‘Let Justice Pierce the Mountain’: Morality, Ethics, and Law in the Talmud

36 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2015 Last revised: 29 Jul 2016

See all articles by Hershey H. Friedman

Hershey H. Friedman

City University of New York - Department of Business Management

Date Written: June 2, 2015

Abstract

Ideally, ethics should be an integral part of every legal system. The reality is, however, that law is not ethics and it is quite possible to have a legal system that is completely immoral. Moreover, it is possible to obey the law and yet cause much harm to society. Indeed, one lesson we learned from the Great Recession of 2008 is that many bankers, auditors, accountants, and CEOs bent the rules and wreaked financial havoc yet did not technically break the law. This paper describes several legal devices used by the ancient sages of the Talmud to improve the law and make it more ethical; these include: use of moral judgments, allowing core values to trump law, use of stories – including stories about Elijah the prophet – to illustrate how pious people would behave, and going beyond the strict requirements of the law.

Keywords: Morality and law, Talmud, Torah, mediation and arbitration, justice, equity, moral judgment in law, going beyond the strict letter of the law, way of the pious

JEL Classification: B11, D63, J78, K00, K40, M14, N00

Suggested Citation

Friedman, Hershey H., ‘Let Justice Pierce the Mountain’: Morality, Ethics, and Law in the Talmud (June 2, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2613759 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2613759

Hershey H. Friedman (Contact Author)

City University of New York - Department of Business Management ( email )

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