Abstract

Against a constellation of Western traditions which crave, as Hilary Putnam has written, access to the "God's-Eye View," the rabbinic tradition has consistently constituted itself through language. For the rabbis, although the clarity of prophetic experience, and the priviliged access to the divine, may have passed, the experience of loss neither gives way to despair, nor to the abandonment of the Law. Adopting the argument of Gillian Rose's Mourning Becomes the Law, and through the appropriation of its title phrase as a hermeneutic principle, loss and "mourning," within the rabbinic legal tradition, serve as the very preconditions for interpretation. Indeed, midrashic meditations in the Talmud Bavli on the death of Moses, evidence how, in the loss which precedes every hermeneutic engagement, mourning "becomes" the Law--that is, in the Law's continual re-articulation and re-interpretation. Indeed the rabbinic commitment to the contingency of interpretation leads not to a craving for a certainty no longer available, but rather to recuperations, and the acknowledgement of the sufficiency and authority of these recuperations--even in their multiplicity. Thus a version of law emerges--the halakha--in which multiplicity and the sacred, the polysemic and the ethical come together.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4286
Print ISSN
0093-3139
Pages
pp. 114-139
Launched on MUSE
2003-10-06
Open Access
No
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