Jew­ish Choic­es, Jew­ish Voic­es: Body

Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. New­man, eds.

  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

This vol­ume, one in a series on Jew­ish eth­i­cal dilem­mas, regards the per­son­al rela­tion­ship one has with his own physique. The book is designed to pro­vide a plat­form for dis­cus­sion of some of the most con­tem­po­rary, and I’m sure, rab­bini­cal­ly unan­tic­i­pat­ed prob­lems faced by the con­tem­po­rary Jew.

The book is divid­ed into three sec­tions. The first offers a short case his­to­ry describ­ing the eth­i­cal conun­drum; for exam­ple, whether halachi­cal­ly it is per­mis­si­ble to get a tat­too. The case is fol­lowed by offer­ing Rab­binic and Tal­mu­dic, and then con­tem­po­rary, respons­es to the case. These are in fact short respon­sa and run the gamut from Mai­monides to Rashi to Glo­ria Steinem. The sec­ond part is a sym­po­sium, offer­ing schol­ar­ly arti­cles on the issues rel­e­vant to each case his­to­ry. The last part of the book is a sum­ma­tion of all that was pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed, writ­ten by the editors.

The book suc­ceeds on sev­er­al lev­els. It need not be read cov­er-to-cov­er or even con­sec­u­tive­ly; each case his­to­ry or arti­cle can be read inde­pen­dent­ly, depend­ing on the reader’s inter­est. The arti­cles them­selves are rel­e­vant and well-writ­ten. The respons­es to each case are suc­cinct and well-ref­er­enced, almost as a mini Shulchan Arukh; the read­er may eas­i­ly seek them out if expand­ed infor­ma­tion is desired.

The only down­side is that the vol­ume is too short; one wish­es for more case his­to­ries and the atten­dant dis­cus­sion that fol­lows. The reader’s ring­side seat as he wres­tles with G‑d” is over too quickly.

Paul M. Arnold, MD, is pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­surgery and direc­tor of the Spinal Cord Injury Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas.

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