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The Jewish Idea of Ethics and Morality

A Covenantal Perspective

By Sol Roth

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This volume offers novel insights into Jewish conceptions of ethics and morality. It directs special attention to the idea of the social covenant upon which much of Jewish morality is based. It is by means of this covenant that the principles of chesed, mercy, were introduced into Jewish life, when the people of Israel was still enslaved in Egypt, prior to the acceptance of the theological covenant at Sinai. It contains a clarification of the difference between ethics and morality and provides, in striking analyses, a new understanding of basic Jewish concepts. It suggests a novel distinction between justice and mercy, it delineates the important role that the utilitarian principle plays in defining acceptable moral conduct, and offers a compelling interpretation of simcha, the experience of joy, the Jewish version of human happiness and a paramount goal of Jewish ethical living. It focuses as well on the relation between religion and morality and argues that, in general, the adoption of religious articles of faith is no guarantee of moral behavior. Included are also Jewish characterizations of fundamental moral conceptions such as humility, rationality, human dignity, and the pursuit of excellence.

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