Jewish Thought and Philosophy: Jewish Ethical Literature
JEWISH THOUGHT AND PHILOSOPHY: JEWISH ETHICAL LITERATURE
The Hebrew term sifrut ha-musar ("ethical literature") can be defined either very explicitly or in a general way. In a more proscribed sense it is a well-defined literary genre; the works belonging to it are easily recognizable because each chapter in these books deals with a specific religious and theological subject—belief in the unity of God, trust in God, repentance, fear and love of God, and so forth. The classical examples of books in this genre begin with Bahye ibn Paquda's Ḥovot ha-levavot (The duties of the heart) in the eleventh century and include Mosheh Ḥayyim Luzzatto's Mesillat yesharim (The path of the righteous) in the eighteenth century. In addition to the few dozen books written in this manner are some other minor genres, namely, sifrut ha-tsavvaʾot ("ethical wills") and various monographs on subjects such as repentance.
In its broader meaning, the term sifrut ha-musar includes other religious literary genres, especially the vast literature of Hebrew homiletics, of which thousands of volumes were written between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries, as well as other popular works intended for the religious instruction of the masses. Hence, in general terms, "ethical literature" includes many literary genres; indeed, it refers to almost everything written for religious instruction except works of Jewish law (halakhah ) or theology (philosophy or mysticism, i.e., Qabbalah).
Jewish ethical literature, in both its narrower and broader meanings, is not primarily intended to instruct the Jewish reader how to behave in certain circumstances. Practical instruction is reserved mainly for the literature of the halakhah, because Jewish law does not distinguish between religious and ethical commandments. Everything demanded by the Torah and the Talmud is included in the law, even subjects like the giving of tsedaqah, donations to the poor, or the proper behavior at a funeral. The main purpose of ethical literature is to explain to the Jew why it is necessary to follow the strict demands of Jewish law and ethical commandments. Thus, sifrut ha-musar is the literary genre that teaches the observant and devout Jew how to feel and how to organize his desires and intentions in order to be able to concentrate all his spiritual powers on the performance of the commandments that were enumerated by God in the ancient sources. The following brief description focuses on the development of Jewish ethical literature in its stricter sense, though reference will be made where possible to the broader field as well.
Beginnings in the Middle Ages
The first stage of the development of Jewish ethical literature in the Middle Ages signified a complete deviation from Jewish ethical works in the ancient period. While biblical and postbiblical Jewish literature included books dedicated specifically to the teaching of ethical values (Proverbs, Ben Sira, etc.), during the Talmudic period in late antiquity ethics was incorporated within the vast treasury of Midrashic homiletics and lost its standing as a separate literary genre. Rabbinic sayings dealing with ethical problems appear in Talmudic and Midrashic literature side by side, without any literary differentiation, with sayings dealing with astronomy, history, or medicine. The new insights and concepts in the field of ethics, which abound in this literature, were not expressed in a systematic way.
When Greek philosophy began to influence Jewish thinkers in the late Geonic period (tenth and eleventh centuries), ethical problems began to be treated in a special literary form and in a systematic way. The first Jewish philosophers who developed such systems in the tenth to the twelfth century saw themselves, with some justification, as innovators, formulating their concepts as if there were no previous Jewish ethical system. They were right in the sense that in previous Jewish literature it is impossible to find a systematic explanation of why a Jew should follow the divine commandments and how to educate oneself to accept and perform them.
One of the clearest examples of this approach is Saʿadyah Gaon's treatment of ethics in the first half of the tenth century. The tenth and last chapter of his great philosophical work, Sefer emunot ve-deʿot (The book of beliefs and opinions), is devoted to this subject. This chapter, which was probably written as a separate treatise, deals systematically with the main values of Jewish ethical behavior. According to Saʿadyah (882–942), God created the human psyche with thirteen different impulses or drives, each of which tends to impel him to fulfill it alone and thereby clashes with the others. Saʿadyah included in this list drives such as sex, laziness, revenge, and craving for food together with the urge to study the Torah and worship God. None of these, according to Saʿadyah, is either "right" or "wrong," "good" or "evil." Each of these drives is right and good if used in moderation, according to one's needs, and wrong and evil if it becomes one's sole or main preoccupation. Most of the chapter is dedicated to demonstrating the negative results of concentrating one's energies on the fulfillment of one drive alone, be it revenge or worship, eating or studying. Saʿadyah's arguments against such extreme behavior are mainly hedonistic: Complete submission to one drive turns even pleasure into pain and brings on suffering and ill health, while moderation and harmonic use of all of them together brings happiness, health, and long life. Saʿadyah uses some biblical and rabbinic references to strengthen his arguments, but his main thesis does not rely on Jewish sources; he is expressing, in fact, a secular conception of ethics.
