Talmudic Ethics: Finding Your Way to Good Decisions
Dates April 2008-July 2015
Lessons Included 6
Course Overview

When your heart is pulled in two directions, how do you know which tug to follow? The Talmud lays down principles that can help you disentangle warring intuitions so that you can clearly discern right from wrong. In this course, we invite you to experience the fascinating application of law and logic as the rabbis struggle to determine what is just.

Course Details

Sooner or later, it happens to almost everyone. You face a tough ethical decision, and you have to pick a course of action that will let you live with yourself. You feel like you are lost in a maze of possibilities, unsure which courses of action will lead you out of your turmoil, and which will leave you in a dead end of regret and self-recrimination.

Traditionally, Jews have looked to the Talmud to help them unravel tangled instincts. Because the Talmud recognizes that ethics is complex, subtle, and multi-valenced. It knows that complicated questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. And it offers discussion and perspective to help you make sense of life's most wrenching dilemmas.

In this course, you will tackle big issues like abortion, euthanasia, freedom of expression, and fair business practice. You will learn how the best Jewish minds struggled with hard choices for thousands of years, and trace their search for satisfying resolutions. And you will discover how Judaism offers a moral compass to help you find direction through the labyrinth of life.

We can't promise to provide you with all the answers. But we guarantee to give you a new way to think about the questions.



This course is eligible for CLE credits in the following US States: AL, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, MN, MO, NC, NV, NM, NY, OH, OR, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, WA and WI



"The JLI program admirably merges Torah learning with American jurisprudence. It encourages Talmudic scholars and beginners to appreciate American law and stimulates lawyers and laymen to treasure the Wisdom of the Torah."

Nathan Lewin
Honorary President of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

"Leadership is in a crisis - from business to government, from religious institutions to the UN, leaders have lost their moral compass. The Rohr JLI course offers 21st-century leaders of all stripes a crucial lighthouse in the sea of ethical uncertainty. Thank you and keep up the good work."

Thomas D. Zweifel
CEO, Swiss Consulting Group and Professor of Leadership, Columbia University

"As an International Law professor and lawyer, I often reflect on general principles that transcend particular culture and societies. Too often, people look at Law and Ethics as separate and distinct spheres. However, Law and Ethics are institutions that evolve together. The beauty of a course like Talmudic Ethics is that it shows us the potential of law to inspire a more ethical world. I highly recommend this course."

Luiz Olavo Baptista
President of the WTO Apppellate Body, former president and board member of the São Paulo Bar Association
Lesson Details
Lesson 1 My Brother, My Self

A parent in the Holocaust struggles to decide whether to ransom his son from certain death, because he knows that the guard will seize another Jewish boy in his son's stead. Explore under what circumstances people may protect their own interests first, and when they must sacrifice themselves rather than bringing harm to another.

Lesson 2 The Ebbing Flame

Families facing the imminent death of a loved one grapple to make end-of-life decisions that impart the final moments with dignity and respect. They wonder when medical intervention is morally required, and when it is excessively intrusive. Must life be preserved at all costs, or can it be permitted to gracefully ebb away?

Lesson 3 The Right to Life

A woman must decide whether to abort a fetus so that she can provide a marrow transplant for her dying sister. How can we balance the interests of the yet unborn fetus with the interests of those who have already entered this life?

Lesson 4 Words That Wound

What happens when a playwright portrays a public figure in a negative light? Can the playwright be sued for slander and character defamation? Is there special protection accorded artists so that they may be free to create? Are their artistic statements held to different standards than assertions made in the press or in the context of regular public discourse? Or are all people equally accountable for their hurtful words?

Lesson 5 The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

When truth and justice conflict, which value takes primacy? May a lawyer lie or withhold knowledge in order to ensure a just outcome? Must one trust that the system will ensure an appropriate outcome, or is it the responsibility of those in the legal profession to bend the rules so that a fair outcome is reached?

Lesson 6 Penny for Your Thoughts

Both Jewish and secular legal systems have rules outlawing unfair competition, or "encroaching on another's boundaries." In the modern world, the boundaries of these rules are tested by considering the degree to which ones thoughts are protected.

Can one own an idea? Are patents and copyrights concepts that are recognized by Jewish law? See how ancient cases can have some surprisingly modern applications.