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The Ethics of Exodus


The book of Exodus raises some ethical questions central to the Jewish faith. Too often, we learn these Biblical stories as children and never revisit them—or their ethical implications—once we have reached adulthood. In many cases, we realize that the explanations we learned in childhood call for further elucidation. Rabbi Dr. Abba Engelberg presents many traditional answers, explained in depth, as well as some original interpretations, to difficult ethical questions raised by the narrative of the book of Exodus, including:

  • Can we understand Egyptian oppression as a forerunner to anti-Semitism?
  • What does it mean that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened? Is there an ethical problem in removing his free will?
  • Did Jethro join the Jewish people out of righteousness or expediency? Do his motivations matter?
  • What is the thematic relationship between the two halves of the Ten Commandments?
  • Why do the interpersonal laws of Mishpatim precede the God-oriented laws of Terumah and Tetzaveh?
  • Was Aaron’s participation justified in the episode of the golden calf?

About Rabbi Dr. Abba Engelberg

Abba Engelberg graduated from Telshe Yeshiva (valedictorian) and Yeshiva University (cum laude), where he received rabbinical ordination. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University in Operations Research, and served as professor at Jerusalem College of Technology for 40 years, where he founded and headed the women’s division. He served as a Reserve Chaplain in the United States Air Force, where he achieved the rank of Colonel. He is the father of four sons and lives in Jerusalem with his wife.


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