Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-iv

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. v-viii

read more

Foreword

Samuel Moyn and Eugene R. Sheppard, Editors

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-x

It is a privilege to welcome this volume on Jewish legal theories into the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. To both its exponents and enemies, ancient and modern, Judaism places law, law following, and law interpretation at its core. Debates over how to make sense of the law continued for millennia, and the approaches to interpretation that Jews developed have long invited comparison with parallel theories of law in other traditions and in modern secular thought. But since the eighteenth century, it has...

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xii

We would like to thank Samuel Moyn and Eugene Sheppard, the editors of this series; Sylvia Fuks Fried, the executive director of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry at Brandeis University; and Phyllis Deutsch, editor in chief of the University Press of New England, for their support, patience, and very helpful feedback throughout the process of putting this volume together. We are extremely grateful to the many translators for their excellent work on the selections translated into English for the first time in this...

read more

Introduction

Leora Batnitzky and Yonatan Y. Brafman

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xiii-xxxviii

The readings included in this volume all attempt, explicitly or implicitly, to characterize what Jewish law is—hence, the title of the volume, Jewish Legal Theories, by which we simply mean theories of what Jewish law is. As the reader will see, there is not just one modern Jewish legal theory, but rather many diverse and often competing ones. The volume focuses on modern Jewish legal theories from 1670 to 2010. This introductory essay describes continuities between modern Jewish legal theories and their premodern predecessors, as well as affinities...

read more

I | Jewish Law and the Rise of the Modern Nation-State

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-2

Each of the thinkers included in part 1 grapple in one way or another with what Jewish law can and might be once Jews are living in a modern state in which they are treated legally as individuals and not as part of a Jewish collective. The famous statement by Stanislas Marie Adélaïde, comte de ClermontTonnerre, to the French assembly in 1789 that “one must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation, but one must give them everything as individuals; they must become citizens”1 reflects what became a new political and religious...

read more

1 | Benedict de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 3-6

Benedict de Spinoza (1632–77) was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1656. His Theological-Political Treatise was published anonymously in 1670. The Treatise raises doubts about the truth of revealed religion generally, and Spinoza is particularly critical of any notion of religious law that implies that there is a personal, supernatural God who communicates God’s will to people. Spinoza excoriates the notion that God would elect the Jews or any other people, and in this context he denies that Jewish law is divine in origin. Divine law, Spinoza claims, is by definition universal, just as the laws of nature are. Jewish law,...

read more

2 | Selections from the Writings of Moses Mendelssohn and an Associated Text

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 7-14

Known as the Socrates of Berlin, Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86) was challenged to defend Judaism philosophically or convert to Christianity. His 1783 Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism offers a sustained argument for Judaism’s rationality and the complementarity of the Jewish religion and modern citizenship, which was not yet a reality. In the excerpts of Jerusalem included here, Mendelssohn affirms Spinoza’s assertion that after the destruction of the Hebrew Commonwealth, Jewish law has no political dimension. But in contrast to Spinoza, Mendelssohn...

read more

3 | Abraham Geiger, Posthumous Writings

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 15-19

Writing after the emancipation of the Jews in 1812, Abraham Geiger (1810–74) served as a rabbi in several Reform congregations and was one of the early founders of the academic study of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums). Geiger’s theological and scholarly undertakings converge in his commitment to applying modern historical methods to the study of Judaism. In 1840, Geiger assumed a rabbinic position in Breslau. His response to the opposition of Rabbi Solomon Tiktin and his supporters to this appointment provides the context for the selection included here. Geiger invokes both Naḥmanides (Moses ben Naḥman...

read more

4 | Selections from the Writings of Samson Raphael Hirsch

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 20-23

Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888) is generally credited with being the intellectual founder of Neo-Orthodoxy, now more commonly referred to as Modern Orthodoxy, which developed in Germany in response to Jewish reformers. In contrast to Geiger and others, Hirsch contends that Jewish law does not change over time, and neither does its binding nature for Jews. The first selection from Hirsch’s writings in this volume comes from Horeb, his theological treatise of 1838, in which he maintains that the Oral Torah and the Written Torah were revealed together and...

read more

5 | Zacharias Frankel, “Judicial Evidence According to Mosaic Talmudic Law”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 24-26

