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

Second revised edition

ISBN 978-1-933143-17-7, 326 pages, hardcover, $23.95
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By Gersion Appel

What divine purpose do the mitzvot, the Biblical commandments, serve? What moral and spiritual goals do the mitzvot envision? 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.

A Philosophy of Mitzvot by Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel sets forth the Hinnukh's objectives and his approach to revealing the religious and ethical meaning of the mitzvot. In his wide-ranging study, 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.

Praise for the Book
Through this close examination of the Sefer ha-Hinnukh, Dr. Appel provides us with a lucid, systematic account of an important approach to ta`amei ha-mitzvot — as well as the topic at large. There is much to learn from his erudite discussions of the foundations of the enterprise of providing reasons for the commandments, his argument for its perennial value, and his explanations of the role of mitzvot in promoting a proper ethical and spiritual orientation.

David Shatz, Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University
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

Inside the Book

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


Chapter 5: A Rationale of Mitzvot, Index (PDF)

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). He graduated Yeshiva College and has a Doctor of Hebrew Literature degree from Yeshiva University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University.

Other books published and edited by Rabbi Dr. Appel include The Concise Code of Jewish Law: Compiled from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and Traditional Sources; Sefer Ha-Neyar, A Thirteenth Century Code of Jewish Law; Studies in Jewish Law, Philosophy and Literature: S.K. Mirsky Memorial Volume.

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