SOR1 - Core Ethical Teachings of Judaism

Commandment to study the Torah

  • The ethical and moral teachings of Judaism are grounded in the Torah, the rule of life.
    • To learn Torah and to teach it (Deuteronomy 6:7)


  • Halachah is the legal component of Judaism
  • It is concerned with guiding adherents with right relationship with G-d and others
  • It helps to elaborate on the essence of Jewish ethical living
  • The basis for Halachah is grounded in the commandments of the Torah (613 mitzvot), and are expanded/clarified in The Talmud


  • The fundamental source of ethical guidance for Jews is the Torah, which includes the Written and Oral Torah (Talmud).
  • The 613 mitzvot can be further divided into two categories, positive mitzvot and negative mitzvot.
    • Positive mitzvot are commands to perform an act, for example to love one’s neighbour.
    • Negative mitzvot are commands to refrain from doing something, for example do not murder

The Ten Commandments

  • The Ten Commandments are a summary of the 613 mitzvot → they are the core of the commandments
  • The Ten Commandments can be separated into 2 groups
    • The first 5 deal with the relationship between G-d and the people of Israel
    • The last 5 are concerned with the relationship between an individual and other people

Prophetic Vision/Tikkun Olam

  • The Prophets are individuals who experienced the call of G-d to bring a message to their community.
    • They were often reluctant to accept their mandate and many suffered greatly due to the controversial nature of their message.
  • The Prophets frequently broke the status quo and confronted authority in their communities. They were often called to proclaim a message arguing that people were straying from the path set down by the Torah.
  • They also were frequently called to challenge the apathy of people and to insist that they take a more pro-active stance in reforming social structures to achieve a situation where equality, justice and peace would prevail.

Tikkun Olam

  • ‘Repair of the world’
    • Genesis 1: … And God said, ‘it is good’…
    • The reparation or improving of the world to the harmonious state in which it was created.
  • The message of the Hebrew prophets that has echoed down through the ages
  • Jewish principle of commitment to social justice and social order in partnership with God
  • Recognises the importance of each individual’s contribution towards perfecting the world - recognises that this is not one’s persons job


  • Tzedakah is a specific ethical teaching within Tikkun Olam. It means:
    • Almsgiving or giving away of material possession
    • All Jews are required to give tzedakah within means which are reasonable for each individual. Hence, an individual must not endanger his or her own life to perform this mitzvah.
    • Tzedakah does not only stress the importance of giving donations but it also highlights the importance of how one gives and hence provides guidelines of what is deemed acceptable when one gives tzedakah.
  • Ethical teaching about being charitable and giving to those in need (Similar to the Catholic Social Teaching of Preferential option for the poor)

Gemilut Chasidim

  • Gemilut chasidim is a specific ethical teaching within ‘Tikkun Olam’
    • Deeds of love and kindness
    • Includes things like visiting the sick, giving hospitality, feeding the poor, comforting a mourner and attending a funeral

Bal Tashkit

  • Bal Tashkit is a notion that prohibits the unnecessary destruction of God’s creation whether it is flora of fauna.
  • Bal Tashkit prohibits the needless destruction and degradation of the environment, thus it promotes respect and care for the environment, and emphasises the notion of human stewardship for the earth.
  • Conservation of the environment and avoiding unnecessary destructive actions.

The Book of Proverbs

  • Part of the Ketuvim (writings)
  • Ascribed to King Solomon
  • Much to do with wisdon (application of knowledge)
    • Demonstrates the importance of studying the Torah
  • Practical guide, not theological
  • Builds positive characteristics:
    • wisdom
    • righteousness
    • purity
    • generosity of spirit
  • Relates to ethics as ethics is the study of right and wrong behaviour. These themes ensure that the RIGHT BEHAVIOUR is implemented with the RIGHT INTENTIONS

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Pranav Sharma
Pranav Sharma
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UNSW Student, site owner and developer.