.
Normative ethics is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.
In early rabbinic Judaism, the oral Torah both interpreted the Hebrew Bible and engaged in novel topics. Ethics is a key aspect of this legal literature, known as the literature of halakhah.
Rabbinic Judaism, also called Rabbinism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Babylonian Talmud. Growing out of Pharisaic Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism is based on the belief that at Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the Written Torah (Pentateuch) in addition to an oral explanation, known as the "Oral Torah," that Moses transmitted to the people.
An oral law is a code of conduct in use in a given culture, religion or community application, by which a body of rules of human behaviour is transmitted by oral tradition and effectively respected, or the single rule that is orally transmitted.
The best known rabbinic text associated with ethics is the non-legal Mishnah tractate of Avot (“forefathers”), commonly translated as “Ethics of the Fathers”. Similar ethical teachings are found throughout more legally oriented portions of the Mishnah, Talmud and other rabbinic literature. Generally, ethics is a key aspect of non-legal rabbinic literature, known as aggadah. This early rabbinic ethics shows signs of ideological and polemical exchange with the Greek (Western philosophical) ethical tradition.[ citation needed ]
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic literature. The Mishnah was redacted by Judah the Prince at the beginning of the third century CE in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period would be forgotten. Most of the Mishnah is written in Mishnaic Hebrew, while some parts are Aramaic.
The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (halakha) and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of Jewish cultural life and was foundational to "all Jewish thought and aspirations", serving also as "the guide for the daily life" of Jews.
Pirkei Avot, which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers, is a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims passed down to the Rabbis, beginning with Moses and onwards. It is part of didactic Jewish ethical literature. Because of its contents, the name is sometimes given as Ethics of the Fathers. Pirkei Avot consists of the Mishnaic tractate of Avot, the second-to-last tractate in the order of Nezikin in the Mishnah, plus one additional chapter. Avot is unique in that it is the only tractate of the Mishnah dealing solely with ethical and moral principles; there is little or no halacha (laws) found in Pirkei Avot.
In the medieval period, direct Jewish responses to Greek ethics may be seen in major rabbinic writings. Notably, Maimonides offers a Jewish interpretation of Aristotle (e.g., Nicomachean Ethics ), who enters into Jewish discourse through Islamic writings. Maimonides, in turn, influences Thomas Aquinas, a dominant figure in Christian ethics and the natural law tradition of moral theology. The relevance of natural law to medieval Jewish philosophy is a matter of dispute among scholars.
Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Córdoba, Almoravid Empire on Passover Eve, 1135 or 1138, he worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on December 12, 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he has been called the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best-known work on ethics. The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes from his lectures at the Lyceum. The title is often assumed to refer to his son Nicomachus, to whom the work was dedicated or who may have edited it. Alternatively, the work may have been dedicated to his father, who was also called Nicomachus.
Medieval and early modern rabbis also created a pietistic tradition of Jewish ethics. This ethical tradition was given expression through musar literature, which presents virtues and vices in a didactic, methodical way. The Hebrew term musar, while literally derived from a word meaning "discipline" or "correction," is usually translated as ethics or morals. ArtScroll translates the word as censure in Psalms 50:17.
Musar literature is didactic Jewish ethical literature which describes virtues and vices and the path towards perfection in a methodical way.
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. In other words, it is a behavior that shows high moral standards. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The opposite of virtue is vice.
ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Nosson Scherman is the general editor.
Examples of medieval Musar literature include:
Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived at Zaragoza, Al-Andalus in the first half of the eleventh century. He was one of two people now known as Rabbeinu Behaye, the other being Bible commentator Bahya ben Asher.
Jehiel b. Jekuthiel Anav, also referred to as Jehiel b.Reb Jekuthiel b.Reb Benjamin ha-Rofe, who lived in Rome during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, was a famous scholar, poet, payton and copyist.
Orchot Tzaddikim is a book on Jewish ethics written in Germany in the 15th century, entitled Sefer ha-Middot by the author, but called Orḥot Ẓaddiḳim by a later copyist. Under this title a Yiddish translation, from which the last chapter and some other passages were omitted, was printed at Isny in 1542, although the Hebrew original did not appear until some years later. Subsequently, however, the book was frequently printed in both languages. The author of the work is unknown, although Güdemann advances the very plausible hypothesis that he was Lipmann Mühlhausen.
