In March, Oxford University Press will release “From Maimonides to Microsoft: The Jewish Law of Copyright Since the Birth of Print” by Neil Weinstock Netanel (University of California at Los Angeles School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
Jewish copyright law is a rich body of jurisprudence that developed in parallel with modern copyright laws and the book privileges that preceded them. Jewish copyright law owes its origins to a reprinting ban that the Rome rabbinic court issued for three books of Hebrew grammar in 1518. It continues to be applied today, notably in a rabbinic ruling outlawing pirated software, issued at Microsoft’s request.
In From Maimonides to Microsoft, Professor Netanel traces the historical development of Jewish copyright law by comparing rabbinic reprinting bans with secular and papal book privileges and by relaying the stories of dramatic disputes among publishers of books of Jewish learning and liturgy. He describes each dispute in its historical context and examines the rabbinic rulings that sought to resolve it. Remarkably, the rabbinic reprinting bans and copyright rulings address some of the same issues that animate copyright jurisprudence today: Is copyright a property right or just a right to receive fair compensation? How long should copyrights last? What purposes does copyright serve? While Jewish copyright law has borrowed from its secular law counterpart at key junctures, it fashions strikingly different answers to those key questions.
The story of Jewish copyright law also intertwines with the history of the Jewish book trade and with steadfast efforts of rabbinic leaders to maintain their authority to regulate that trade in the face of the dramatic erosion of Jewish communal autonomy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This book will thus be of considerable interest to students of Jewish law and history as well as copyright scholars and practitioners.
In December, Routledge will release “Jewish Law Annual Volume 21” edited by Berachyahu Lifshitz (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:
Volume 21 of The Jewish Law Annual adds to the growing list of articles on
Jewish law that have been published in volumes 1- 20 of this series, providing English-speaking readers with scholarly articles presenting jurisprudential, historical, textual and comparative analysis of issues in Jewish law.
In October, Routledge will release “Rabbis of our Time: Authorities of Judaism in the Religious and Political Ferment of Modern Times” by Marek Cejka (Institute of International Relations, Prague) and Roman Koran (Hebrew translator and Judaism researcher). The publisher’s description follows:
The term ‘rabbi’ predominantly denotes Jewish men qualified to interpret the Torah and apply halacha, or those entrusted with the religious leadership of a Jewish community. However, the role of the rabbi has been understood differently across the Jewish world. While in Israel they control legally powerful rabbinical courts and major religious political parties, in the Jewish communities of the Diaspora this role is often limited by legal regulations of individual countries. However, the significance of past and present rabbis and their religious and political influence endures across the world.
Rabbis of Our Time provides a comprehensive overview of the most influential rabbinical authorities of Judaism in the 20th and 21st Century. Through focussing on the most theologically influential rabbis of the contemporary era and examining their political impact, it opens a broader discussion of the relationship between Judaism and politics. It looks at the various centres of current Judaism and Jewish thinking, especially the State of Israel and the USA, as well as locating rabbis in various time periods. Through interviews and extracts from religious texts and books authored by rabbis, readers will discover more about a range of rabbis, from those before the formation of Israel to the most famous Chief Rabbis of Israel, as well as those who did not reach the highest state religious functions, but influenced the relation between Judaism and Israel by other means. The rabbis selected represent all major contemporary streams of Judaism, from ultra-Orthodox/Haredi to Reform and Liberal currents, and together create a broader picture of the scope of contemporary Jewish thinking in a theological and political context.
In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and the Foundation of Jewish Political Thought” by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz (Shalem Center, Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:
This book is a scholarly examination of the political thought of Rabbi Meir (Maharam) of Rothenburg, the most important thirteenth century German Rabbi who was associated with the Pietist movement of the period. From the Maharam’s responsa on community matters, a coherent political thought emerges that exercised nearly unprecedented influence on European Jewish communities up to the Jewish Emancipation. Rabbi Meir’s extremely sophisticated attempt to balance the demands of the community against those of the individual was facilitated by a characteristic three-tiered structure to his political thought: concrete legal rules supported by value-laden legal principles built upon his general religious ideology. Through a systematic analysis of the Maharam’s political thought, Isaac Lifshitz offers an original contribution to Jewish studies, political theory, and the study of legal philosophy. By considering the legal and theological underpinnings of one of Medieval Jewry’s most influential figures, it also makes a contribution to the history of ideas in the Medieval period.
In September, Cambridge University Press will release “Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues” by J. David Bleich (Yeshiva University) and Arthur J. Jacobson (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows:
Organized as a series of authoritative discussions, this book presents the application of Jewish law – or Halakhah – to contemporary social and political issues. Beginning with the principle of divine revelation, it describes the contents and canons of interpretation of Jewish law. Though divinely received, the law must still be interpreted and “completed” by human minds, often leading to the conundrum of divergent but equally authentic interpretations. Examining topics from divorce to war and from rabbinic confidentiality to cloning, this book carefully delineates the issues presented in each case, showing the various positions taken by rabbinic scholars, clarifying areas of divergence, and analyzing reasons for disagreement. Written by widely-recognized scholars of both Jewish and secular law, this book will be an invaluable source for all who seek authoritative guidance in understanding traditional Jewish law and practice.
