Warren Zev Harvey
This chapter discusses the ethical views of medieval Jewish philosophers, showing that the varieties of Jewish philosophy in the medieval period defy easy categorization, let alone condensation into a single notion of Jewish ethics. Scholars surveyed include Saadia Gaon, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Bahya ibn Paquda, Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Daud, Moses Maimonides, Levi Gersonides, Jedaiah Bedersi, Hesdai Crescas, Joseph Albo, and Joseph ibn Shemtob.
The Hebrew Bible is sometimes understood as the source of a ‘traditional’ Judaeo-Christian approach to marriage and sexual practice. A comprehensive examination reveals, however, that biblical assumptions about sex, gender, and kinship are complex and internally diverse. Some of these assumptions stand in tension with traditional Jewish and Christian norms for marriage and sexual activity. This essay reviews such matters as the biblical vocabulary for, and representations of, marital relations; the status of women in households organized around fathers; the role of polygyny; differing standards for the sexual conduct of husbands, wives, and concubines; intermarriage and inter-ethnic sexual relations; prostitution; the use of sex and marriage within male contests for power and honour; the use of sexual and marital images in representations of Israel’s relationship to God; and the attitudes towards sex and gender found in less frequently read books of the Bible such as the Song of Songs.
Ira F. Stone
The nineteenth century witnessed the dramatic growth of Jewish thought and activity spurred by the increasing civic and intellectual freedoms that emancipation and the Enlightenment brought to Jews. This chapter traces the challenges that this new modernity posed to Jews and how they responded. It considers scholars such as Moses Mendelssohn, Samuel David Luzzato, Elijah Benamozegh, Nachman Krochmal, Samson Raphael Hirsch, Hermann Cohen, and Israel Lipkin's Mussar Movement. Although they variously retained traditionalism, their responses were all reforms insofar as they each created “what might be called an indigenous Jewish response to modernity.”
Nearly concurrent with the rise of feminist criticisms in recent decades was the emergence of post-modernism that both endorsed particularity (as against the universality championed by modernity) yet critiqued the totalizing effects inhering in particularity. This chapter begins by tracing the complicated interrelationship of Jewish and secular philosophy in Emmanuel Levinas' thought. It then turns to the ethical philosophy of embodiment and self-mastery by Jonathan Schofer and Chaya Halberstam, to show that postmodern Jewish ethics is simultaneously intensely personal as it is also procedural and communal.