Ethics at the Center

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Ethics at the Center

Jewish Theory and Practice for Living a Moral Life

Elliot N. Dorff
Foreword by Louis E. Newman

A JPS Scholar of Distinction Book Series

290 pages
1 photograph, index

Hardcover

March 2024

978-0-8276-1565-6

$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2024

978-0-8276-1917-3

$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2024

978-0-8276-1916-6

$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Ethics at the Center culls the best of Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff’s pioneering thinking in Jewish ethics over nearly five decades. Dorff shows that our response to moral issues depends ultimately on our conceptions of the nature of human beings and God; how Jewish law, theology, prayer, history, and community should also define and motivate Jewish responses to moral issues; and how the honorable and divergent stances of Western philosophy and other religions about moral living shed light on Judaism’s distinctive standpoints.

From there Dorff applies Judaism’s ethics to real life: abortion post–Roe v. Wade, sexual orientation and human dignity, avoiding harm in communication, playing violent or defamatory video games, modern war ethics, handling donations of ill-gotten gain after the fact. In conclusion he explores how Jewish family and community, holidays and rituals, theology, study, and law have moral import as well.

Dorff’s personal introduction to each chapter reflects on why and when he wrote its contents, its continuing relevance, and if—and if so, how—he would now change what he wrote earlier. Readers will experience not only his evolving ethical thought but many facets of the person and the Jew that Dorff is today.

Author Bio

Elliot N. Dorff is rector and Sol and Anne Dorff Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University. His many books on Jewish ethics and law include Modern Conservative Judaism (JPS, 2018); For the Love of God and People (JPS, 2007); Love Your Neighbor and Yourself (JPS, 2003); Matters of Life and Death (JPS, 1998); and the National Jewish Book Award–winner To Do the Right and the Good (JPS, 2002). 

Praise

“One could not ask for a better guide to Jewish ethics. Rabbi Elliot Dorff takes the reader through his own personal intellectual journey and draws from his rich trove of writings to systematically uncover what Jewish ethics teaches, why it teaches it, and how the Jewish ethical vision differs from other traditions. Eloquently written and enriched by Rabbi Dorff’s vast institutional experience and thought leadership, Ethics at the Center will become the sourcebook for understanding Jewish ethics for generations to come.”—Paul Root Wolpe, Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics and director, Center for Ethics, Emory University

“With his extraordinary wisdom, thoughtful reflection, and generous welcome into the Jewish tradition, once again, Elliot Dorff has shown why he is our generation’s finest teacher of Jewish morality and ethics.”—Laurie Zoloth, Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics, University of Chicago

“This book is a magisterial achievement. Elliot Dorff has been a powerful voice on questions of faith and morality for more than five decades, and as he presents his master teachings on pressing ethical and religious issues of our time, his erudition, sensitivity, caring, and warmth shine forth on every page. Both lay and professional readers will esteem [the book’s] moral guidance and spiritual clarity.”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Table of Contents

Foreword by Louis E. Newman
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Notes about the Cover
Part 1. Zooming Out: Thinking Theologically about God and Human Beings
1. A Philosopher Explains What Belief in God Means
2. God as the Source of Moral Norms
3. How Judaism Understands Individuals and Communities
Part 2. Getting Down to Earth: Converting Thought into Practice
4. Traditional Jewish Means of Inculcating Morality
5. My Own Theory of Jewish Law
6. Applying Jewish Law to New Circumstances
7. Applying Jewish Theology to the Moral Issue of Providing Aid in Dying
8. The Role of Prayer in Moral Discernment and Motivation
9. The Roles of Autonomy and Community in Deciding How to Live as Jews
Part 3. The Real Deal: Personal and Social Ethics
10. Abortion after the Overturning of Roe v. Wade
11. Sexual Orientation and Human Dignity
12. Providing References When the Truth May Be Harmful
13. Avoiding Harmful Communication
14. Preserving Modesty in Communication
15. The Ethics of Playing Violent and Defamatory Video Games
16. A Modern Jewish Approach to War
17. Addressing Donations from Ill-Gotten Gain
18. Final Thoughts
Source Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography of Works by Elliot Dorff
Index

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