Symposium: Orthodoxy and the Public Square

How Orthodox Jews can confront the issues of modernity that Jewish law has little to say about.

And you shall be for me a segula from among the nations: In this you will be an elite, because you will be a nation of priests to understand and teach to the entire human race, so that they may all call in the name of God, to serve Him together, as it is written: “And you, the Priests of God will call out.”-Seforno

In singling us out as a “nation of kingly priests,” God selected the people of Israel to serve as ministers to humanity, working to create a more moral society. The moral blueprint that the Talmud provides for the world is referred to in the halakha as the sheva mitsvot benei Noah. As such, it is first and foremost upon the principles and prohibitions of the Noahide code that an authentically Jewish public policy must be founded. As Rabbi J. David Bleich put it:

“It is the strong inclination of this writer that there should be a Jewish response to many of the social problems on the contemporary agenda.. . . Advocacy in the public and political arenas should be an expressionof cogent and principled positions reflecting halakhic norms applicable to non-Jews as well as to Jews. There should emerge carefully articulated policy statements regarding such topical issues as abortion, health-care plans and sexual mores as well as capital punishment and legislation addressing rights of homosexuals.”

At times, however, looking to the Noahide laws, or to other halakhot, is insufficient for the formulation of public policy on a particular issue, and it is with this point in mind that I would like to focus upon the symposium’s second question: what sources ought to be used in Orthodoxy’s political deliberations.

Continue reading at Tradition [scroll down to page 11].

What to do when Jewish law has little to say.

What to do when Jewish law has little to say.