The discourses of Jewish medical ethics

Noam J. Zohar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: “Jewish Medical Ethics” was established as a recognized subspecialty by Immanuel Jakobovits (1921–1999), the late Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, in Jewish Medical Ethics, (1959). In developing this field Jakobovits and others have drawn from sources going back as far as 3,000 years and particularly on the halakhah, the Jewish tradition of normative discourse. Anyone interested in this subject needs to appreciate the nature of biblical law and rabbinic halakhah, and to gain some familiarity with those classical teachings that have particular relevance to medical issues. Because the field is so vast, what follows is intended as a set of illustrative examples rather than as a comprehensive survey. BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS: Within the twenty-four books canonized in the Hebrew Bible, the laws are found primarily in the “Five Books of Moses” (the Pentateuch). Revered by Jews as the document of God's revelation, these constitute Torah in its narrow sense, as distinguished from Torah in the broad sense of instruction, which encompasses all valid teachings in Judaism down to the present. These laws are not presented as arbitrary divine commands; rather, the text emphasizes their sense and purpose, embedded in a narrative of God's relationship, first with humankind in general and then with the Israelite people in particular. The Bible opens with the story of the Creation, whose apex is the creation of humans in God’s image.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781139195812
ISBN (Print)9780521888790
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2009 and 2012.


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