The Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Ethics Textbook

Neal Scheindlin

January 13, 2021

Judaism offers us unique — and often diver­gent — insights into con­tem­po­rary moral quan­daries. How can we use social media with­out hurt­ing oth­ers? Should peo­ple become par­ents through cloning? Should doc­tors help us die?

The first ethics book to address social media and tech­nol­o­gy ethics through a Jew­ish lens, along with teach­ing the addi­tion­al skills of ana­lyz­ing clas­si­cal Jew­ish texts, The Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Ethics Text­book guides teach­ers and stu­dents of all ages in min­ing clas­si­cal and mod­ern Jew­ish texts to inform eth­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing. Both sophis­ti­cat­ed and acces­si­ble, the book tack­les chal­lenges in par­ent-child rela­tion­ships, per­son­al and aca­d­e­m­ic integri­ty, social media, sex­u­al inti­ma­cy, con­cep­tion, abor­tion, and end of life. Case stud­ies, large­ly drawn from real life, con­cretize the dilem­mas. Mul­ti­fac­eted texts from tra­di­tion (trans­lat­ed from Hebrew and Ara­ma­ic) to moder­ni­ty build on one anoth­er to shed light on the delib­er­a­tions. Ques­tions for inquiry, com­men­tary, and a sum­ma­tion of the texts’ impli­ca­tions for the case stud­ies deep­en and open up the dialogue.

In keep­ing with the tra­di­tion of maḥloket, pre­serv­ing mul­ti­ple points of view, We need not accept any of our fore­bears’ ideas uncrit­i­cal­ly,” Rab­bi Neal Scheindlin explains. The texts pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to dis­cov­er ideas that help us think through eth­i­cal dilem­mas, while leav­ing room for us to dis­cuss and draw our own conclusions.”

Discussion Questions

In an era of deep polar­iza­tion, it is refresh­ing to encounter a book that tack­les com­plex issues with sen­si­tiv­i­ty, intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty, and open mind­ed­ness. Rab­bi Neal Scheindlin’s The Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Ethics Text­book mines the Jew­ish tex­tu­al tra­di­tion to ask a vari­ety of ques­tions. The breadth of the book astounds. It asks ques­tions as wide rang­ing as the ethics of with­hold­ing infor­ma­tion from a prospec­tive employ­er to the ques­tion of physi­cian assist­ed dying. For each ques­tion, Rab­bi Scheindlin pro­vides a panoply of sources — he takes from the clas­si­cal, mod­ern, and every epoch in between — and equips read­ers of all back­grounds with ways to inves­ti­gate and under­stand them. These sources do not force the reader’s hand in mak­ing deci­sions. Rather, they present the read­er with mul­ti­ple avenues of con­sid­er­a­tion. The ques­tions and com­men­tary that Rab­bi Scheindlin pro­vides help elu­ci­date each top­ic and allow for deep con­tem­pla­tion. This book is an educator’s dream — and yet, it will also inspire those engaged in inde­pen­dent study. For any indi­vid­ual look­ing to see how Jew­ish text might weigh in on some of the most press­ing eth­i­cal issues of our time, The Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Ethics Text­book is a gift.