A rabbi and a historian of Judaism, Zacharias Frankel (1801–75) was one of the founders of the school of Positive-Historical Judaism, which later became known in the United States as Conservative Judaism. Like other proponents of PositiveHistorical Judaism, Frankel contends that Geiger and other Jewish reformers depict Jewish history, especially the history of Jewish law, in wholly passive terms. In contrast, Frankel maintains that the history of Jewish law is an expression of the organic growth of the Jewish people’s spirit over time. In the selections included...

read more

6 | Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 27-28

Heinrich Graetz (1817–91) began his career dedicated to continuing the fight against reform and as a student of Samson Raphael Hirsch. Unlike Hirsch, however, Graetz believed that the only way to take on the reformers was on their own terms. He embraced historical scholarship to show that Geiger’s vision of Judaism was narrow and incomplete, especially when it came to his rejection of the modern relevance of Jewish law. The author of the eleven-volume History of the Jews, from which the selection here is taken, Graetz continues to be hailed as one of...

read more

7 | Selections from the Writings of Hermann Cohen

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 29-34

Initially a student of Graetz’s at the Breslau Jewish Theological Seminary, Hermann Cohen (1842–1918) pursued a career in philosophy. Remarkably for a Jew who remained openly Jewish, Cohen became a professor of philosophy at the University of Marburg and was the founder of a highly influential philosophical school known as Marburg Neo-Kantianism. Cohen sought to resuscitate a broad concept of law and make it the center of ethics. The first selection is from Cohen’s 1904 treatise on ethics. Here, Cohen argues that law constitutes the state and gives...

read more

8 | Menachem Elon, “The Legal System of Jewish Law”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 35-37

Menachem Elon (1923–2013) was born in Germany and immigrated to Palestine in 1935. He taught law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem until he was appointed to Israel’s Supreme Court in 1977, where he served until his retirement in 1993. His three-volume study, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles, originally published in Hebrew in 1973, remains the seminal textbook on Jewish law. Elon was an advocate of Mishpat Ivri (Hebrew Law), which he defines “as referring to those matters of Jewish law whose equivalent is dealt with in modem legal systems—matters...

read more

9 | Selections from the Writings of Robert Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 38-42

Robert Cover (1943–86) taught at Yale Law School from 1972 until his untimely death in 1986. His 1983 essay “Nomos and Narrative,” an excerpt from which appears here, rejects different forms of legal positivism that deny the political and moral framework that, Cover argues, constitutes law and legal meaning. Law is inextricably tied to the stories we tell about ourselves, and Cover maintains that the enforcement of these stories is almost always bound to coercion and violence. In his posthumously published 1987 essay, “Obligation: A Jewish Jurisprudence of...

read more

II | Eastern European Views of Law Dissolution of Jewish Communal Power

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 43-44

Beginning in 1764 with the dissolution of the Council of the Four Lands by the Polish government and continuing throughout the eighteenth century as the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires absorbed all of the previously independent countries of Eastern and Central Europe, Jewish communal structures weakened, and Jewish communities increasingly lost aspects of the political autonomy that they had previously possessed. Jewish law, which had regulated many parts of such communities’ public life, ceded that role to...

read more

10 | Selections from the Writings of Eliyahu of Vilna and Associated Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 45-50

Eliyahu of Vilna (1720–97), also known as the Vilna Gaon (the genius of Vilna), may be considered one of the founders of modern Judaism.2 Precisely at the time when Jewish communal authority was disintegrating, Eliyahu’s approach to Jewish law emphasized its study as opposed to its implementation. Eliyahu stressed the authority of rabbinic interpreters, which he identified with the Oral Torah, over scripture, the Written Torah, in determining Jewish law. Furthermore, as described by his student Ḥayyim of Volozhin, he also rejected the mediation of Jewish law by...

read more

11 | Hayyim of Volozhin, The Soul of Life

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 51-54

Ḥayyim of Volozhin (1749–1821) was a disciple of Eliyahu of Vilna and the founder of the Etz Ḥayyim Yeshiva in Volozhin, which institutionalized their shared vision of the dedicated study of Jewish law disconnected from any practical application of that study.31 Rather than producing a code of Jewish law, Ḥayyim of Volozhin composed Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim (The soul of life), which provides the theoretical underpinnings for study of the Talmud and its interpreters. On the one hand, drawing from Kabbalistic ideas, Ḥayyim of Volozhin asserts that the commandments derive...