A completely different approach was adopted by Baḥye ibn Paquda in Spain in the eleventh century. Like Saʿadyah, he wrote his ethical-philosophical treatise in Arabic, but his major work, Ḥovot ha-levavot, is the first book-length medieval Jewish work dedicated to the subject of ethics. In the introduction Baḥye complained that previous Jewish writers devoted all their works to the physical and material demands of Jewish religious life, neglecting completely the spiritual ones. His book was written in order to present the other, spiritual and ethical, side of the Jewish religion, which is, according to Baḥye, the most important and essential.
Baḥye's distinction between the physical and spiritual religious precepts was a major innovation in Jewish ethical thought. According to his system, prayer and religious studies cannot be included among the spiritual values because the human body and senses participate in their performance. Spiritual precepts, Baḥye explained, are those that are carried out completely "within the heart," that is, without any reliance or mediation of the limbs or the senses, and only the completely spiritual precepts have religious meaning and can be regarded as worship. The physical deeds, which include all the legal Jewish mitsvot, do not have any impact on one's religious life. A physical deed can have a religious meaning only if it is accompanied by spiritual concentration and intention—kavvanah —and even then its value is dependent on the spiritual intention and not on the deed itself. Thus Baḥye presented a completely spiritualized and internalized conception of Jewish religious life, which is a radical departure from the teachings of previous thinkers, who always insisted—as does Jewish law—that the physical performance of the mitsvot, both ritualistic and ethical ones, is the basis of Jewish worship.
Another new variation in the field of ethics in that period was introduced by Shelomoh ibn Gabirol (c. 1021–c. 1058), the great poet and philosopher, author of Meqor ḥayyim, which was known in Latin under the title Fons vitae. Ibn Gabirol wrote a short ethical treatise in Arabic, known in Hebrew as Tiqqun middot ha-nefesh (The correction of ethical attitudes). Ibn Gabirol's approach to ethics in this work is a physical-anthropological one. Characteristic human attitudes, he asserted, are dependent on the individual's complexion and physical harmony. Ibn Gabirol maintained that each of the twenty basic ethical attitudes is closely related to a certain combination of the four elements and the four liquids that constitute the human body according to medieval physiology. Using homiletical methods, Ibn Gabirol analyzed the ethical attitudes and arranged them in ten binary opposites (pride and humility, etc.), as an expression of the human physical constitution. Two such pairs are connected to each of the five senses. Ibn Gabirol's treatise is an attempt to give a scientific, secular, and physical basis to ethical human behavior and to correct every flaw in the same way that physical ailments are corrected.
The greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, Moses Maimonides (Mosheh ben Maimon, 1135/8–1204), dedicated important discussions to ethical problems in several of his major works but did not write a special work on ethics. His philosophical works, commentaries, and legal works contain chapters and portions dealing with ethics. When writing in Arabic, he, like Saʿadyah Gaon and Ibn Gabirol, established Jewish ethics on scientific concepts, derived from psychological and anthropological analysis. The works of Aristotle and the Arab philosophers who followed him served as sources for Maimonides' own formulations. When writing in Hebrew, however, especially in Sefer ha-maddaʿ (The book of knowledge), the first book in his fourteen-book magnum opus of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, he very often based his ethical demands on old rabbinic ethical sayings.
Maimonides confronted the basic problems resulting from the meeting between rabbinic ethics and medieval philosophy and science in a profound way, taking pains to preserve the practical demands of ancient traditions while reconciling them with contemporary conceptions of spiritualized religious behavior. He contributed to the popularization in Hebrew literature of Aristotelian concepts like "the golden rule" of the "good" middle between two "evil" extremes, although their impact outside the immediate school of his followers was minimal. Even Maimonides, when dealing with the subject of ethics, saw himself not as a thinker who continued the deliberations of a long line of Jewish traditional teachers of ethics but as a philosopher who created a new system, relying mainly on non-Jewish scientific and philosophical sources and only assisted by biblical and Talmudic traditions.
