Kentavius Street Jersey Jewish Law - Caleb Corneloup

Jewish Law









Jewish law is rooted in the religion of Judaism which began its development during the Jewish Exile in Babylon. There is a significantly rich history to the religion of Judaism. This essay will highlight some of the central tenants of Judaism, the influence of those tenants in its laws and their compatibility with Australian law. There will be a brief introduction to the historical development of the central tenants of Judaism followed by an examination of four central Judaic beliefs, namely, belief in God the creator, belief in God’s law, belief that man is made in the image of God, and belief in Israel’s mission. Each article of faith will be discussed separately by first presenting a summary of each belief followed by its influence in Jewish law and its compatibility with Australian law. Finally, there will be a brief discussion of any Judaic restrictions against the observance of foreign laws.





There have been many attempts to systematise Jewish religious belief, however, because there is no supreme ecclesiastical body, there has never been any authoritative sanction given to any single attempt.[1] While there have been various synods regarding the canon of scripture, there has been no formal declaration in support of any articles of faith.[2] One of the earliest records of any list of beliefs was written in the first century A.D. by Philo when he presented what he considered to be the five most important beliefs of Judaism;[3]

  1. God is
  2. God is one
  3. The World was created (and is not eternal)
  4. The World is one, like unto God in singleness
  5. God exercises a continual providence for the benefit of the world, caring for His creatures like a parent for his children


It was not until much later in the twelfth century A.D. that Maimonides, in his commentary on the Mishnah, promulgated his own list of thirteen beliefs into a creed.[4] This creed has enjoyed wide acceptance in Judaism and reflects the most commonly held view and it remains in the Orthodox Jewish prayer books still today.[5] The thirteen beliefs are as follows;

  1. “Belief in the Existence of God, the creator;
  2. Belief in the unity of God;
  3. Belief in the incorporeality of God;
  4. Belief in the priority and eternity of God;
  5. Belief that to God and to God alone worship must be offered;
  6. Belief in prophecy;
  7. Belief that Moses was the greatest of all prophets;
  8. Belief that the law was revealed from heaven;
  9. Belief that the law will never be abrogated and that no other law will ever come from God;
  10. Belief that God knows the works of men;
  11. Belief in reward and punishment;
  12. Belief in the coming of the Messiah;
  13. Belief in the resurrection of the dead.”[6]


In modern times there have been additional attempts at presenting the central tenants of Judaism. For example, the Central Conference of American Rabbis formulated a much smaller list then Maimonides with only five articles of faith.[7] This list was created for the purpose of administering prostyles into Judaism and identifies the following articles of faith;[8]

  1. God the only one;
  2. Man in His image;
  3. Immortality of the soul;
  4. Retribution;
  5. Israel’s mission[9]


While there are other individuals and bodies which have created various lists differing in size and content, this essay will focus on a limited number of beliefs, namely, belief in God the creator, belief in God’s law, belief that man is made in the image of God, and belief in Israel’s mission.





  1. Belief in God the creator


In Judaism, God is uncreated, transcendent, above creation and is the creator of all things.[10] The Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, express the oneness of God and Israel’s duty to worship the one true God alone.[11] The Shema requires Jews to reject all other gods and to love the one true God with all their heart soul and strength.[12] According to the Torah, God is the sole creator of the heavens and the earth and there is nothing in the entire universe which was not created by God.[13] According to Isaiah, God “sits above the circle of the earth” and “stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in”.[14]


Judaism teaches that the world was created for mankind to enjoy and that humans have been given the responsibility of guardianship and stewardship of the earth.[15] God commanded Adam to keep and cherish the world and to be fruitful and multiply.[16] This is amply reflected throughout Jewish law. Jews are required to recite a blessing before every meal, there are prohibitions against “hybridization and destruction of species,” restrictions on destroying fruit trees, regulations on muzzling oxen while they tread on the grain, or causing animals to suffer or to cause animals to undergo anxiety or pain, and a general requirement that mankind is meant to preserve creation.[17]


The belief in one God as the creator of all things and the worship of Him alone is certainly not inconsistent with Australian law. The Australian Constitution prevents commonwealth creating laws which are intended to prohibit religious freedom and there are also some state laws which protect religious practice and belief.[18] The environmental aspects of Jewish law are also in good step with current environmental legislation in Australia.[19] However, the belief in one God along with any prohibition of idolatry could not be enforced under Australian law.[20] Under Australian law, the Commonwealth government is prohibited from making any laws which mandate any religious observance.[21]


  1. Belief in God’s Law


According to tradition, God gave Moses the written law, known as the Torah, at Mt Sinai over three thousand years ago.[22] Additionally, Jews claim that God also gave Moses the Oral law, known as the Oral Torah, which Moses passed on to Joshua and Joshua passed on to the Elders and the Elders passed down to the Prophets and the Prophets passed on to the members of the Great Assembly who are the predecessors of the Rabbis.[23] The Great Assembly was formed by Ezra who was an important, and biblical, leader of the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile.[24]


