Tag Archives: Jewish Law

Diamond, “Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon”

In July, Cambridge University Press will release Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon, by James A. Daimond (University of Waterloo, Ontario). The publisher’s description follows:

Jewish thought since the Middle Ages can be regarded as a sustained dialogue with Moses Maimonides, regardless of the different social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which it was conducted. Much of Jewish intellectual history can be viewed as a series of engagements with him, fueled by the kind of “Jewish” rabbinic and esoteric writing Maimonides practiced. This book examines a wide range of theologians, philosophers, and exegetes who share a passionate engagement with Maimonides, assaulting, adopting, subverting, or adapting his philosophical and jurisprudential thought. This ongoing enterprise is critical to any appreciation of the broader scope of Jewish law, philosophy, biblical interpretation, and Kabbalah. Maimonides’s legal, philosophical, and exegetical corpus became canonical in the sense that many subsequent Jewish thinkers were compelled to struggle with it in order to advance their own thought. As such, Maimonides joins fundamental Jewish canon alongside the Bible, the Talmud, and the Zohar.

Coogan, “The Ten Commandments”

This month, Yale University Press released The Ten Commandments: A Short 9780300178715History of an Ancient Text, by Michael Coogan (Harvard Divinity School). The publisher’s description follows:

In this lively and provocative book, Michael Coogan guides readers into the ancient past to examine the iconic Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue. How, among all the laws reportedly given on Mount Sinai, did the Ten Commandments become the Ten Commandments? When did that happen? There are several versions of the Decalogue in the Old Testament, so how have different groups determined which is the most authoritative? Why were different versions created?

Coogan discusses the meanings the Ten Commandments had for audiences in biblical times and observes that the form of the ten proscriptions and prohibitions was not fixed—as one would expect since they were purported to have come directly from God—nor were the Commandments always strictly observed. In later times as well, Jews and especially Christians ignored and even rejected some of the prohibitions, although the New Testament clearly acknowledges the special status of the Ten Commandments. Today it is plain that some of the values enshrined in the Decalogue are no longer defensible, such as the ownership of slaves and the labeling of women as men’s property. Yet in line with biblical precedents, the author concludes that while a literal observance of the Ten Commandments is misguided, some of their underlying ideals remain valid in a modern context.

Center Sponsors Successful Joint Colloquium with Villanova Law School

Here’s an article, from the St. John’s Law School website, on the inaugural session of the Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion, which the Center hosted with Villanova Law School this semester. The Joint Colloquium, which featured leading law and religion scholars, used innovative “virtual classroom” technology to allow students and faculty at both schools to participate simultaneously through a synchronous video link.

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Joint Colloquium with Michael Walzer

From the article:

Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies) discussed the ethics of war in classical and contemporary Jewish law. Legal historian Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) explained how the availability of the corporate form empowered African-American congregations in the early national period. Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame University School of Law) explored the relationship between Islamic law and contemporary ideas about constitutionalism and human rights. Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School) and Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge University) both presented papers on Originalism. Greenawalt argued that factors other than the original understanding inevitably will and should play an important role in constitutional interpretation. Drakeman offered a methodological middle ground, one that takes account of both original intent and original meaning. Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law) critiqued the standard account of American religious freedom, and asked whether religious freedom in America today is suffering a decline.

The virtual classroom enriched the discussions by allowing for a fruitful exchange between participants at the two host schools. After the speakers presented their papers, students had the opportunity to ask questions and present their own insights and opinions on the issues.

This was our first experience with virtual classroom technology, and it was highly successful. You can read more about the joint colloquium, and view a photo gallery, here. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and see you next time!

 

Kanarek, “Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law”

This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law by Jane L. Kanarek (Hebrew College). The publisher’s description follows.biblical

This book presents a new framework for understanding the relationship between biblical narrative and rabbinic law. Drawing on legal theory and models of rabbinic exegesis, Jane L. Kanarek argues for the centrality of biblical narrative in the formation of rabbinic law. Through close readings of selected Talmudic and midrashic texts, Kanarek demonstrates that rabbinic legal readings of narrative scripture are best understood through the framework of a referential exegetical web. She shows that law should be viewed as both prescriptive of normative behavior and as a meaning-making enterprise. By explicating the hermeneutical processes through which biblical narratives become resources for legal norms, this book transforms our understanding of the relationship of law and narrative as well as the ways in which scripture becomes a rabbinic document that conveys legal authority and meaning.

Mirsky, “Rav Kook”

Last month, Yale University Press published Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution by Yehudah Mirsky (Brandeis University).  The publisher’s Rav Kookdescription follows.

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was one of the most influential—and controversial—rabbis of the twentieth century. A visionary writer and outstanding rabbinic leader, Kook was a philosopher, mystic, poet, jurist, communal leader, and veritable saint. The first chief rabbi of Jewish Palestine and the founding theologian of religious Zionism, he struggled to understand and shape his revolutionary times. His life and writings resonate with the defining tensions of Jewish life and thought.