Early Hebrew Works and Qabbalah
While Saʿadyah, Baḥye, Ibn Gabirol, and Maimonides wrote mainly in Arabic and addressed themselves to Jewish intellectuals in the communities under Arab rule who were familiar with Arabic philosophy based on the Greek, almost no works were written in Hebrew and intended for a larger Jewish public. Only in the twelfth century does one find the beginnings of Hebrew medieval ethical literature written by Jewish thinkers in a contemporary manner. The first among these was Avraham bar Hiyyaʾ, who contributed to ethics his collection of four homilies, called Hegyon ha-nefesh ha-ʿatsuvah (The sad soul's deliberations), which was based on Neoplatonic philosophy. That same philosophy also influenced Avraham ibn ʿEzraʾ, the great commentator on the Bible, who dedicated to ethics a brief treatise called Yesod moraʾ (The foundation of the fear of God). It is typical that these two works were written in the first half and middle of the twelfth century by philosophers from Spain who traveled and visited Jewish communities in Christian Europe, where Arabic was not understood, and were aware of the need for such material.
The first school of writers of Hebrew ethical works in medieval Europe did not emerge in the areas influenced by Arabic culture but in the small town of Gerona in northern Spain ruled by the Christians in the first half of the thirteenth century. The four important writers of this school were Moses Nahmanides (Mosheh ben Naḥman), Yaʿaqov ben Sheshet Gerondi, Yonah ben Avraham Gerondi, and Asher ben David. All four belonged to the school of qabbalists that flourished in Gerona early in the thirteenth century. The mystical element in their ethical works is not dominant, and in the case of the best-known ethical writer among them, Yonah Gerondi, it is completely absent. If it were not for a letter written by Yitsḥaq the Blind, the great mystic of Provence, to the qabbalists in Gerona, naming Yonah Gerondi among them, it would never have been known for certain that he was indeed a qabbalist.
The most important innovation of the ethical works of this school of qabbalists is the revival of rabbinic ethics, almost completely neglected by their predecessors. Many parts of their works can be read as anthologies of Talmudic and Midrashic sayings concerning various ethical problems. It is clear that these writers intended to show, in contrast to the Jewish philosophers, that Judaism has an authentic ethical tradition which can answer every contemporary problem without relying on medieval philosophy and science. They tried to revive and reestablish the dominance of the traditional Jewish sources of antiquity as the normative guide to religious behavior. In this, their qabbalistic beliefs could have contributed to the spiritual depth and the pathos of their adherence to the traditional sources, but their works are not dependent on mystical symbolism.
The Gerona qabbalists viewed their concerted effort in the field of ethical works as a response to the threat that Jewish philosophy presented to Judaism. Extreme spiritualization on the one hand and profane, scientific systems of ethics on the other endangered the traditional conceptions of the primacy of ethical deeds and the observance of the practical precepts. Yonah Gerondi was one of the first Jewish thinkers to criticize Maimonides publicly and participated actively in the great controversy concerning Maimonides' works in 1232–1235. His ethical works, and especially his monograph on repentance, Shaʿarei teshuvah, are intended to offer a traditional alternative to philosophical ethics. Nahmanides' ethical homilies include direct criticism of Aristotelian philosophy and indirect polemics against Maimonides.
Other writers of this period adopted the same attitude and created traditionalistic systems of ethics based on ancient sources as an alternative to the works of the philosophers. Prominent among them was Yeḥiʾel ben Yequtiʾel of Rome, in the middle of the thirteenth century, whose ethical work Maʿalot ha-middot (The ascending ladder of ethical values) is an anthology of rabbinic paragraphs with some antiphilosophical undertones. Yeḥiʾel was not a qabbalist, and his work proves that the return to the ancient sources in the realm of ethics was not motivated by mystical reasons alone.
Later in the thirteenth century another qabbalist, Baḥya ben Asher ibn Halawa, wrote one of the most influential works of Jewish ethics in a homiletical form, Kad ha-qemaḥ (A bowl of flour). In this work the author discusses ethical values, arranged in alphabetical order, dedicating a sermon to each. He seldom used qabbalistic symbolism, and the work is one of the most important books in medieval rabbinic ethics.
At the same time, Jewish philosophers continued to publish Hebrew books on philosophical ethics. The most prominent among them were Yaʿaqov Anatoli in his collection of sermons, Malmad ha-talmidim, and Shem Ṭov ben Yosef Falaquera, who wrote several ethical treatises. Like other philosophers of the thirteenth century, these two relied heavily on the teachings of Maimonides, though very often their attitudes were more radical than those of their teachers.