read more

12 | Selections from the Writings of Shneur Zalman of Liady

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 55-57

Shneur Zalman of Liady (c. 1745–1812) is a major figure in Hasidism. At least in part, Hasidism arose in response to the elitist intellectualism that characterized Lithuanian Judaism, epitomized by Eliyahu of Vilna. In contrast to the view of Ḥayyim of Volozhin, Shneur Zalman privileges other commandments over Torah study; it is their performance that truly expresses love and fear of God. Yet Shneur Zalman, who founded Ḥabad Hasidism, also pushes back against certain anti-intellectual and antinomian tendencies within Hasidism. He propounds a theology,...

read more

13 | Nahman Krochmal, Guide of the Perplexed of the Age

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 58-64

Naḥman Krochmal (1785–1840) was a major influence on the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) in Eastern Europe. The selections below are from Krochmal’s Guide of the Perplexed of the Age, published posthumously in 1851. Krochmal interprets Judaism in the intellectual terms of modern German philosophy, while preserving a role for the commandments and accounting for features of Jewish law. In the first selection presented here, he offers a general account of religion as faith in the spiritual as the source of all things, which may be expressed at...

read more

14 | Yisrael (Lipkin) Salanter, Light of Israel

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 65-68

Yisrael (Lipkin) Salanter (1810–83) founded the Musar movement, which focused on individual ethical formation. He promoted this movement through his journal, Tevunah: Kevutzat Ḥiddushei Torah Mi-Ḥakhmei u-Gedolei Yisra’el (Wisdom: collection of Torah novellae from the sages and great ones of Israel), in which the selections below were originally published. Salanter claims that the task of the human being is to master his negative character traits and replace them with positive ones. Though in principle Salanter draws a distinction between this process...

read more

15 | Hayyim Soloveitchik, Novellae and Clarifications on Maimonides

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 69-73

Ḥayyim Soloveitchik (1853–1918), who taught at the Etz Ḥayyim Yeshiva in Volozhin before assuming the position of rabbi of the town of Brest in Belarus, pioneered a novel approach to the study of Talmud and other rabbinic texts, especially Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. Called alternatively “conceptualism,” “the analytic movement,” or simply “the Brisker method” (after the name for Brest in Yiddish), it is characterized by the construction of general, abstract categories to understand particular legal rules or positions. Legal disputes are thus analyzed...

read more

16 | Shimon Shkop, Novellae on Tractates Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia, and Bava Batra

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 74-76

Shimon Shkop (1860–1939) studied with Ḥayyim Soloveitchik at the Etz Ḥayyim Yeshiva in Volozhin and later went on to head several other yeshivot, including one in Telisia, Lithuania. Shkop’s method of study is significantly influenced by the Brisker method, insofar as it engages in theoretical analysis as opposed to practical rulings and aims to develop abstract categories to use in understanding particular legal rules and positions. However, Shkop’s efforts to rationalize and systematize Jewish law extend beyond those of Soloveitchik. For example, in the...

read more

17 | Selections from the Writings of Yisrael Meir Kagan and Associated Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 77-83

Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838–1933), often referred to as Ḥafetz Ḥayyim (Desirer of life), which is also the title of one of his famous works, was a scholar, communal leader, and head of the yeshiva in Radin, Lithuania. His approach to Jewish law is marked by two complementary movements that can be referred to as the ethicization of law and the legalization of ethics.97 In Mishnah Berurah, a commentary on the portions of the Shulḥan Arukh that concern everyday Jewish life, Kagan often avoids taking sides in disputes between earlier authorities. Instead, he shows...

read more

18 | Selections from the Writings of Joseph B. Soloveitchik

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 84-92

Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903–93), the grandson of Ḥayyim Soloveitchik, was the central rabbinic figure of American Modern Orthodoxy, a movement that aims to synthesize traditional Jewish observance with engagement with modern culture. Soloveitchik’s thought is itself an attempt to synthesize his grandfather’s approach to Jewish law (the Brisker method) with Neo-Kantian philosophy of the early twentieth century. For example, in the first selection presented here, Soloveitchik offers an account of Jewish law as the expression of religious subjectivity and then...

