Defend­ing the Human Spir­it: Jew­ish law’s Vision For a Moral Society

Rab­bi Dr. War­ren Goldstein
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012
Chief Rab­bi of South Africa Dr. Gold­stein has writ­ten an intrigu­ing book, devel­oped as an out­growth of his doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion. Its the­sis is that Judaism, as tra­di­tion­al­ly inter­pret­ed, reflects both his­tor­i­cal­ly and cur­rent­ly an extra­or­di­nary sen­si­tiv­i­ty and vision for a moral soci­ety that is pred­i­cat­ed on car­ing for and pro­tect­ing the rights of those most vul­ner­a­ble. Gold­stein com­pares Jew­ish law with both Amer­i­can and South African law on a vari­ety of issues, all relat­ed to what he calls the Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty Prin­ci­ple: our divine­ly-com­mand­ed oblig­a­tion to remem­ber the ways in which we as a peo­ple and as indi­vid­ual Jews are and have been vul­ner­a­ble, and thus, our moral and legal oblig­a­tion to pro­tect those in our midst who are vul­ner­a­ble. Cit­ing a full range of Jew­ish texts from the Torah itself all the way through con­tem­po­rary writ­ings of lead­ing Ortho­dox rab­binic author­i­ties — in addi­tion to ancient and con­tem­po­rary legal cita­tions — he exam­ines such issues as: the struc­ture and func­tions of gov­ern­ment, polit­i­cal tyran­ny, mar­tial rape and the sta­tus of women, pover­ty, vagrancy, char­i­ty and state-sup­port­ed wel­fare. Less of a sweep­ing philo­soph­i­cal work and more of an in-depth com­par­a­tive legal analy­sis, Goldstein’s book will be of great inter­est to schol­ars, stu­dents of the law and lay per­sons alike.
William Liss-Levin­son is vice pres­i­dent, chief strat­e­gy & oper­a­tions offi­cer of Cas­tle Con­nol­ly Med­ical Ltd., a con­sumer health research, infor­ma­tion, and pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He holds a Ph.D. in edu­ca­tion and is a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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