Because the Oral Torah was not written down there were often disputes regarding its content and interpretation.[25] In 191 B.C. the Sanhedrin was established as a high court and legislator.[26] According to the Mishnah, the Sanhedrin was comprised of seventy men who were either current or former high priests, family or tribal elders, scribes, Pharisees or Sadducees.[27] The Sanhedrin settled disputes and disagreements by majority vote and by the second half of the Second Temple period its rulings, alongside the Torah, were considered to be the normative law in Israel.[28] The Sanhedrin also had the ability to pass rules and legislation so long as they were not inconsistent with the Torah.[29]


After the destruction of the Second Temple, Rabbis sought to reconstruction, preserve and sustain Jewish life by interpreting the Jewish law in light of the present circumstances and with foresight into the future.[30] This body of writing is known as the Halakhah.[31] Eventually, the Mishnah was created and contained a series of legal rules and various interpretations and arguments from different Rabbis.[32] Although the opening of the Mishnah claims continuity from Moses through to the Rabbis, there is no evidence to support this assertion and evidence seems to suggest to the contrary.[33] Following this was a time of further debate and scholarship which lasted several hundred years and eventually the decisions, debates, and rulings of these authoritative bodies and persons were collected and compiled in either the Babylonian Talmud or the Jerusalem Talmud.[34] Today Jews believe that if they obey the Mishnah and the Talmud then they are obeying the Torah.[35]


The Pentateuch and other Jewish scriptures have played an enormous role in English Common law and therefore in Australian law. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Old Testament scriptures were readily available in most literate households and there was a great deal of attention given to the law of God, particularly the Pentateuch and the Decalogue.[36] The Puritans understood the Hebraic texts to be the purest expression of God’s law.[37] Judges frequently consulted the Pentateuch when forming their decisions.[38] Biblical citations often appear in judicial decisions during this period and judges often looked directly to the Bible for authority.[39] In 1932 Lord Atkin quoted Jesus, who in turn quoted from Leviticus 19:18, in his famous decision which serves as one of the foundational cases for the tort of negligence.[40] There can be no doubt that Jewish law is not only compatible with Australian law but it has played a significant role in shaping it.


  1. Belief that man is made in the image of God


According to Judaism, mankind was made distinct from the animals because he is made in the image of God.[41] There are various views within Judaism on what exactly this means. Some within Judaism have understood the “Image of God” to refer to Adams physical body, others understand it to refer to some spiritual quality of man, and still others believe that it does not refer to God’s personal image, because he has no image, but rather that man is God’s image or representation on earth.[42] Although there are different views within Judaism on what this actually means there is no dispute about the fact that mankind has unique dignity, worth, and value in God’s eyes.[43]


In Exodus 20:13 (ESV) the Bible prohibits murder[44] and in Genesis 9:6 (ESV) the Bible explains that the reason why God prohibits murder is that man is made in the image of God. The Bible also prohibits assault in Exodus 21:15 & 18 and Deuteronomy 17:8 (ESV). However Jewish law permits self-defense and defense of others.[45] Prohibitions on murder and assault are certainly reflected in the Australian legal system as well as the right to defend oneself and others.[46] Additionally the belief that mankind was made in the image of God has had considerable influence upon both English and Australian law. The belief that man is made in the image of God is the foundation of democracy and according to this view, every individual has self-worth, value, and esteem and thus has the right to have a say in the laws of the land contribute to political discussion and debate.[47]


  1. Belief in Israel’s mission


According to Judaism, Israel has been called to be God’s chosen people from among the nations of the world.[48] The people of Israel are called to be holy and distinguish themselves from the nations of the world.[49] Israel was also called to be a nation of priests with a mission to bring divine guidance and truth to the world.[50] However, Jews do not expect non-Jews to keep all the Laws given to them in the Torah. However, they do teach that non-Jews should keep the seven laws of Noah.[51] The seven laws of Noah are as follow;


  1. “Establish a legal system (denim)
  2. Reject idolatry (avodah zarah)
  3. Reject Blasphemy (gilelat Hashem)
  4. Reject sexual immorality (giluy arayot)
  5. Reject bloodshed/murder (shefichut damim)
  6. Reject stealing (ha-gezel)
  7. Do not consume meat torn from a live animal (ever min ha-hai)”[52]


This is a significantly smaller list of commandments then the 613 commandments given to the Jews.[53] However, Maimonides also stated that in order for gentiles to be saved they needed to also recognise that these laws were given to mankind by God and that Israel is God’s chosen messenger to bring God’s law and salvation to the world.[54] The Christian belief in the Trinity and the deity of Jesus is not seen as an obstacle to the fulfillment of these laws.[55] Some of these laws are already acknowledged in Australian law. Rather than being opposed to Australian law, Judaism seems to seek its promotion. None of these laws are in conflict with Australian law, however, not all of these are enforceable under Australian law.




