Human dignity in the Jewish tradition

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The Hebrew counterpart to the expression ‘human dignity’ – kevod ha-adam – hardly exists in classical Jewish sources. This expression entered the Hebrew language and Jewish-Israeli culture in modern times due to the influence of modern European structures of thought. Thus, for example, Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity (kevod ha-adam) and Freedom (ve-heruto) was enacted by the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in 1992. The term ‘kavod’ appears in the Hebrew Bible several hundred times, and even more so in Talmudic literature. Its root is probably in the word ‘kaved’, ‘heavy’, which also means substance (or concrete/physical presence). The core meaning of the term ‘kavod’ is social honour or dignity, but it may also mean wealth, glory, greatness and splendour. Thus, the Hebrew Bible uses it to signify God's presence or substance (kevod YHWH, for example Exodus 16:7), or there are such Rabbinic sayings as: ‘All that God created in His world He did not create but for His own glory (li-khevodo)’ (m. Avot 6:11).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780511979033
ISBN (Print)9780521195782
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2014.


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