In the thirteenth century in Spain, southern France, and Italy the two major schools of Hebrew ethical literature thus took shape, the philosophers, mostly Maimonidean, on the one hand, and the traditionalists, creators of rabbinic ethics, many of them qabbalists, on the other hand. New literary forms emerged in the two antagonistic schools, such as the ethical monographs, ethical homiletical literature, and ethical "wills," which summarize in a brief treatise a complete ethical system. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, Hebrew ethical literature is clearly divided along these basic ideological lines.
Ethics of the Ashkenazic Ḥasidim
While controversy raged in Spain, Italy, and southern France, an independent school of ethical thought was established in western Germany by the German-Jewish pietists, adherents of the esoteric, and often mystical, theology of Ashkenazic Hasidism. The main work of this school, which had a profound impact on Jewish ethical thought for many centuries, is the Sefer Ḥasidim (Book of the Pietists), written by Yehudah ben Shemuʾel "the Pious" of Regensburg (d. 1217).
Sefer Ḥasidim is different from previous Hebrew ethical works in its concern with everyday behavior in minute details, relating to the performance of the religious precepts. Besides homilies that expound the theoretical basis of ethical ideas, the book, which is divided into brief, independent paragraphs, deals with specific ethical issues: how to choose a dwelling place; relationships with parents, teachers, neighbors, and the non-Jewish society; how to conduct business relations; attitude toward rabbis; and so forth.
The instructions of this book are based on a strict, radical ethical theory. The Ashkenazic Ḥasidim believed that God's presence in the world is evident only in the unusual and the miraculous. Natural and social laws are not a reflection of divine benevolence but are rather trials put before pietists by God in order to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked by testing their ability to obey God's commandments. Human life, according to the pietists, is a continuous struggle to prove one's devotion to God by overcoming all the obstacles that God himself put on the path of his believers. Ethical behavior, in this system, is choosing the most difficult and painful alternative. The pietist must always concentrate on the performance of that deed that most people around him neglect; by so doing he proves that this is the most difficult path, and following it gives him the maximum religious reward. This worldview is the complete reversal of the hedonistic tendencies found in the ethical works of Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages such as Saʿadyah and Yeḥiʾel ben Yequtiʾel.
Ashkenazic Hasidism both reflected and served as an ideological response to the massacres and persecutions that German Jewry suffered during the period of the Crusades. Qiddush ha-shem ("sanctifying the Holy Name") was regarded by the Ḥasidim as the supreme religious and ethical achievement, because it was the most total and difficult expression of devotion to God in spite of terrible hardships. If the sacrifice of one's life is the final goal, everyday life should reflect the same attitude and be conducted as if every religious and ethical deed had an element of sacrifice in it—the larger the sacrifice, the more meaningful the deed. Anything that negates the demands of the body has religious value, while every deed that satisfies physical needs signifies ethical surrender.
Ashkenazic Hasidic ethics are closely related to the esoteric theology of the teachers of Ashkenazic Hasidism. Whereas the theology did not continue to develop but was absorbed by qabbalistic mysticism, which spread in central Europe during the late thirteenth and the fourteenth century, the ethical teachings of the Ḥasidim survived for many centuries. Numerous ethical treatises written in Germany in the thirteenth to the fifteenth century are based on Sefer Ḥasidim, many of them dealing with the concept of repentance in Ashkenazic Hasidic ethics. Their teachings served as a basis for later Jewish ethical literature, even when Qabbalah began to develop its own specific mystical ethical literature.
Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Qabbalistic Ethics
In the sixteenth century the study of Qabbalah became more and more popular among Jewish intellectuals, after being confined, during the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, mainly to small circles of esoteric mystics. Since the sixteenth century, and especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Qabbalah spread very rapidly and eventually became the dominant ideology in Judaism. This change was, to some extent, the result of the destruction of the great Jewish center in Spain in the expulsion of 1492 and of the rapid decline of Jewish philosophy at that time. The dissemination of Qabbalah among the Jewish masses was assisted mainly by the fact that in the sixteenth century qabbalists began to write and publish popular ethical works based on qabbalistic symbolism, which made Qabbalah easily accessible—and religiously relevant—to the Jewish masses.
