Ethics at the Center Jewish Theory and Practice for Living a Moral Life

About the Book

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March 2024

Ethics at the Center culls the best of Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff’s pioneering thinking in Jewish ethics over nearly five decades. Dorff shows that our response to moral issues depends ultimately on our conceptions of the nature of human beings and God; how Jewish law, theology, prayer, history, and community should also define and motivate Jewish responses to moral issues; and how the honorable and divergent stances of Western philosophy and other religions about moral living shed light on Judaism’s distinctive standpoints.

From there Dorff applies Judaism’s ethics to real life: abortion post–Roe v. Wade, sexual orientation and human dignity, avoiding harm in communication, playing violent or defamatory video games, modern war ethics, handling donations of ill-gotten gain after the fact. In conclusion he explores how Jewish family and community, holidays and rituals, theology, study, and law have moral import as well.

Dorff’s personal introductions to each chapter reflect on why and when he wrote its contents, its continuing relevance, and if—and if so, how—he would now change what he wrote earlier. Readers will experience not only his evolving ethical thought but many facets of the person and the Jew Dorff is today.

“One could not ask for a better guide to Jewish ethics. Rabbi Elliot Dorff takes the reader through his own personal intellectual journey and draws from his rich trove of writings to systematically uncover what Jewish ethics teaches, why it teaches it, and how the Jewish ethical vision differs from other traditions. Eloquently written and enriched by Rabbi Dorff’s vast institutional experience and thought leadership, Ethics at the Center will become the sourcebook for understanding Jewish ethics for generations to come.”—Paul Root Wolpe, Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics and director, Center for Ethics, Emory University
“With his extraordinary wisdom, thoughtful reflection, and generous welcome into the Jewish tradition, once again, Elliot Dorff has shown why he is our generation’s finest teacher of Jewish morality and ethics.”—Laurie Zoloth, Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics, University of Chicago
“This book is a magisterial achievement. Elliot Dorff has been a powerful voice on questions of faith and morality for more than five decades, and as he presents his master teachings on pressing ethical and religious issues of our time, his erudition, sensitivity, caring, and warmth shine forth on every page. Both lay and professional readers will esteem [the book’s] moral guidance and spiritual clarity.”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff

Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff is rector and Sol and Anne Dorff Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University. His many books on Jewish ethics and law include Modern Conservative Judaism (JPS, 2018), For the Love of God and People (JPS, 2007), Love Your Neighbor and Yourself (JPS, 2003), Matters of Life and Death (JPS, 1998), and the National Jewish Book Award–winner To Do the Right and the Good (JPS, 2002).

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