A Jewish Theology of Human Rights

Elie Wiesel has famously spoken about a modern “secular religion of human rights”. The world movement for human rights seeks to guarantee the most basic conditions for the flourishing of humanity, like life and at least minimal freedom. While this is a “secular” effort for some, in important Jewish sources the flourishing of humanity or ADAM is nothing less than the revelation of God. In this class we will study the divine significance of humanity in three sources: The Zohar, Maimonides, and the modern religious-Zionist thinker Rabbi Chayyim Hirschenson. Perhaps together these sources constitute a modern Jewish theology of human rights.

Human Rights – 0 – Introduction To Course

Opening Note Shalom and welcome to the course! This is a new and exciting direction of thought for me, and I’m glad that you’ve joined me in exploring it. The structure of the course is as follows. Each class will consist of: 1) texts or other materials, 2) video lectures The links to all these […]

Human Rights – 1 – What Are Human Rights?

Introduction to Class One The idea of human rights is complex and multifaceted. In order to think about a Jewish theology of human rights, we first need to know what we mean by this concept. In this class, I’ll try to lay out what I mean by human rights. In order to do that, I’ve […]

Human Rights – 2 – The Emergence Of ADAM

The Emergence of ADAM (Part One) In this class we will begin our exploration of the idea of ADAM in the Zohar. We will begin with the heart of the Zohar’s presentation of ADAM, which is also the hardest text that we’ll see in this course. It is with some trepidation that I present this text […]

Human Rights – 3 – Aspects Of ADAM In The Idra

In this class we will conclude our brief study of the Zohar’s Idra Rabba. Last class focused on getting a general impression of the idea of ADAM as it appears in the Idra. In this class, we’ll take a closer look at the idea of ADAM. I would like to focus on three aspects of […]

Human Rights – 4 – ADAM As Loving Relationship

In this class we will continue to explore the Zohar’s conception of ADAM, but we’ll leave the Idra Rabba behind and move onto different texts from the Zohar. Both texts that we will see, this class and next, shed new light on the meaning of ADAM. First, here are the texts that we’ll be studying this class. […]

Human Rights – 5 – Not ADAM As Elohim Acherim

In this class we will conclude our study of ADAM in the Zohar. Next class we will move onto the Rambam, and from there to Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn. In this section, the Zohar focuses not on ADAM, but on Not-ADAM. In other words, the question that we’re raising this class is: what does a human being look […]

Human Rights – 6 – Rambam On ADAM

This class we’re moving on to the Maimonidean element in our movement from the Image of God to Human Rights. Rambam is similar to the Zohar in that the realized human image, which is the Image of God, symbolizes the highest possible manifestation of ultimate value possible in our world. But the Rambam, unlike the Zohar, […]

Human Rights – 7 – The Racha On Democracy, The Jewish State And The End Of Days

We’re up to our seventh class, and we’ll now approach the work of Rabbi Chayim Hirschensohn (the Racha). Unfortunately, there is very little in English on the Racha, and almost nothing of his work has been translated into English. For the purposes of this course, I’ve translated a number of sections from his work into […]

Human Rights – 8 – The Racha On International Law, Human Rights And The Temple Mount

We have arrived at our final class. Here we’ll see how the Racha ties an explicit discourse about international law and human dignity into his Toraitic vision of a just global order. Building on the ideas of evolving civilization and democracy that we saw last class, the Racha argues that the Torah commands that we […]