Qabbalistic ethical literature appeared in sixteenth-century Safad, a small town in the Upper Galilee that served, after the expulsion from Spain, as a center for many Jewish halakhists, preachers, thinkers, and mystics. In this town Qabbalah became a way of life, so that ethical treatises explaining the close interdependence of human social and religious behavior and mystical occurrences in the divine world were relevant and meaningful. Mosheh Cordovero (1522–1570), the great qabbalist who wrote systematic works of Qabbalah that were very influential in the sixteenth century, wrote a brief ethical treatise, Tomer Devorah (The palm tree of Deborah), wherein he pointed out the ways by which the earthly ethical behavior of the righteous influenced the mystical processes in the divine world, the realm of the mystical sefirot, the divine hypostases central in qabbalistic symbolism. A disciple of Cordovero's, Eliyyahu de Vidas, followed suit by writing a major book on ethics, Reʾshit ḥokhmah (The beginning of wisdom), in which he interpreted many sections of ancient qabbalistic works, mainly the Zohar, as explaining the central values of Jewish ethics. Ḥayyim Vital (Klippers), the great disciple of Isaac Luria, wrote a short ethical work, Shaʿarei qedushah (The gates of holiness), describing the human spiritual ascension from involvement in secular life and sin up to the immersion of the human soul in the divine world. One of the great followers of Luria's mysticism, Yeshaʿyah Horowitz, wrote the largest ethical work of that time, Shenei luḥot ha-berit (The two tablets of the covenant), which remains to this day one of the most influential works of Jewish ethics ever written.
The new impact of Qabbalah on Jewish ethics was based to a large extent on the revolutionary mystical views introduced by Isaac Luria (1534–1572). Whereas previous qabbalistic systems were characterized by withdrawal from the contemporary world, Luria's Qabbalah was intensely messianic. According to his mythical symbolism, the world was created in order to serve as a battleground between the divine powers of good and evil, where good will ultimately be victorious. The historical orientation of this philosophy demands action from its followers. By righteousness and religious and ethical activity, humankind assists God in the struggle against the powers of evil that resided within God and that now, following an upheaval in the divine world, rule all on earth but the souls of the righteous.
Luria's theology brought a new intensity and a renewed, profound meaning to all religious and ethical demands. In his system, every word of every prayer, every humble ritualistic act, and all ethical human deeds become either messianic acts that facilitate the redemption or evil deeds that support the satanic powers in their struggle against God. There are no neutral acts; everything done or left undone carries enormous spiritual significance and may help decide the fate of all creation.
Following Luria, countless works of ethics and ethical homiletics were written by Jews in the East and the West during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This period is undoubtedly the peak of the influence that Hebrew ethical literature had on Jewish life, social behavior, and historical activity. The spread of Lurianic theology served as a basis for the messianic theology of the Shabbatean movement beginning in 1665, and quite a few authors of ethical works were Shabbatean believers, like Eliyyahu ha-Kohen of Smyrna and Yonatan Eibeschutz of Prague. Some authors were influenced by Shabbateanism even though they themselves did not belong to the movement, among them Mosheh Ḥayyim Luzzatto, the Italian author of the popular Mesillat ye-sharim. The fusion between mysticism and ethics was complete in the eighteenth century.
Hasidism and Modern Trends
Hasidic ethics are, on the one hand, a continuation of the process of applying Lurianic mysticism to the field of ethics and, on the other hand, a response to the ideological crisis brought about by the Shabbatean messianic movement. The Hasidic rebeyim —who perpetuated the preachings of the movement's founder, the BeSHT (Yisraʾel ben Eliʿezer, 1700–1760), and his disciples, Yaʿaqov Yosef of Polonnoye and Dov Ber of Mezhirich (now Mie̜dzyrzecz, Poland)—based their ethical homiletics on qabbalistic terminology and the Lurianic myth. They had, however, to contend with a reality that the messianic theology of Natan of Gaza, the "prophet" of the messiah Shabbetai Tsevi, had greatly influenced, and with the deep disappointment that ensued when the movement engendered the antinomian heresy of the Frankist movement in the eighteenth century. Among the disciples of Dov Ber, especially in the works of Elimelekh of Lizhensk (now Lezajsk, Poland), a new theology emerged, attributing to the figure of the tsaddiq, the leader of a Hasidic community, powers to assist a sinner in obtaining forgiveness from God and influence in the divine realm over the affairs of every Hasidic adherent. The concept of the tsaddiq as an intermediary between the righteous and God (originally derived from Shabbatean theology) became one of the most important elements in the Hasidic movement, together with a new emphasis on mystical communion with God (devequt ) and devotion to ethical behavior at the expense of intensive study of the Torah.