Within Judaism there are some prohibitions on following foreign laws, however, these prohibitions relate to the sexually immoral and idolatrous practices of the ancient Egyptians and Canaanites.[56] There are no restrictions with Judaism which prohibit Jews from observing foreign laws.[57] However, there are restrictions on Jews informing against other Jews to non-Jewish authorities or the taking of legal action against Jews before non-Jewish courts.[58] This is similar to St Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 6.[59] Furthermore, Jewish Law permits Jewish courts to determine disputes according to foreign law.[60]




In conclusion, it is unclear what exactly the central tenants of Judaism are because there are differing views within Judaism on what those central tenants of the faith are. However, there have been several attempts to systematise the central tenants of Judaism and Maimonides thirteen articles of faith seem to reflect the most commonly held view today. Furthermore, we have seen that the central tenants of the faith have had a significant impact on not only Jewish law but also on English and consequently Australian law. English common law was greatly influenced by the written Torah. Additionally, we have seen that the teaching that man was made in the image of God has influenced the very foundation of our democracy as well the law’s value of human life. We have seen that the English common law has also been significantly influenced by Jewish law.

[1] Israel Abrahams, Judaism, Constable London, 1907, Kindle Edition, 12.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 16.

[4] Ibid, 16.

[5] Ibid, 16-17.

[6] Ibid, 16.

[7] Ibid, 18.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Eds Christopher Partidge, The New Lion Handbook “The World’s Religions”, Wilkinson House, 2005, 286

[11] Israel Abrahams, Judaism, Constable London, 1907, Kindle Edition, 13; Janzen, J Gerald, The Claim of the Mishnah, Encounter, 59, 1-2, (1998), 243, 244-245

[12] Wright, N T. One God, one Lord, The Christian Century, 130, 24, 2013, 22

[13] Eds Christopher Partidge, The New Lion Handbook “The World’s Religions”, Wilkinson House, 2005, 286

[14] Ibid.

[15] Morasha, The Jewish View of Ecology and the Environment, morashasyllabus,

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, s116; Tasmanian Constitution Act 1934, s46 (1); Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, s14

[19] Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT); Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW); Animal Welfare Act (NT); Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld); Animal Welfare Act 1985 (SA); Animal Welfare Act 1993 (Tas); Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA);

[20] Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, s116

[21] Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, s116

[22] Eds Christopher Partidge, above n 264

[23] Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Moses Received the Torah at Sinai and Handed It On (Mishnah Avot 1:1): The Relevance of the Written and Oral Torah for Christians, Anglican Theological Review, 455; Eds Christopher Partidge, above n 284

[24] Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Moses Received the Torah at Sinai and Handed It On (Mishnah Avot 1:1): The Relevance of the Written and Oral Torah for Christians, Anglican Theological Review, 455

[25] David Friedman, Jewish Law: An Introduction, Not Dated, David Friedman,

[26] Merril F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Publishers, (1988), 1126-1127

[27] Ibid, 1126-1127. David Friedman, Jewish Law – An Introduction, 2

[28] Ibid, 1126-1127; Ed Christine Hayes, The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and law, Cambridge University Press, 73

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid, 88-89

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid, 89-93

[33] Ibid, 94-95

[34] Israel Abrahams, Judaism, Constable London, 1907, Kindle Edition, 9.

[35] Eds Christopher Partidge, above n 284

[36] Green, S. (2000). The Fount of Everything Just and Right? The Ten Commandments as a Source of American Law. The Journal of Law and Religion, 14(2), 525, 534

[37] Ibid, 534

[38] Ibid, 533-534

[39] Ibid, 533

[40] Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562, 580

[41] Moshe, R. Adam: created in the image and likeness of God, Jewish Bible Quarterly, 39 no 3 Jul – Sep 2011, p 181.

[42] Ibid, 184-185.

[43] Ibid, 181.

[44] Finkelman, M. (1986). Self-Defense and Defense of Others in Jewish Law: The Rodef Defense. Wayne Law Review, 33, 1257, 1260.

[45] Ibid, 1262

[46] Criminal Code Act 1983 s156, s188, s188A, s189A, s43BD.

[47] Waldo Beach, The basis of Tolerance in a Democratic Society, Ethics and International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy, 57, April 1947, 3, 157, 167.

[48] Eds Christopher Partidge, above n 288.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Richard, H. Beyond The Noahide Laws, The Reconstructionist, Fall 2002, 27, 28-29

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ed Christine Hayes,  above n 90

[54] Richard, H. Beyond The Noahide Laws, The Reconstructionist, 2002, 27, 28-29

[55] Rabbi Louis Jacobs, Historic Jewish Views on Christianity,

Historic Jewish Views on Christianity

[56] Ed Christine Hayes,  above n 138-141,

[57] Ibid

[58] Ibid, 142-143, 153-155.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid, 155.