Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-First Century: Living in the Image of God. By Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000. 203 pp. n.p.
Rabbi Byron Sherwin offers us a unique and intriguing perspective investigating contemporary Jewish ethics in his new book Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-First Century: Living in the Image of God. A leading scholar and author of many books and articles dealing with aspects of Jewish theology, ethics, and major figures in Jewish history, Rabbi Sherwin addresses problems raised by 21st century scientific advances.
"Jewish ethics" is a term often misused to refer to the behavior of Jews at a particular historic period, rather than to the ethics of Judaism itself, which are rooted in theological perspectives of traditional Jewish texts and practices. For Rabbi Sherwin, Jewish ethics are based in the understanding that humans are created in the image of God, which means concretely that we imitate God's creative artistry by consciously crafting the world around us and our own souls. Technology and ethics are thus intimately related. God and humans are united in a partnership with a task neither can do alone: tikkun olam (perfecting the world).
Even understanding God's word is a partnership, in which humans have an active role. Regarding the traditional unvocalized text of the Torah, Rabbi Sherwin comments: "By vocalizing the text, the reader animates and interprets it, giving it life, allowing to be spoken, heard, understood . . . Without such vocalization, the text remains moot, God's world remains unheard."
Rabbi Sherwin sets four goals for his study: 1) portraying the ethics of Judaism as theologically based in classical literature and practices; 2) demonstrating the theological claims on which the ethics of Judaism stands; 3) showing that traditional texts can elucidate solutions to modern ethical problems; and 4) applying the texts to current ethical issues. …