read more

III | Ultra-Orthodoxy and the Rejection of the Modern Nation-State

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 93-94

In contrast to the authors in part 2, not all theorists of Jewish law accepted the privatization of Judaism and the construction of Judaism as a religious confession. A group of rabbinic decisors and ideologues—many, though not all, of whom lived in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire—rejected pressures to culturally integrate from the non-Jewish government and efforts to religiously reform by other Jews. Instead, they articulated a new form of Judaism—Ultra-Orthodoxy—that asserted the holistic integrity of Jewish...

read more

19 | Selections from the Writings of Moshe Sofer and Associated Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 95-107

Moshe Sofer (1762–1839) was the leader of what would become known as Orthodox Judaism in its formative struggles against efforts to reform Jewish practice. Born in Frankfurt am Main, in Germany, he served as the rabbi in several cities in Hungary before assuming the position of rabbi of Pressburg, where he established an important yeshiva as well as a rabbinical dynasty. Called by the name of his collection of responsa, Ḥatam Sofer (Seal of the scribe), his approach to Jewish law is characterized by a strict conservatism that is expressed in a statement that...

read more

20 | Selections from the Writings of Akiva Yosef Schlesinger and an Associated Text

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 108-117

Akiva Yosef Schlesinger (1837–1922) was an ideologue and publicist of UltraOrthodoxy. At the yeshiva at Pressburg, Schlesinger was a student of Avraham Shemuel Binyamin Sofer, the son of Moshe Sofer. Schlesinger was instrumental in mobilizing a self-identified community under the banner of the elder Sofer’s conservative approach to Jewish law. His most famous work, Lev ha-Ivri (The Hebrew heart), is in part a commentary on Sofer’s testament (included in the previous selection), now presented as authoritative for the entire Jewish community. But,...

read more

21 | Moshe Shemuel Glasner, Fourth Generation

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 118-124

Moshe Shemuel Glasner (1856–1924), the great-grandson of Moshe Sofer, was the chief rabbi of Klausenberg, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then Romania. While Glasner continued his family’s tradition of rabbinic erudition and leadership, he also deviated from it. Instead of conservatism, his view of Jewish law emphasizes human creativity. Glasner argues that just as technological invention draws on nature to serve human needs, rabbinic interpretation mines scripture to adapt Jewish law to changed circumstances. Indeed, similar to the view of...

read more

22 | Isaac Breuer, “The Philosophical Foundations of Jewish and of Modern Law”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 125-129

Isaac Breuer (1883–1946), grandson of Samson Raphael Hirsch, was a Jewish philosopher and communal activist. Breuer was born in Hungary, but his family moved to Frankfurt am Main, Germany, when his father ascended to Hirsch’s former position as the rabbi of the Orthodox community. Breuer studied philosophy at a number of universities before receiving a doctorate in law from the University of Strasbourg. His professional life was spent mainly in the service of Agudat Israel, the main organization for Central and Eastern European Orthodoxy. He also...

read more

23 | Selections from the Writings of Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 130-139

Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (1878–1953) was the major Jewish legal authority for Ultra-Orthodoxy in the State of Israel. Born in Lithuania, he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1933. Although he never held an official rabbinic position in Palestine or Israel, he become known through his responsa and scholarship, which were printed under the title Ḥazon Ish (Vision of man), a term often used to refer to him. Karelitz’s worldview is focused exclusively on the study and practice of Jewish law. Indeed, in his posthumously published theological work Emunah u-Vitaḥon...

read more

24 | Moshe Feinstein, Epistles of Moshe

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 140-145

Moshe Feinstein (1895–1986) was among the major Jewish legal authorities for Orthodox Jews in the United States. Born near Minsk in Russia, he held a rabbinic position in the town of Luban until 1936, when he immigrated to the United States due to pressure from the Communist government. From 1938 until the end of his life, he served as the head of Mesivta Teferet Jerusalem on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was the president of the Union of American Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada as well as the chairman of the Council of Torah...

read more

25 | Selections from the Writings of Yoel Teitelbaum and Associated Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 146-160

Yoel Teitelbaum (1887–1979) was the founder of the Satmar Hasidic dynasty and an ardent opponent of Zionism. He became the rabbi of the Romanian town of Szatmár in 1934. In 1944 he escaped the Holocaust and went to Mandatory Palestine, reaching the United States in 1947. There he reestablished his Hasidic court in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Though Satmar was a small Hasidic sect before World War II, in the United States it absorbed many other small sects that had been nearly destroyed. Satmar is now the largest Hasidic sect and has...

read more

IV | Jewish Law and the State of Israel

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 161-162

The nine thinkers included in part 4 all grapple with the question of what role Jewish law could or should have within a modern Jewish state. With the exception of Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who insists on absolute separation between Jewish law and the laws of the state, all of the thinkers included in this part contend that Jewish law ought to be, in one form or another, the law that governs the Jewish state.

