Faculty Profiles

Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan M. Zasloff

Professor of Law
B.A. Yale, 1987
J.D. Yale, 1993
M.Phil. International Relations, Cambridge, 1988
M.A. History, Harvard, 1990
Ph.D. Harvard, 2000
UCLA Law faculty since 1998

LAW 561A/B - Foundation of Jewish Ethics

This Perspectives course will involve a close reading and intensive study of Pirkei Avot, a section of the Talmud, whose focus is proper ethical behavior and the role of humanity in creating a just universe. We will consider not only the text of Pirkei Avot, but also some of the literally hundreds of commentaries that have been produced on it since its emergence more than 1,800 years ago. After developing some initial background on the rabbinic world view and experience, we will dive into the text, engaging with fundamental questions such as the nature of a good life; the ways to build ethical character; and the problem of evil.

Reading List:  

Pirkei Avot itself, of course! We will consider a couple of translations, as well as commentaries by Reuven Bulka, Rami Shapiro, and Maimonides, as well as others.

We might also read a couple of other texts by Maimonides: Shemonah Perakim, or “Eight Chapters,” which is his longer take on Avot, and Hilchot Deot, which is part of his Jewish law code Mishneh Torah, and specifically concerns law of character formation.

Meeting Dates:  6:00 pm - 8:30 pm in room 1102
August 25
September 22
October 20
January 19
February 23