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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:26 image

[Article analyzing employee rights in a situation of dismissal.]  We have now examined our guiding principles: the unconditioned value of human beings; and its derivative principle, respect for contract. We have also noted manifestations of these principles in both halakhic and general ethical sources, and we have made two policy proposals which emerge from the guiding principles. Still, an essential question remains: what undergirds the guiding principles themselves in addition to various historical and sociological factors which influence our choices, what convictions constitute the meta-ethical assumptions and foundations of our thought? For us, those meta-ethical stances are fundamentally Jewish, and thereby meta-halakhic as well. The cornerstone of all our thinking is the Jewish conviction that human beings are created b’tzelem elohim, “in the image of G-d.” This core conviction, derived from [this and following verses], raise Kant’s claims of human value to a transcendent level. While Kant asserted the unconditional value of human beings, Judaism roots that absolute value in G-d, the absolute source of all value: human beings possess implicit and unconditional worth because they are created in the image of G-d. Judaism insists upon the recognition of the transcendent dignity of every human being, no matter what the market conditions, no matter what the effect of profit or productivity.  In fact, b’tzelem elohim, seems to be a guiding assumption of Jewish law itself, the meta-halakhic principle responsible for Jewish law’s protecting the worker’s status in the various circumstances reported above.  One might still argue, however, from the classical capitalist perspective, that the free market system provides for the utmost dignity of its participants by providing all with the utmost freedom.  Another meta-halakhic principle, however, refutes this classical claim. Unlike classical free-market capitalism, Judaism does not enshrine freedom as an absolute value.  The Jewish ethical tradition certainly relies significantly on the experience of and redemption from slavery: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourself been strangers in the land of Egypt” Exodus 23:9. Nonetheless, yetziat mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt, is the necessary means to an end: matan torah, the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The Israelites were redeemed from slavery not to wander in the desert and make their own rules, but in order to accept the divine obligations presented to them at Sinai. This dual notion that freedom entails responsibility, and that responsibility requires freedom is central to Jewish self-understanding (and corresponds to the more contemporary concept of moral agency); indeed, the acceptance of mitzvot, of deontological obligations, is the necessary basis for the halakhic system itself. The existence of the Halakhah is evidence that Judaism, while valuing liberty, considers human freedom neither sufficient expression nor sufficient guarantee of human dignity. Mitzvot constitute an explicit, rigorous, and visible hand of guidance towards individual and collective well-being. Finally, just as G-d and divinely-inspired obligation are the source and protection of the human being’s unconditional value in Judaism, they also underlie the value of contract. In this case, brit emerges as a compelling concept. If brit is the Jewish people’s (and the Jewish individual’s) covenant with G-d, and human beings are created b’tzelem elohim, then the core concept of brit might also suggest the sanctity of commitments between human beings … from a Jewish perspective the divine element in human beings imposes upon human agreements some of the sacred responsibility of brit.  REFJEW 297-8

GENESIS — 1:28 rule

[Article on Ethics of Animal Experimentation] On the other side of the spectrum is the group that supports animal experimentation. This group believes that human beings are superior to animals in the hierarchy of life, implying that humans have the right to use animals to serve humanity’s needs. This viewpoint is supported by the Judeo-Christian tradition as can be seen in such texts as [this verse]. Moreover, because human life is more sacred, the end goal of saving human lives justifies the means of animal experimentation. REFJEW 104

GENESIS — 1:28 rule

Two significant verses from Genesis help form the basis of the Rabbinic view of the relationship between humanity and the animal world. When G-d creates the first people, they are told [this verse]. Later, they are told “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these.” Genesis 9:3-4  Clearly, the Biblical world-view inherited and adopted by the halakhah was one in which humanity was given dominion over the animal world. However this is itself problematic since dominion can infer both free usage and responsible guardianship. … both aspects of this relationship find their way into the halakhic material. A final significant Biblical vefrse states “When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees” and has been generalized and interpreted as the basis of the prohibition against bal taskhit, wanton destruction of all property or animals. Thus, Talmud Hullin 7b notes that the killing of animals for no purpose is prohibited based on this verse and Maimonides extends the verse to include all needless destruction in Mishneh Torah, Melakhim 6:10. These three Biblical verses and the prohibition against tzaar baalei hayim [compassion for animals; ban on needless animal suffering – AJL] whether Biblically or Rabbinically based, establish the basis tension between human domination of the world, the sanctity of human life and the responsibility of humanity toward the world. It is this tension that is the root of the struggle with the later source material. REFJEW 112-3

GENESIS — 35:11 multiply

The halakhic discussions regarding the obligation to procreate are based on [this verse] where G-d tells Jacob to “preh urveh” – to be fertile and increase.” The Mishnah elaborates on this: “A man must not refrain from having children unless he already has some. The school of Shammai says: At least two sons [based on the example of Moses]. And the school of Hillel says: At least one son and one daughter, because it is written (in Genesis 5:2) “Male and female (G-d) created them” (M. Yevamot 6:6). Thus, the Halakhah, following the house of Hillel, requires a minimum of one son and one daughter. The obligation is so important in Jewish law that a man may even sell a Torah scroll in order to gain funds to marry a woman and have children Yevamot 61b. REFJEW 139

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