Sefer Ha-Hayim Blog
Friday, April 11, 2008
New Book: A Philosophy of Mitzvot

Now available from Yashar Books:

A Philosophy of Mitzvot: The Religious and Ethical Principles of Judaism, their Roots in Biblical Law and the Judaic Oral Tradition

by Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel

What divine purpose do the mitzvot, the Biblical commandments, serve? What moral and spiritual goals do the mitzvot envision? In a book made newly available to the reading public, Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel presents a comprehensive view of the structure and meaning of the Torah’s commandments.

The Sefer ha-Hinnukh, one of the principal works in Jewish ethical and halakhic literature, is a primary source for ta’amei ha-mitzvot, the reasons and purpose of the divine commandments in the Torah. In A Philosophy of Mitzvot, originally published in 1975 and revised for this second edition, Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel sets forth the Hinnukh’s objectives and his approach to revealing the religious and ethical meaning of the mitzvot.

In this wide-ranging study that is ideal for school courses, the author presents a comprehensive view of Jewish philosophy as developed by the Hinnukh and the classical Jewish philosophers. The Hinnukh emerges in this study as a great educator and moral and religious guide, and his classic work as a treasure-trove of Jewish knowledge, religious inspiration, and brilliant insight in the molding of human character.
“Appel’s study is a definitive evaluation of the Hinnuk’s approach. But, more than this, it is an exploration of significant perspectives and new directions for further studies of the meaning of the commandments. The book is comprehensive, informative and authoritative. It is a work of immense scholarship and deserves to be widely read.” —The Jewish Law Annual

Learn more about the book at
Buy the book at

Table of Contents
    Introduction: The Mitzvot: Their Nature and Import in Jewish Philosophy
  1. The Taryag Mitzvot
  2. The Quest for the Meaning of Mitzvot
  3. The Divine Purpose
  4. The Preamble of Faith
  5. A Rationale of Mitzvot
  6. Man's Ethical Duties
  7. The Individual and Society
  8. Man's Spiritual Dimension
  9. The Service of God
  10. The Divine Imperative
  11. Perspectives on the Mitzvot
  12. Conclusion: The Continuing Quest
  13. Excursus: The Sefer Ha-Hinnukh: Authorship & Sources

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel is Yeshiva University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Jewish Studies, and formerly Adjunct Professor of Graduate Hebrew Studies in New York University. He received his Torah education in Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah V'Daas and Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, where he received his Rabbinic ordination (Semicha - '41). He graduated Yeshiva College ('38) and has a Doctor of Hebrew Literature degree from Yeshiva University ('45) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University.

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