What Is the Juxtaposition between Silicon Valley and Mount Sinai? Covenantal Principles and the Conceptualization of Platform-User Relations

Nadav S. Berman, Tal Z. Zarsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over recent decades, several global tech giants have gained enormous power while at the same time generating various disputes with their end-users, local governments, and regulators. We propose that the Jewish concept of covenant can help the above parties, legal scholars, and wider society in addressing this complex legal reality. We present the challenge of disequilibrium between the above four parties against the main points of conflict: the requirement of customer consent; clear contractual provisions upon entry; options for reasonable customer exit; limitations on the platform's ability to exercise unilateral termination; profile-based discrimination; and liability for mere intermediation. We introduce the biblical concept of covenant, and we review its unfolding in Jewish tradition. Further, we conceptualize three main covenantal principles: (1) responsibility - God and humans are both conceived as moral agents; (2) reciprocity - God as a caring law giver, open to human appeals; and (3) reasonability - divine instruction as initially intelligible. We demonstrate how the latter principle of explainability is exercised in the biblical law narratives and how the story of Balaam stresses the significance of moral agency that cannot hide behind mere intermediary claims. In light of this analysis, we revisit the relationship between tech giants and tech users to demonstrate how covenantality offers novel ways to conceptualize the noted conflicts between the parties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-477
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Law and Religion
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Benjamin (Benny) Porat for hosting the research group on Jewish Law and the Ethics of Emerging AI Technologies, at the Institute of Jewish Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2020-2021), where we presented a draft of this article. For constructive feedback on previous versions, we are grateful to Benny Porat, Suzanne Last Stone, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Shlomo Zuckier, Tsuriel Rashi, David Zvi Kalman, Yonaton Sagiv, Joseph E. David, Netta Tauber, and Tomer Antshel. Any error remaining is our own. This project received partial funding from the University of Haifa's Cyber Center for Law and Policy.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022.


  • consent
  • covenant
  • democratic culture
  • Digital Markets Act
  • Digital Services Act
  • Jewish law and theology
  • law and technology
  • online platform regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Law


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