Halakhic (legal) writings of the Middle Ages are also important texts for Jewish ethics. Important sources of Jewish ethical law include Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (12th century) and Joseph Karo and Moses Isserles's Shulkhan Arukh (16th century), especially the section of that code titled "Choshen Mishpat." A wide array of topics on ethics are also discussed in medieval responsa literature.
In the modern period, Jewish ethics sprouted many offshoots, partly due to developments in modern ethics and partly due to the formation of Jewish denominations. Trends in modern Jewish normative ethics include:
Academic scholars of Judaism have also engaged in descriptive Jewish ethics, the study of Jewish moral practices and theory, which is situated more in the disciplines of history and the social sciences than in ethics proper (see Newman 1998).
In 2003, the Society of Jewish Ethics was founded as the academic organization "dedicated to the promotion of scholarly work in the field of Jewish ethics." The Society promotes both normative research (the field of ethics proper) and descriptive (historical/social scientific) research.
The writings attributed to the Biblical prophets exhort all people to lead a righteous life. Kindness to the needy, benevolence, faith, compassion for the suffering, a peace-loving disposition, and a truly humble and contrite spirit, are the virtues which the Prophets hold up for emulation.[ citation needed ] Civic loyalty, even to a foreign ruler, is urged as a duty (Jer. 29:7). "Learn to do good" is the keynote of the prophetic appeal (Isa. 1:17); thus the end-time will be one of peace and righteousness; war will be no more (Isa. 2:2 et seq.).
Hillel the Elder formulated a version of the Golden rule: "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others." (Talmud, tracate Shabbat 31a; Midrash Avot de Rabbi Natan.) Rabbi Akiva, a 1st-century CE rabbi, states "Whatever you hate to have done unto you, do not do to your neighbor; wherefore do not hurt him; do not speak ill of him; do not reveal his secrets to others; let his honor and his property be as dear to thee as thine own" (Midrash Avot deRabbi Natan.)
Rabbi Akiva also declared the commandment "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. xix.18) to be the greatest fundamental commandment of the Jewish doctrine (compare to Great Commandment); Ben Azzai, in reference to this, said that a still greater principle was found in the Scriptural verse, "This is the book of the generations of Adam [origin of man]. In the day that God created man [Adam], in the likeness of God made he him" (Gen. v.1; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, iv; Yer. Ned. ix.41c; Gen. R. xxiv).
Rabbi Simlai taught "Six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses; then David came and reduced them to eleven in Psalm 15.; Isaiah (33:15), to six; Micah (6:8), to three: 'To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God'; Isaiah again (56:1), to two: 'Maintain justice, and do what is right'; and Habakkuk (2:4), to one: 'The righteous person lives by his faithfulness'."
Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel taught: "The world rests on three things: justice, truth, and peace" (Avot 1:18).
Justice ("din" corresponding to the Biblical "mishpat") being God's must be vindicated, whether the object be of great or small value (Sanh. 8a). "Let justice pierce the mountain" is the characteristic maxim attributed to Moses (Sanh. 6b). Stealing and oppression, even if only in holding back overnight the hired man's earnings, are forbidden.
Falsehood, flattery, perjury and false swearing are also forbidden. The reputation of a fellow man is sacred (Ex. 21:1). Tale-bearing and unkind insinuations are proscribed, as is hatred of one's brother in one's heart (Lev. 19:17). A revengeful, relentless disposition is unethical; reverence for old age is inculcated; justice shall be done; right weight and just measure are demanded; poverty and riches shall not be regarded by the judge (Lev. 19:15, 18, 32, 36; Ex. 23:3).
Shalom ("peace"), is one of the underlying principles of the Torah, as "her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are shalom ('peace')."Proverbs 3:17 The Talmud explains, "The entire Torah is for the sake of the ways of shalom".Maimonides comments in his Mishneh Torah: "Great is peace, as the whole Torah was given in order to promote peace in the world, as it is stated, 'Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.'"
Simon the Just taught: "The world rests upon three things: Torah, service to God, and showing loving-kindness (chesed)" (Pirkei Avot 1:2). Loving-kindness is here the core ethical virtue.
Loving-kindness is closely linked with compassion in the tradition. Lack of compassion marks a people as cruel (Jer. vi. 23). The repeated injunctions of the Law and the Prophets that the widow, the orphan and the stranger should be protected show how deeply, it is argued, the feeling of compassion was rooted in the hearts of the righteous in ancient Israel.