This month, Princeton University Press releases Maimonides: Life and Thought, by Moshe Halbertal (NYU). The publisher’s description follows:
Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his interpretation of Jewish tradition.
Moshe Halbertal vividly describes Maimonides’s childhood in Muslim Spain, his family’s flight to North Africa to escape persecution, and their eventual resettling in Egypt. He draws on Maimonides’s letters and the testimonies of his contemporaries, both Muslims and Jews, to offer new insights into his personality and the circumstances that shaped his thinking. Halbertal then turns to Maimonides’s legal and philosophical work, analyzing his three great books–Commentary on the Mishnah, the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide of the Perplexed. He discusses Maimonides’s battle against all attempts to personify God, his conviction that God’s presence in the world is mediated through the natural order rather than through miracles, and his locating of philosophy and science at the summit of the religious life of Torah. Halbertal examines Maimonides’s philosophical positions on fundamental questions such as the nature and limits of religious language, creation and nature, prophecy, providence, the problem of evil, and the meaning of the commandments.
A stunning achievement, Maimonides offers an unparalleled look at the life and thought of this important Jewish philosopher, scholar, and theologian.
In June, Cambridge University Press will release “The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism” by Gregg E. Gardner (University of British Columbia, Vancouver). The publisher’s description follows:
This book examines the origins of communal and institutional almsgiving in rabbinic Judaism. It undertakes a close reading of foundational rabbinic texts (Mishnah, Tosefta, Tannaitic Midrashim) and places their discourses on organized giving in their second to third century C.E. contexts. Gregg E. Gardner finds that Tannaim promoted giving through the soup kitchen (tamhui) and charity fund (quppa), which enabled anonymous and collective support for the poor. This protected the dignity of the poor and provided an alternative to begging, which benefited the community as a whole – poor and non-poor alike. By contrast, later Jewish and Christian writings (from the fourth to fifth centuries) would see organized charity as a means to promote their own religious authority. This book contributes to the study of Jews and Judaism, history of religions, biblical studies, and ethics.
On April 20, the Jewish Center in New York will host its annual Hanno Mott Lecture on Jewish Ethics. This year’s lecture is entitled “How Should Our Faith Inform The Laws of A Liberal Democracy?” The lecture will feature a conversation between Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Professor Robert George (Princeton University), and Professor Michael Helfand (Pepperdine University School of Law):
The Annual Hanno Mott Lecture on Jewish Ethics is dedicated to exploring the intersection of Jewish Law and secular ethics . Previous lectures have addressed the End of Life debate and the religious and social implication of cloning. This years lecture will highlight Supreme Court decisions both in America and Israel that directly confront religious values in Liberal Democracies and what the relationship between these two modalities should be. This event is free and open to the public.
Details and registration can be found here.
This February, Oxford University Press will release “The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition” by Roberta Rosenthal Kwall (DePaul University College of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
A myth exists that Jews can embrace the cultural components of Judaism without appreciating the legal aspects of the Jewish tradition. This myth suggests that law and culture are independent of one another. In reality, however, much of Jewish culture has a basis in Jewish law. Similarly, Jewish law produces Jewish culture. A cultural analysis paradigm provides a useful way of understanding the Jewish tradition as the product of both legal precepts and cultural elements. This paradigm sees law and culture as inextricably intertwined and historically specific. This perspective also emphasizes the human element of law’s composition and the role of existing power dynamics in shaping Jewish law.
In light of this inevitable intersection between culture and law, The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition argues that Jewish culture is shallow unless it is grounded in Jewish law. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall develops and applies a cultural analysis paradigm to the Jewish tradition that departs from the understanding of Jewish law solely as the embodiment of Divine command. Her paradigm explains why both law and culture must matter to those interested in forging meaningful Jewish identity and transmitting the tradition.
In January, Oxford University Press will release “The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law” edited by Brent Strawn (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law (OEBL) provides the most up-to-date and extensive treatment of the Bible and law yet attempted, both updating and expanding the scope of previous scholarship in the field. In comprehensive overviews, scholars at the forefront of biblical studies and law address three foci: biblical law itself–its nature, collections, and genres; the ancient contexts of biblical law, throughout the ancient Mediterranean (ancient Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, and Early Jewish); and the afterlife and influence of biblical law in antiquity and in modern jurisprudence around the world. Essays include treatments of the Book of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Greek Law, and the Laws of Hammurapi, but also testimony and witness, property, ritual, rhetoric, gender, and sexual legislation.