The mitnaggdim, the main "opponents" of Hasidism, developed ethical thinking, especially in the Musar ("ethics") movement, founded by Yisraʾel Salanter in the middle of the nineteenth century. This movement carried great weight in rabbinic academies (yeshivot ) throughout eastern Europe in the second half of that century and the beginning of the twentieth. Yisraʾel Salanter did not use qabbalistic terminology, preferring instead a modern way of preaching, though at times it seems that the content of his ideas was still under the influence of Lurianism. The same can be said about the ethical works of the modern rabbi Avraham Yitsḥaq Kook (1865–1935), one of the most profound modern Jewish thinkers, whose thought is still influencing Jewish Orthodox movements in Israel today. He placed repentance in the center of his mystical theology as a way toward redemption, and his modern language sometimes hides Lurianic symbolism.
Works in Hebrew
Dan, Joseph. Sifrut ha-musar ve-ha-derush (Ethical and homiletical literature). Jerusalem, 1975. Includes a detailed bibliography.
Heinemann, Isaak. Taʿamei ha-mitsvot be-sifrut Yisraʾel. Jerusalem, 1956–1959.
Tishby, Isaiah. Mishnat ha-Zohar (The wisdom of the Zohar ), vol. 2. Jerusalem, 1961.
Tishby, Isaiah, and Joseph Dan. Mivkhar sifrut ha-Musar (Hebrew ethical literature: Selected texts). Jerusalem, 1970.
Works in English
Barzilay, Isaac E. Between Reason and Faith: Anti-Rationalism in Italian Jewish Thought, 1250–1650. Paris, 1967.
Bettan, Israel. Studies in Jewish Preaching: Middle Ages. Cincinnati, 1939.
Bokser, Ben Zion. From the World of the Cabbalah: The Philosophy of Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague. New York, 1954.
Cronbach, Abraham. "Social Thinking in the Sefer Hasidim." Hebrew Union College Annual 22 (1949): 1–147.
Ginzberg, Louis. Students, Scholars and Saints. New York, 1928.
Ginzburg, Simon. The Life and Works of Moses Hayyim Luzzatto. Philadelphia, 1931.
Glenn, Mendel G. Israel Salanter. New York, 1953.
Husik, Isaac. A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy (1916). New York, 1969.
Lazaroff, Allan. "Bahyā's Asceticism against Its Rabbinic and Islamic Background." Journal of Jewish Studies 21 (1970): 11–38.
Marcus, Ivan G. Piety and Society: The Jewish Pietists of Medieval Germany. Leiden, 1981.
Rosin, David. "The Ethics of Solomon Ibn Gabirol." Jewish Quarterly Review 3 (January 1891): 159–181.
Scholem, Gershom. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941). New York, 1961.
Werblowsky, R. J. Zwi. Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic. London, 1962.
Werblowsky, R. J. Zwi. "Faith, Hope and Trust: A Study in the Concept of Bittahon." Papers of the Institute of Jewish Studies 1 (1964): 95–139.
Borowitz, Eugene B., and Frances Weinman Schwartz. The Jewish Moral Virtues. Philadelphia, 1999.
Cohen, Hermann. Ethics of Maimonides. Translation and commentary by Almut Sh. Bruckstein. Modern Jewish Philosophy and Religion. Madison, Wisc., 2002.
Dan, Joseph. Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics. 2d enl. ed. Northvale, N.J., 1996.
Gibbs, Robert. Why Ethics? Signs of Responsibilities. Princeton, N.J., 2000.
Novak, David. Natural Law in Judaism. Cambridge, U.K.; New York, 1998.
Pachter, Mordechai. "The Concept of 'Devekut' in the Homiletical Ethical Writings of 16th Century Safed." Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature 2 (1984): 171–230.
Shear, Eli M., and Chaim Miller. The Rich Go to Heaven: Giving Charity in Jewish Thought. Northvale, N.J., 1998.
Sigal, Phillip. "Reflections on Ethical Elements of Judaic Halakhah." Duquesne Law Review 23 (1985): 863–903.
Joseph Dan (1987)