Friendship is also highly prized in the Talmud; the very word for "associate" is "friend" ("chaver"). "Get thyself a companion" (Abot i. 6). "Companionship or death" (Ta'an. 23a).
Respect for one's fellow creatures is of such importance that Biblical prohibitions may be transgressed on its account (Ber. 19b). Especially do unclaimed dead require respectful burial (see Burial in Jewish Encyclopedia iii. 432b: "met miẓwah").
In addition to teaching caring for others, Jewish sources tend to teach that humans are duty bound to preserve their lives (Berachot 32b) and health. Foods dangerous to health are more to be guarded against than those ritually forbidden. Jewish ethics denies self-abasement. "He who subjects himself to needless self-castigations and fasting, or even denies himself the enjoyment of wine, is a sinner" (Taanit 11a, 22b). People have to give account for every lawful enjoyment they refuse (Talmud Yer. Ḳid. iv. 66d). A person should show self-respect in regard to both one's body, "honoring it as the image of God" (Hillel: Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 34), and one's garments (Talmud Shabbat 113b; Ned. 81a). According to Judaism, real life goes beyond the concept of breathing and having blood flow through our veins, it means existing with a purpose and connecting to God and others.
In the Torah, there are more commandments concerning the kashrut (fitness) of one's money than the kashrut of food. These laws are developed and expanded upon in the Mishnah and the Talmud (particularly in Order Nezikin). The Talmud denounces as fraud every mode of taking advantage of a man's ignorance, whether he be Jew or Gentile; every fraudulent dealing, every gain obtained by betting or gambling or by raising the price of breadstuffs through speculation, is theft (B. B. 90b; Sanh. 25b). The Talmud denounces advantages derived from loans of money or of victuals as usury; every breach of promise in commerce is a sin provoking God's punishment; every act of carelessness which exposes men or things to danger and damage is a culpable transgression. There is a widely quoted tradition (Talmud Shabbat 31a) that in one's judgement in the next world, the first question asked is: "were you honest in business?"
Laws concerning business ethics are delineated in the major codes of Jewish law (e.g. Mishneh Torah, 12th century; Shulhan Arukh, particularly Choshen Mishpat, 16th century). A wide array of topics on business ethics are discussed in the responsa literature. Business ethics received special emphasis in the teaching of Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter (19th century), founder of the Musar movement in Eastern Europe. Enforcing laws regarding the proper treatment of workers in the food industry has been central to the efforts of Conservative Judaism's Hekhsher Tzedek commission and its 2008 approval of a responsum by Rabbi Jill Jacobs which required paying workers in accordance with Jewish law and treating workers with dignity and respect.
The Jewish idea of righteousness ("tzedakah") gives the owner of property no right to withhold from the poor their share. According to Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah, the highest level of tzedakah is giving charity that will allow the poor to break out of the poverty cycle and become independent and productive members of society.Tzedakah may come in the form of giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
Traditional Jews commonly practice "ma'aser kesafim," tithing 10% of their income to support those in need. The Rabbis decreed (against Essene practice, and against advice given in the New Testament) that one should not give away much, most or all of their possessions. They did not expect a supernatural savior to come and take care of the poor, and so they held that one must not make oneself poor.Given that nearly all Jews of their day were poor or middle-class (even the rich of that time were only rich relative to the poor), they ruled that one should not give away more than a fifth of his income to charity, while yet being obligated to give away no less than 10% of his income to charity.
Many folios of the Talmud are devoted to encouragement in giving charity (see, for example, B.B. 9b-11a; A.Z. 17b; Pes. 8a; Rosh. 4a), and this topic is the focus of many religious books and rabbinic responsa.
Evil-speaking is a sin regarded with intense aversion both in the Bible and in rabbinical literature. The technical term for it in the latter is lashon hara, "the evil tongue." In the Bible the equivalent words are: dibbah, meaning "talk" in a sinister sense; rakhil, the "merchandise" of gossip with which the talebearer goes about; and ragal, a verb, denoting the "peddling" of slander. As these words indicate, that which is condemned as lashon hara denotes all the deliberate or malicious accusations, or even the exposure of truthful information which has the purpose of injuring one's neighbor, that is, calumny proper, and also the idle but mischievous chatter which is equally forbidden, though it is not slander.The Babylonian Talmud indicates that putting one's fellow human to shame is in the same category as murder and at one point describes slander, talebearing, and evil talk as worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. The spreading of evil reports, even when true, is branded as calumny. Listening to slanderous gossip, or the causing of suspicion, or the provoking of unfavorable remarks about a neighbor is also forbidden.
