cover image A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy

A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy

Joseph Telushkin, . . Bell Tower, $30 (559pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4835-9

All societies have ethical codes that distinguish between right and wrong actions. For Jews, this is especially significant since Judaism ranks behavior as more important than belief. Behavioral prescriptions are set forth in sacred writings, anecdotes, medieval codes, rabbinical teachings and present-day stories. Telushkin—scholar, author, lecturer, teacher and rabbi—is compiling this voluminous material in order to help Jews "become more honest, decent, and just people." He plans to present his research in a three-volume series of which You Shall Be Holy is the first. Its primary emphasis is character development, while later volumes will deal with interpersonal relationships and issues of family, friendship and community. This installment is divided into five sections: the task of a lifetime; basic vices and virtues; fair speech; leading a holy life; God and ethics. Basic vices and virtues take up 257 pages, by far the longest section. Here and in the section on fair speech, there are especially stimulating discussions of when hatred and lying are permissible. Telushkin is definitive in his judgments about what is right and wrong behavior. This is an outstanding contribution to understanding Jewish ethics and their relevance for people of all faiths. (Mar. 7)