As is pointed out in the introduction to this book and elaborated in each of its six chapters, American law and the American legal system are rights-based, whereas Jewish law and the halachic system are duty-based. This distinction is not merely rhetorical, for it goes to the heart of the two legal systems: the basis on which each is founded, how they conceptualize human nature and the social order, and how they function in dealing with society?s ongoing problems and needs. The American legal system is a human construction forged in a secular society. The halachic system in contrast, while honed and clarified over the centuries by human decisors, is ultimately grounded in a text revealed by God three thousand years ago. Animated by distinctive preconceptions and processes derived from these differences, the two legal systems approach problems quite differently, as is well illustrated by the issues chosen for treatment in this unique volume. Not merely of academic or theoretical interest, they pertain to compelling issues confronting society in the twenty-first century: ?wrongful living? (ie., euthanasia and providing medical treatment without consent), search and seizure in schools, procreation rights of prisoners, liability for environmental damage, termination of parental rights due to mental incapacity and the capacity of a mentally retarded person to give informed consent. The essays in this volume, five of which were previously published in leading law journals, provide a profound, thoroughly documented, and keenly reasoned insight into the differences between American law and Jewish law. They will be a great interest both to lawyers and students of jurisprudence and to readers interested in all aspects of Jewish studies.
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