Nevertheless, despite this general agreement (again, with the exception of...

read more

26 | Selections from the Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-177

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935)—also known as Ra’ayah (for Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen), or Ha-Rav—was born in Latvia and studied at the Etz Ḥayyim Yeshiva in Volozhin.1 In 1904 he immigrated to Palestine, and in 1924 the British appointed him chief rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, a position he held until his death, after the establishment of the State of Israel. Often considered the father of religious Zionism, Kook sought to reconcile secular Zionism’s goal of working and settling on the land with traditional Judaism’s messianic hope and focus on...

read more

27 | Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, Uziel’s Rulings

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 178-183

Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel (1880–1953) was born and raised in Jerusalem. Descended from a renowned Sephardic rabbinical family, Uziel served as Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi from 1938 until his death in 1953. While the Modern Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox traditionalist movements that developed in Europe defined themselves as opposed to what they regarded as Reform Judaism’s false equation of Judaism with universal justice, modern Sephardic rabbis and decisors felt no tension between traditionalism and the modern quest for social justice. This...

read more

28 | Shlomo Goren, “Is a Torah Constitution Possible?”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 184-195

Born in Poland, Shlomo Goren (formerly Grontchik; 1918–94) immigrated to Palestine in 1925. He fought for the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary force in Mandatory Palestine, beginning in 1936, in the War of Independence in 1948, and for the Israeli Defense Forces in the Six-Day War in 1967—during which he was among the soldiers who liberated the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Goren headed the Rabbinate for the Israeli Defense Forces from 1948 to 1968, and he served as chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Israel from 1972 to 1983. The selections included here are...

read more

29 | Isaac Halevi Herzog, Constitution and Law in a Jewish State According to the Torah

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 196-203

Born in Poland, Isaac Halevi Herzog (1886–1959) was educated in London and Paris. He served as chief rabbi of Ireland from 1922 to 1935. After the death of Abraham Isaac Kook, Herzog immigrated to Palestine. There he became the second chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Mandatory Palestine and then, in 1948, the first chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Israel, a post he held until his death in 1959. In the first selection included here, Herzog discusses the relation between Torah law and the law of the state. He maintains that the State of Israel must be governed by Torah law, but...

read more

30 | Yeshayahu Leibowitz, “The Religious Significance of the State of Israel”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 204-205

Born in Riga, Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903–94) studied chemistry and philosophy in Berlin and then medicine in Basel. He immigrated to Palestine in 1934. For almost sixty years, Leibowitz taught courses in biochemistry, the history of science, and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although he continually affirmed his commitment to Zionism, Leibowitz became a harsh critic of the way in which Judaism was used as a political tool in the Israeli state. His criticism intensified in 1967 after Israel gained control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as the...

read more

31 | Eliezer Berkovits, Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakhah

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 206-210

Born in Romania, Berkovits (1908–92) was educated in Pressburg and Berlin, where he received rabbinical ordination and a doctorate in philosophy. He served as a rabbi in England, Australia, and the United States, where he also held an academic position. He lived in Israel for the last seventeen years of his life. In the selection included here, Berkovits offers a succinct definition of Jewish law, which he describes as a means for realizing the moral and social ideals of the Torah in reality. He follows Naḥmanides in arguing that the specific rules of Jewish law are...

