What Does the Good Book Say?

In an increasingly non-religious world, we often find ourselves asking if the religious perspective on ethics has any meaning, force or value. This question often assumes that the Judeo-Christian tradition speaks with a uniform, parochial and antiquated voice. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are varying perspectives on ethical issues within the diverse branches of Judaism and between Judaism and other religious traditions. We will first take an introductory look at ethics from a Jewish perspective and then, within the broad subject areas identified for each session, you will have the opportunity to shape the precise focus.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Lindsey bat Joseph $170.00 17 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, November 8 to Friday, December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities. You will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Wednesday at 2:30–4 p.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • explain some of the differing interpretations of the biblical concept of sin
  • clarify and articulate your personal understanding of the concept of sin
  • describe the classical Jewish interpretation of biblical texts regarding ethical issues such as end of life, care for the environment, family and communal relations
  • analyze different rabbinic views on the ethical issues discussed in this course
  • articulate your own views on the ethical issues discussed in this course

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: The origin of sin

Was the expulsion from Eden the ‘fall of man’ or a necessary step in the development of humanity? This is a key point in biblical tradition where Jewish and Christian understandings of the story diverge. This session will serve as a broad introduction to the Jewish understanding of the concepts of sin, redemption, equity and justice as they underpin the foundations of Jewish ethics.

Week 2: End-of-life ethics

“L’chaim” means “to life!” But how do we face death? Euthanasia, suicide and the end-of-life concerns associated with catastrophic illness, injury and extreme age are fraught with complex and often competing ethical intuitions. We will examine how rabbinic and biblical texts resolve such dilemmas.

Week 3: Family and personal relationships

Many traditions and cultures teach that ‘family is everything.’ This is no less true in Jewish tradition. We will examine how Judaism addresses concerns about marriage, divorce, obligations to parents and individual versus communal responsibilities. We will explore rabbinic and biblical sources pertaining to these issues.

Week 4: No Jew is an island

A central tenet of contemporary Jewish ethics is “Tikkun Olam”, the healing or repair of the world. This means our obligations extend beyond family, God and the Jewish community. Matters of interest here include our relationships with gentiles, obligations concerning the environment and animals, and charity.

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU’s online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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