One commandment in the Torah is to use one's speech to correct, admonish, or reprove others (Leviticus 19:17). Some Jews have explained this as a matter of "giving musar"(discipline, instruction) in line with a verse from Proverbs 1:8: "Hear, my child, the discipline (musar) of your father, and do not forsake the teachings of your mother." Giving musar through speech is meant to help mold lives. There are timing and other aspects to the giving of musar: what to say, to whom, and when (how often). One suggestion from the late Rabbi Yisroel Belsky is that when there is a need to give musar to a friend: "Give musar as a friend." Some musar is on topics that are a major part of everyday life, such as consoling mourners and visiting the sick. Rabbi Elya Lopian taught the practice as "teaching the heart what the mind already understands." Rabbi Paysach Krohn cited Rav Shimon Schwab as teaching that although "[at times] you must give musar" the command to do so (Lev. 19:17) is followed by love your neighbor as yourself. and that "if you want ..(someone).. to change, (it must be) done through love."
The Jewish tradition gives great stress to reverence for parents. More Orthodox forms of Judaism view the father as the head of the family, while seeing the mother as entitled to honor and respect at the hands of sons and daughters. More liberal Jews view the mother and father as equal in all things.
The family plays a central role in Judaism, both socially and in transmitting the traditions of the religion. To honor one's father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments. Jewish families try to have close, respectful family relationships, with care for both the elderly and young. Religious observance is an integral part of home life, including the weekly Sabbath and keeping kosher dietary laws. The Talmud tells parents to teach their children a trade and survival skills, and children are asked to look after their parents.
Marriage is called kiddushin, or 'making holy',' often understood as meaning that it is an institution imbued with holiness.Monogamy is widely seen as the ideal (Gen. ii. 24). Celibacy is regarded as contrary to the injunction to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 2:18 and Isaiah 45:18). According to the Talmud and midrash, man is enjoined to take a wife and obtain posterity (Yeb. 63b; Mek., Yitro, 8). "He who lives without a wife lives without joy and blessing, without protection and peace"; he is "not a complete man" (Yeb. 62a, 63a), and for it he has to give reckoning at the great Judgement Day (Shab. 31a).
In Judaism, extramarital sex is universally frowned upon.Orthodox rabbis almost universally oppose sex before marriage, whereas some non-Orthodox rabbis see sex before marriage as permissible.
Orthodox Judaism [ citation needed ] Most non-Orthodox Jews have rejected Orthodox laws regarding abstinence during menstruation.prohibits sexual relations during the time of the woman's period. After her period has ended, the lady will go to the mikveh (the ritual immersion pool) where she will fully immerse herself and become ritually clean again. Sexual relations may then resume. Married couples need to find other ways of expressing their love for each other during these times, and some say that the time of abstention enhances the relationship.
Orthodox Jews view male homosexuality as explicitly prohibited by the Torah,but other Jews view various forms of homosexual behavior or all forms of homosexual behavior as permitted by the tradition.
Jewish ethics across denominations agrees that adultery and incestual relationships (Leviticus 18:6–23) are prohibited.
Jewish medical ethics is one of the major spheres of contemporary Jewish ethics. Beginning primarily as an applied ethics based on halakhah, more recently it has broadened to bioethics, weaving together issues in biology, science, medicine and ethics, philosophy and theology. Jewish bioethicists are usually rabbis who have been trained in medical science and philosophy, but may also be experts in medicine and ethics who have received training in Jewish texts. The goal of Jewish medical ethics and bioethics is to use Jewish law and tradition and Jewish ethical thought to determine which medical treatments or technological innovations are moral, when treatments may or may not be used, etc.
The ethics of proper governance is the subject of much contention among Jews. Various models of political authority are developed in the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, and later Jewish literature. Many prominent Jewish thinkers, such as Maimonides, see monarchy as a moral ideal, while others, such as Abravanel, disparage the model of monarchy. Modern Jews have championed a variety of Jewish political movements, often based on their conceptions of Jewish ethics.
