A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy is the initial volume of the first major code of Jewish ethics to be written in the English language. It is a monumental work on the vital topic of personal character and integrity by one of the premier Jewish scholars and thinkers of our time.
With the stated purpose of restoring ethics to its central role in Judaism, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin offers hundreds of examples from the Torah, the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries, and contemporary stories to illustrate how ethical teachings can affect our daily behavior. The subjects dealt with are ones we all encounter. They include judging other people fairly; knowing when forgiveness is obligatory, optional, or forbidden; balancing humility and self-esteem; avoiding speech that shames others; restraining our impulses of envy, hatred, and revenge; valuing truth but knowing when lying is permitted; understanding why God is the ultimate basis of morality; and appreciating the great benefits of Torah study. Telushkin has arranged the book in the traditional style of Jewish codes, with topical chapters and numbered paragraphs. Statements of law are almost invariably followed by anecdotes illustrating how these principles have been, or can be, practiced in daily life. The book can be read straight through to provide a solid grounding in Jewish values, consulted as a reference when facing ethical dilemmas, or studied in a group.
Vast in scope, this volume distills more than three thousand years of Jewish laws and suggestions on how to improve one’s character and become more honest, decent, and just. It is a landmark work of scholarship that is sure to influence the lives of Jews for generations to come, rich with questions to ponder and discuss, but primarily a book to live by.
Joseph Telushkin is a spiritual leader and scholar. He is the author of fifteen books, including Jewish Literacy and The Book of Jewish Values, a senior associate of CLAL, a board member of the Jewish Book Council, and the rabbi of the Los Angeles–based Synagogue for the Performing Arts. He lives in New York City and lectures regularly throughout the United States.
Visit acodeofjewishethics.com for more information and to download a study guide to key ethical issues raised in A Code of Jewish Ethics.
“An extraordinarily learned and inspiring work on Jewish ethics, written with style and clarity, and suitable for experts as well as those unfamiliar with Jewish texts. Rabbi Telushkin aims to make the world a better place by helping his readers translate Jewish learning into ethical behavior.” —Jehuda Reinharz, Richard Koret professor of modern Jewish history and president of Brandeis University
“Rabbi Telushkin’s masterwork is a gift to humankind. In a time of encroaching darkness, it demonstrates that the light of Torah and Judaism’s teachings lead to a life of wholeness that advances humanity and civilization. It is a wonderful and instructive reminder that this complex legal system is so much about people and filling our sacred spaces with meaning.” —Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University
“Rabbi Joseph Telushkin displays the vast ethical resources contained in classical Jewish religious texts and demonstrates how these teachings can apply to the daily personal and communal challenges that confront us all. The book speaks to everyone concerned with leading a virtuous and meaningful life and deserves a wide readership by Jews and non-Jews alike.” —Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion
“In every decade, there are a handful of truly great works, and this is one of them. Joseph Telushkin lifts up the ethical content of our tradition in whatever form it appears—distilled law, interesting anecdotes, historical events, or moral fable. To these he brings his modern sensibilities, deep wisdom, and the common sense of a master teacher. I predict this book will be required reading for my grandchildren, and for all others who want to improve themselves and repair the world.” —Blu Greenberg, author of How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household and On Women and Judaism
“With all his characteristic grace and humanity, Rabbi Telushkin has produced a masterwork, vast in scope, rich in wisdom, engaging, lucid, and profound. Read it and you will be inspired. Live it and you will be transformed.” —Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
“This remarkable guide to goodness shows how holiness begins in decency. It is a treasure-house of Jewish spirit—compelling, readable, supremely wise, and sometimes even funny.” —Rabbi David J. Wolpe, rabbi of Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, and author of Making Loss Matter
“Judaism has the most sophisticated system of moral theology, or ethics, of any world religion, which has been evolving for four millennia. This is the most comprehensive introduction to Jewish ethics to appear for many decades.” —Paul Johnson, author of A History of the Jews