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A Code of Jewish Ethics: Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 7, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • A Code of Jewish Ethics: Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy
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  • A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
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  • The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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)
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Review

“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
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400048354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400048359
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lisa Bernard on October 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One of the things I find most wonderful about this book is that I can pick it up and read only a page, and have something worth thinking about. It is packed full of good, clear advice and ethical guidance. On first glance there are some ideas that seem obvious, and some that seem impossible. But with further reading and effort the impossible becomes easier to conceive of, and ideas that seemed obvious reveal hidden depths. I am on my second reading of the book, mixed with frequently jumping around in the text, and I'm certain I'll get something new from it with future readings as well.

A particularly lovely touch to this book is that with every piece of advice, there is an explanation, an example, or an anecdote - something to tie the subject in to our every-day lives. For example, the section on common sense and tact quotes the late Jewish humorist Sam Levenson in saying "It's not so hard to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and don't say it." This seems like such a small thing, but this little bit of humor stays in my mind better than any lecture, and is just enough to remind me that I mean to improve. Other such anecdotes show that some of the "impossible" expectations through the book are in fact anything but.

So many "self-help" and "self-improvement" books are easy to skim through, more fluff and cheery stories than content. While many books on living the good life have passed through my hands, no other has lingered quite as well as this one. Every time I open it I am reminded of some aspect of life that I should focus more on, and I expect it will be on my shelf for a very long time.
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Format: Hardcover
In a longer review for jbooks.com, I wrote: "Spending time with this first volume is akin to tapping into Rabbi Telushkin's encyclopedic mind. Fortunately, it's both an ample and organized mind, as evidenced by the logical breakdown of chapters, the bulk of which appear in the second part, in which basic virtues and vices are explicated. Everything from civility and forgiveness to anger and hatred are laid bare." You can read the full review at [...]
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Format: Hardcover
Like Telushkin's Book of Jewish Values (which overlaps somewhat with this book) this book is not only full of practical ethical suggestions. Here are a few examples:

1. To help yourself give other people the benefit of the doubt, think of rationalizations that might help, just as if you were making excuses for yourself

2. Praying for others when they are sick is a fine thing, but why not go further by praying for those with other problems such as financial or relationship issues?

3. When visiting friend you haven't seen in awhile, say the Shecheyanu prayer to thank God for the privilege;

4. If someone is getting on your nerves, think of ways in which they might be superior to you;

5. Chant "Do not be easily angered" (al tehi noach lekos) to calm yourself down if you feel yourself getting angry.

Although I am not sure yet which (if any) of these ideas I will have the self-discipline to put into practice, this book has already inspired me to do a little beyond what was directly suggested.

Since this time of year is (for Jews) a propitious time for reforming oneself, I think this book is especially useful this time of year.

Concededly, a few of the book's suggestions seemed a bit overly ambitious to me- but my feeling is that if this book inspires me to do just a few small things differently, than it is worth the time I invested in it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is wisdom from beginning to end. It is NOT limited to Jews either. Telushkin uses references from non-Jewish sources. This is largely a book on self-improvement. Easy reading with a lot of references in which one can check out on their own. This is a keeper. I will not get rid of this book since I will continue to read it several times over.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish this were called a Code of Biblical Ethics; I think more people would read it! This tells practically how to love G-d and your neighbor...and who shouldn't do that?
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Format: Hardcover
Joseph Telushkin is a master thinker, author and communicator. This book is essential for anyone who wants to better understand the wealth of Jewish wisdom and ethics that can guide us in living a more fulfilled and meaningful life.
Amy Hirshberg Lederman,([...] author of "To Life! Jewish Reflections on Everyday Living" and "One God, Many Paths: Finding Meaning and Inspiration in Jewish Teachings."
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On the last chapter, and I love how much this book made me think. It's a beautiful way to live and I love the connections with Jewish texts, biblical stories and teachings from Jewish scholars. It is a book that I will return to again and again since the teachings are so applicable to modern life. Looking forward to starting his Volume 2.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first of a three volume work that spells out the basic "traffic rules" for one's relationship with other people. Rabbi Telushkin states that a "perfect" Jew would follow without error both Jewish ritual (wearing a kipa, eating kosher, etc) and a Jewish code of ethics. Needless to say, there are no perfect Jews (or non-Jews, for that matter), except for G-d Himself. Telushkin further argues (persuasively) that among the two (ritual and ethics), following Jewish ethics is far more important.

The Rabbi discusses virtually all aspects of human relations, and the rules that should govern them. Many of these are common sense (prohibitions against stealing, murder, coveting), while others that should be common sense are widely violated; an example would be the prohibition against idle gossip. This would seem to be self evident, but it is surprising how many people routinely violate it, often with disastrous results. Telushkin sets out these rules of ethical behavior and backs them up with examples, anecdotes and scriptural, Talmudic and other Judaic writings.

This book is appropriate for both Jew and non-Jew alike. If everyone followed these rules of ethical behavior, I would hazard to guess that there would few wars, few divorces, no feuds, and virtually no politics. It may not be a utopian world, but it would be far closer to this ideal.

I purchased the Kindle edition. The only criticism I have with this version is that footnotes and references are not easy to view and then return to the place from which they were refer. For this reason alone, one might consider buying a hardcover edition.
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