read more

32 | Shaul Yisraeli, Pillar of the Right

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 211-215

Shaul Yisraeli (1909–95) was born in Belarus. With the help of Abraham Isaac Kook, Yisraeli immigrated to Palestine in 1934, where he studied with Kook at his yeshiva, Merkaz Harav. When Kook died the following year, Yisraeli was appointed joint head of the yeshiva. In 1965 Yisraeli became a judge of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem. He founded and edited the journal Ha-Torah ve-ha-Medinah (Torah and the state). In the selection included here, Yisraeli first argues for the political and institutional Jewish legal authority of the Chief Rabbinate

read more

33 | Eliezer Waldenberg, Laws of the State

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 216-223

Eliezer Waldenberg (1915–2006) was born and died in Jerusalem, where he served on the Supreme Rabbinical Court and was also the rabbi of Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Waldenberg is best known for his responsa on biomedical issues, such as abortion, in vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments, and euthanasia. In 1952, he published a comprehensive legal treatise on the relationship between Jewish law and the laws of the State of Israel. In contrast to the attempts at moderation by Shlomo Goren and Isaac Halevi Herzog in their conceptions of the relationship...

read more

34 | Ovadiah Yosef, “Regarding Women’s Recital of the Blessing over the Lulav and Other Time-Bound Positive Commandments”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 224-232

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Ovadiah Yosef (1920–2013) immigrated to Palestine at the age of four. In 1947, he moved to Cairo, Egypt, where he headed a rabbinical court and a yeshiva. He returned to Israel in 1950 and was appointed the chief Sephardic rabbi in 1973. Yosef energized the Jewish, working-class, Sephardic public during his tenure as chief rabbi and is often credited with the political success of the Israeli political party Shas, which claims to represent Israel’s Sephardic citizens. In the selection included here, Yosef rules that women may not say a blessing before...

read more

V | Jewish Feminist Views of Law

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 233-234

In her 1982 essay, “The Right Question is Theological,” the Jewish feminist theologian Judith Plaskow (b. 1947) urged her readers to move away from discrete questions about the compatibility of Jewish law and feminism and to turn instead to the theological premises of Jewish law as such. According to Plaskow, “women’s Otherness is far more basic than the laws in which it [this otherness] finds expression.”1 Plaskow’s essay spurred feminist Jewish thinkers to raise anew the question of what Jewish law is. And in doing so,...

read more

35 | Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 235-239

Rachel Adler (b. 1943) has long been associated with the Reform movement’s Los Angeles campus of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. She argues that liberal Jews need Jewish law and that Jewish law, far from being the sole possession of Orthodoxy, needs liberal Jews to reimagine it. In describing her proactive, liberal, and feminist approach, Adler criticizes classical Jewish law and previous liberal attempts to reform it. In their place she maintains that halakhah as such is not mere rules and procedures but a comprehensive life world. Drawing...

read more

36 | Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 240-243

After a long and distinguished career, Tamar Ross (b. 1938) retired from Bar Ilan University’s Department of Philosophy, but she continues to teach at religious institutions in Israel. Along with her interest in Jewish feminist theology, Ross is committed to a theology of ongoing revelation for which she draws inspiration largely from the thought of Abraham Isaac Kook. In the selection included here, Ross argues that the dynamism of narrative should always be balanced by the constraints and cohesion reflected in a commitment to divine transcendence, the consensus of...

read more

37 | Tova Hartman, Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism: Resistance and Accommodation

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 244-247

A specialist in gender studies, religion, and psychology, Tova Hartman (b. 1957) taught at Bar Ilan University before joining the law faculty of Kiryat Ono Academic College, in Jerusalem. In the selections included here, Hartman provides a gendercritical reading of a number of twentieth-century rabbinic responsa to women’s efforts to attain equality within Jewish law, including Abraham Isaac Kook’s responsum concerning women’s voting. She detects an eschewal of “halakhic” arguments for “meta-halakhic” arguments that share in the rhetoric of patriarchical backlash...

read more

38 | Ronit Irshai, “Toward a Gender Critical Approach to the Philosophy of Jewish Law (Halakhah)”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 248-252

A student of Tamar Ross, Ronit Irshai (b. 1965) teaches gender studies and Jewish law at Bar Ilan and the Hebrew Universities. Building on while also moving beyond the work of Rachel Adler, Ross, Tova Hartman, and Robert Cover, Irshai rejects the notion that Jewish law is a closed system that must rely on its internal rules and processes. To make this case, she proposes looking to the values that underlie Jewish law. She suggests that instead of moving only from the direction of narrative to nomos, Jewish feminists must also move from nomos to narrative. In...

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 253-260