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Halakhah in the Making

The Development of Jewish Law from Qumran to the Rabbis

Aharon Shemesh

Publication Year: 2009

Halakhah in the Making offers the first comprehensive study of the legal material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and its significance in the greater history of Jewish religious law (halakhah). Aharon Shemesh's pioneering study revives an issue long dormant in religious scholarship: namely, the relationship between rabbinic law, as written more than one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, and Jewish practice during the Second Temple. The monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran led to the revelation of this missing material and the closing of a two-hundred-year gap in knowledge, allowing work to begin comparing specific laws of the Qumran sect with rabbinic laws. With the publication of scroll 4QMMT-a polemical letter by Dead Sea sectarians concerning points of Jewish law-an effective comparison was finally possible. This is the first book-length treatment of the material to appear since the publication of 4QMMT and the first attempt to apply its discoveries to the work of nineteenth-century scholars. It is also the first work on this important topic written in plain language and accessible to nonspecialists in the history of Jewish law.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright,

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is based on the Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies I delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, in February–March 2005. I wish to thank the faculty members of the department of Near East Studies and the Jewish Studies Program for inviting me to present my thoughts ...

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Introduction: In the Beginning

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pp. 1-20

In a 1990 article, “The History of Halakhah and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Jacob Sussman surveyed the early attempts made by the pioneers of the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement to study the history of halakhah, the body of Jewish law that supplements scriptural law, and to chart its development.1 ...

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1. Writing Halakhah in Qumran

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pp. 21-38

The library of Qumran contains a wide range of different compositions. Among them, not a few concentrate on legal issues. These scrolls are the prime source for our knowledge of the legal system of the Qumran community, though not the exclusive source. In some of the discussions to follow, we will employ information about legal subjects extracted from nonlegal sources, ...

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2. Divine Revelation and Human Exegesis; Or, How to Recognize a False Prophet When You See One

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pp. 39-71

As I noted at the conclusion of the previous chapter, one of the fundamental differences between the Qumran scrolls and rabbinic literature revolves around the theological dispute concerning the source for the authority of halakhah: divine or human. The Qumran scrolls present the exegesis of the Torah and consequently the halakhic decisions ...

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3. Scripture versus Tradition

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pp. 72-106

Our discussions in the previous chapters concentrated on the two available bodies of halakhic literature, the scrolls from Qumran and rabbinic literature. We examined the similarities and the differences between them, at the same time taking into consideration the fact that there is a gap of some two hundred years between them. ...

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4. “The Foundation of the Creation” and the “Laws Written on the Heavenly Tablets”

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pp. 107-128

In his frequently quoted and much-debated article, “Law and Truth: On Qumran-Sadducean and Rabbinic Views of Law,” Daniel R. Schwartz raises an interesting and important question. Schwartz challenges the common use of the term “priestly halakhah” to portray the non-Pharisaic legal system exhibited by the Dead Sea Scrolls ...

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5. Halakhah from Qumran to the Mishnah: Concluding Remarks

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pp. 129-140

In his article mentioned at the outset of this book, “The History of Halakhah and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Jacob Sussman portrayed the Sadducee halakhah as stringent, as opposed to the Pharisaic halakhah, which he saw as tending to be more lenient. Sussman was following in the footsteps of Abraham Geiger, ...

Appendix of Hebrew Texts

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pp. 141-150


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pp. 151-186


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pp. 187-202

Index of Primary Sources

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pp. 203-208

General Index

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pp. 209-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780520945036
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520259102

Page Count: 234
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies
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OCLC Number: 667012663
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Halakhah in the Making

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Subject Headings

  • Jewish law -- History -- To 1500.
  • Qumran community.
  • Dead Sea scrolls.
  • Rabbinical literature -- History and criticism.
  • Judaism -- History -- To 70 A.D.
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