Jewish war ethics are developed by Maimonides in his "Laws of Kings and their Wars," part of his Mishneh Torah. Modern Jewish war ethics have been developed especially in relationship to the Israeli military's doctrine of Purity of arms.
The Talmud approves of the death penalty in principle but the standard of proof required for application of death penalty is extremely stringent, so that situations in which a death sentence could be passed are effectively impossible.[ citation needed ]
Jews widely believe that non-Jews who follow the seven laws of Noah will be equally recognized by God. The laws of the Noachide code are: do not engage in idolatry; do not engage in blasphemy; do not murder; do not steal; do not commit acts of sexual immorality; do not cause excessive pain to animals (e.g. eating a limb torn from a living animal); and establish courts of justice.
The principle of Kiddush Hashem requires Jews to conduct themselves in every way as to prevent the name of God from being dishonored by non-Israelites. The greatest sin of fraud, therefore, is that committed against a non-Israelite, because it may lead to the reviling of God's name. A desire to sanctify the name of God may help to motivate some Jews to treat adherents of other creeds with the utmost fairness and equity.
Non-Jews are to have a share in all the benevolent work of a township which appeals to human sympathy and on which the maintenance of peace among men depends, such as supporting the poor, burying the dead, comforting the mourners, and visiting the sick (Tosefta Giṭtin, v. 4-5; Babylonian Talmud, Giṭtin 64a).
Exhortations to love the stranger "as yourself" (Ex. 22:20; Lev. 19:33) and "Remember the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:19), have an important role in many forms of Jewish ethics.
According to Jewish tradition, animals have a right to be treated well, even ones that might belong to one's enemy (Ex. 23:4). The Biblical commands regarding the treatment of the brute (Ex. xx. 10; Lev. xxii. 28; Deut. xxv. 4; Prov. xii. 10) are amplified in rabbinical ethics, and a special term is coined for the prohibition on causing suffering to animals ("tza'ar ba'alei hayyim"). Not to sit down to the table before the domestic animals have been fed is a lesson derived from Deut. xi. 15. Compassion for the brute is declared to have been the merit of Moses which made him the shepherd of his people (Exodus Rabbah 2), while Judah ha-Nasi saw in his own ailment the punishment for having once failed to show compassion for a frightened calf.
Consideration for animals is an important part of Judaism. It is part of the Noachide code. Resting on the Sabbath also meant providing rest for the working animals, and people are instructed to feed their animals before they sit down to eat. At harvest time, the working animals must not be muzzled, so that they can eat of the harvest as they work. All animals must be kept in adequate conditions. Sports like bullfighting are forbidden. Animals may be eaten as long as they are killed using shechitah, a method where the animal has its throat cut using a specially sharpened knife. Jewish butchers are trained in this method which must meet the requirements of kashrut.
Enforcing laws regarding the treatment of animals in the certification of food products has been part of the effort of Conservative Judaism's Hekhsher Tzedek commission.
In modern times, a Jewish vegetarian movement has emerged, led in part by Jews who believe that Jewish ethics demands vegetarianism or veganism.
The Book of Genesis 1:26 indicates that God gave people control over the animals and earth, while Genesis 2:15 emphasizes that people were put in the world to maintain it and care for it. The Talmud teaches the principle of Bal tashkhit, which some take to mean that wasting or destroying anything on earth is wrong. Many take the view that pollution is an insult to the created world, and it is considered immoral to put commercial concerns before care for God's creation. However, humans are regarded as having a special place in the created order, and their well-being is paramount. Humans are not seen as just another part of the ecosystem, so moral decisions about environmental issues have to take account of the well-being of humans.[ citation needed ]
Trees and other things of value also come within the scope of rabbinical ethics, as their destruction is prohibited, according to Deut. xx. 19 (Talmud, tracate Shabbat 105b, 129a, 140b, et al.). In modern times, a Jewish environmentalist movement has emerged.
Halakha is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical commandments (mitzvot), subsequent Talmudic and rabbinic law, and the customs and traditions compiled in the many books such as the Shulchan Aruch. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish Law", although a more literal translation might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word derives from the root that means "to behave". Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but also numerous aspects of day-to-day life.
Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.
In traditional Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond commanded by God in which a man and a woman come together to create a relationship in which God is directly involved. Though procreation is not the sole purpose, a Jewish marriage is traditionally expected to fulfil the commandment to have children. In this view, marriage is understood to mean that the husband and wife are merging into a single soul, which is why a man is considered "incomplete" if he is not married, as his soul is only one part of a larger whole that remains to be unified.
