Is There a Practical Way to Bridge the Gap Between Traditional Jewish and Modern Expectations of Rights and Obligations?

By Daniel J. Elazar

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), Fall 1991

In looking for a bridge between traditional Jewish and modern views of obligations and rights, we can turn to the tradition of federal liberty -- the liberty to live in accordance with the covenant to which one has consented -- as developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Reformed Protestant theo-political revolutionaries. Taking the biblical paradigm as the starting point, it is possible to suggest reconstruction of the modern rights model in line with ideas of federal liberty as follows: All human beings are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights -- e.g., life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. All human beings are also created as social beings and as such must form communities and polities. The basic right of all humans connecting these two aspects of humanity is the right to covenant, which is both right and obligation. The exercise of all rights is through the covenants freely entered into by humans. Every individual human and every human community and polity lives within this network of covenants and only can find expression for rights within a network of covenants. Humanity is the sum of its obligations and rights, not to the state but to a transcendent and mutually accepted morality. Humans are free because only the free can be obligated to be moral and just and only by being obligated to strive to be moral and just do they find expression of their inalienable rights.

Topic: Jewish Text, Values, Government

Name of Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Volume/Issue: 3:3-4

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Genre: Scholarly Periodical

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Elazar, Daniel J. Is There a Practical Way to Bridge the Gap Between Traditional Jewish and Modern Expectations of Rights and Obligations?. Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). Fall 1991:


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