We are told that Pharaoh was punished harshly for enslaving the Israelites. But why does the Torah sanction slavery? And how am I supposed to respect the weaker strata of society — such as the converts, the sojourners, the widows and orphans — if I allow myself to enslave another human being and treat him as my property?
In his magnum opus on the history and development of Jewish civil law, "Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri" ("Jewish Law"), Israeli Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon remarks that basing a viable modern legal system on Jewish Law is no easy task -- "it calls for great intellectual effort, creativity and boldness."
While the questions associated with incorporating Jewish civil law into Israel's legal system are complex and beyond the scope of this column, I do wish to pose one modest question: Is it possible, in select instances, for the principles and spirit of Mishpat Ivri to serve as a quasi-legal and moral guide on certain matters of Israeli policy?