The Seven Laws of Noah, also referred to as the Noahide Laws or the Noachide Laws, are a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity.
The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law, by custom, and by cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.
There is no established formulation of principles of faith that are recognized by all branches of Judaism. Central authority in Judaism is not vested in any one person or group - although the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish religious court, would fulfill this role if it is re-established - but rather in Judaism's sacred writings, laws, and traditions.
Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term Sifrut Hazal. This more specific sense of "Rabbinic literature"—referring to the Talmudim, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts—is how the term is generally intended when used in contemporary academic writing. On the other hand, the terms meforshim and parshanim (commentaries/commentators) almost always refer to later, post-Talmudic writers of rabbinic glosses on Biblical and Talmudic texts.
The Mishneh Torah, subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka, is a code of Jewish religious law (Halakha) authored by Maimonides. The Mishneh Torah was compiled between 1170 and 1180 CE, while Maimonides was living in Egypt, and is regarded as Maimonides' magnum opus. Accordingly, later sources simply refer to the work as "Maimon", "Maimonides", or "RaMBaM", although Maimonides composed other works.
Tzedakah[tsedaˈka] or Ṣ'daqah[sˤəðaːˈqaː] in Classical Hebrew, is a Hebrew word literally meaning "justice" or "righteousness", but commonly used to signify charity. Notably, this concept of "charity" is different from the modern Western understanding of "charity", which is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity, as tzedakah is rather an ethical obligation. In Judaism, tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, which Judaism emphasizes is an important part of living a spiritual life. Thus, unlike voluntary philanthropy, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation that must be performed regardless of one's financial standing, and is considered mandatory even for those of limited financial means. More broadly, tzedakah is considered to be one of the three main acts that can positively influence an unfavorable heavenly decree.
Among followers of Judaism, Jesus is viewed as having been the most influential and, consequently, the most damaging of all false messiahs. However, since the traditional Jewish belief is that the messiah has not yet come and the Messianic Age is not yet present, the total rejection of Jesus as either messiah or deity has never been a central issue for Judaism.
Repentance is one element of atoning for sin in Judaism. Judaism recognizes that everybody sins on occasion, but that people can stop or minimize those occasions in the future by repenting for past transgressions. Thus, the primary purpose of repentance in Judaism is ethical self transformation.
According to Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah or Oral Law represents those laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the "Written Torah", but nonetheless are regarded by Orthodox Jews as prescriptive and co-given. This holistic Jewish code of conduct encompasses a wide swathe of rituals, worship practices, God–man and interpersonal relationships, from dietary laws to Sabbath and festival observance to marital relations, agricultural practices, and civil claims and damages.
Noahidism or Noachidism is a monotheistic branch of Judaism based on the Seven Laws of Noah, and their traditional interpretations within Rabbinic Judaism. According to the Jewish law, non-Jews (Gentiles) are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah to be assured of a place in the World to Come, the final reward of the righteous. The divinely ordained penalty for violating any of these Noahide Laws is discussed in the Talmud, but in practical terms it is subject to the working legal system which is established by the society at large. Those who subscribe to the observance of the Noahic Covenant are referred to as B'nei Noach or Noahides. Supporting organizations have been established around the world over the past decades by either Noahides or Orthodox Jews.
Conservative Judaism views halakha as normative and binding. The Conservative movement applies Jewish law to the full range of Jewish belief and practice, including thrice-daily prayer, Shabbat and holidays, marital relations and family purity, conversion, dietary laws (kashrut), and Jewish medical ethics. Institutionally, the Conservative movement rules on Jewish law both through centralized decisions, primarily by the Rabbinical Assembly and its Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, and through congregational rabbis at the local level. Conservative authorities produced a voluminous Responsa literature.
In Judaism, views on abortion draw primarily upon the legal and ethical teachings of the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the case-by-case decisions of responsa, and other rabbinic literature.
Judaism has teachings and guidance for its adherents through the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature relating to the notion and concept of peace.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Judaism:
The relationship between Judaism and politics is a historically complex subject, and has evolved over time concurrently with both changes within Jewish society and religious practice, and changes in the secular societies in which Jews live. In particular, Jewish political thought can be split into four major eras: biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern.
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