A powerfully original thinker, Rav Kook combined strict traditionalism and an embrace of modernity, Orthodoxy and tolerance, piety and audacity, scholasticism and ecstasy, and passionate nationalism with profound universalism. Though little known in the English-speaking world, his life and teachings are essential to understanding current Israeli politics, contemporary Jewish spirituality, and modern Jewish thought. This biography, the first in English in more than half a century, offers a rich and insightful portrait of the man and his complex legacy. Yehudah Mirsky clears away widespread misunderstandings of Kook’s ideas and provides fresh insights into his personality and worldview. Mirsky demonstrates how Kook’s richly erudite, dazzlingly poetic writings convey a breathtaking vision in which “the old will become new, and the new will become holy.”

Joint Colloquium on Law and Religion

This semester, the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s and Villanova Law School are teaming up to host the Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion. The course invites leading law and religion scholars to make presentations to an audience of selected students and faculty. The schools will be connected in real time by video link so that students and faculty at both schools can participate in a virtual classroom experience. At St. John’s, the colloquium will be hosted by Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami, the Director and Associate Director of the Center. Vice Dean and Professor Michael Moreland will host at Villanova.

The following speakers have confirmed:

January 27, 2014 (at St. John’s)
Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study
The Ethics of Warfare in the Jewish Tradition

February 10, 2014 (at Villanova)
Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania Law School
The African Supplement: Religion, Race, and Corporate Law in the Early Republic

February 24, 2014 (at St. John’s)
Kent Greenawalt, Columbia Law School
Original Understanding: What is Relevant and How Much Does It Matter?

March 17, 2014 (at St. John’s)
Donald L. Drakeman, Cambridge University
Which Original Meaning of the Establishment Clause is the Right One?

March 31, 2014 (at St. John’s)
Kristine Kalanges, Notre Dame Law School
Transcendence and the Just Order

April 14, 2014 (at Villanova)
Steven D. Smith, University of San Diego Law School
Topic TBD

For more information, or if you would like to attend any of the sessions, please email one of the colloquium’s organizers:

Marc DeGirolami | degirolm@stjohns.edu
Mark Movsesian | movsesim@stjohns.edu
Michael Moreland | moreland@law.villanova.edu

Gross, “State Religious Education in Israel: Between Integration and Segregation”

On February 1, Academic Studies Press will publish State Religious Education in Israel: Between Integration and Segregation by Zehavit Gross (Bar-Ilan University, Israel). The publisher’s description follows.

In State Religious Education in Israel, Zehavit Gross analyzes the ideology of state religious education (SRE) in Israel as it is reflected in research, official circulars of the Ministry of Education, and the public discourse published in the religious Zionist press. In particular, Gross examines the ways in which SRE schools socialize their students, creating a population that will become active in particular spheres of Israeli politics.

Ackerman-Lieberman, “The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt”

Next month, Stanford will publish The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and 0804785473Economic Life in Medieval Egypt, by Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman (Vanderbilt University). The publisher’s description follows.

The Cairo Geniza is the largest and richest store of documentary evidence for the medieval Islamic world. This book seeks to revolutionize the way scholars use that treasure trove. Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman draws on legal documents from the Geniza to reconceive of life in the medieval Islamic marketplace. In place of the shared practices broadly understood by scholars to have transcended confessional boundaries, he reveals how Jewish merchants in Egypt employed distinctive trading practices. Highly influenced by Jewish law, these commercial practices served to manifest their Jewish identity in the medieval Islamic context. In light of this distinctiveness, Ackerman-Lieberman proposes an alternative model for using the Geniza documents as a tool for understanding daily life in the medieval Islamic world as a whole.

Jassen, “Scripture and Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls”

Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Scripture and Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls by Alex Jassen (New York University). The publisher’s description follows. Scripture and Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls

This book is the first work of its kind to examine legal exegesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls from the perspective of both the history of Jewish law and early Jewish scriptural interpretation. It shows how the Dead Sea Scrolls transform the meaning and application of biblical law to meet the needs of new historical and cultural settings. The Dead Sea Scrolls legal texts are examined through the comparative lens of law and legal interpretation in Second Temple Judaism and rabbinic Judaism. The creative interpretation of scriptural texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls responds to the tension between seemingly rigid authoritative scripture and the need for law and scripture to be perpetually evolving entities. The ongoing legal interpretation of scriptural texts frames the development of Jewish law at the same time as it shapes the nature of the biblical canon.

Former Legal Counsel to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Lectures on Jewish Law at St. John’s

Last week, the Center for Law and Religion sponsored a visit to St. John’s Law School by Rabbi Yaron Catane, who until recently served as Legal Counsel to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and now deals with religious affairs as a Legal Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office. Rabbi Catane was the guest lecturer in Professor Keith Sharfman’s seminar on Jewish Law. Among other things, Rabbi Catane spoke about the origins, powers, and duties of his office, some of the legal and political issues he encountered there, and the ways in which the Chief Rabbinate’s interpretations of traditional religious texts have been subject to increasing scrutiny by the Israeli Supreme Court. Details of the visit are here.