This month, the Yale University Press will release “Disraeli: The Novel Politician,” by David Cesarani (Royal Holloway, University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
Lauded as a “great Jew,” excoriated by antisemites, and one of Britain’s most renowned prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli has been widely celebrated for his role in Jewish history. But is the perception of him as a Jewish hero accurate? In what ways did he contribute to Jewish causes? In this groundbreaking, lucid investigation of Disraeli’s life and accomplishments, David Cesarani draws a new portrait of one of Europe’s leading nineteenth-century statesmen, a complicated, driven, opportunistic man.
While acknowledging that Disraeli never denied his Jewish lineage, boasted of Jewish achievements, and argued for Jewish civil rights while serving as MP, Cesarani challenges the assumption that Disraeli truly cared about Jewish issues. Instead, his driving personal ambition required him to confront his Jewishness at the same time as he acted opportunistically. By creating a myth of aristocratic Jewish origins for himself, and by arguing that Jews were a superior race, Disraeli boosted his own career but also contributed to the consolidation of some of the most fundamental stereotypes of modern antisemitism.
In March, the Oxford University Press released “Popes and Jews, 1095-1291,” by Rebecca Rist. The publisher’s description follows:
In Popes and Jews, 1095-1291, Rebecca Rist explores the nature and scope of the relationship of the medieval papacy to the Jewish communities of western Europe. Rist analyses papal pronouncements in the context of the substantial and on-going social, political, and economic changes of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, as well the characters and preoccupations of individual pontiffs and the development of Christian theology. She breaks new ground in exploring the other side of the story – Jewish perceptions of both individual popes and the papacy as an institution – through analysis of a wide range of contemporary Hebrew and Latin documents. The author engages with the works of recent scholars in the field of Christian-Jewish relations to examine the social and legal status of Jewish communities in light of the papacy’s authorisation of crusading, prohibitions against money lending, and condemnation of the Talmud, as well as increasing charges of ritual murder and host desecration, the growth of both Christian and Jewish polemical literature, and the advent of the Mendicant Orders.
Popes and Jews, 1095-1291 is an important addition to recent work on medieval Christian-Jewish relations. Furthermore, its subject matter – religious and cultural exchange between Jews and Christians during a period crucial for our understanding of the growth of the Western world, the rise of nation states, and the development of relations between East and West – makes it extremely relevant to today’s multi-cultural and multi-faith society.
In May, Academic Stuies Press will release “The Unique Judicial Vision of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk: Selected Discourses in Meshekh Hokhmah and Or Sameah” by Yitshak Cohen (Ono Academic College Faculty of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
This book analyzes the exceptional normative impact of R. Meir Simcha Hacohen’s Biblical commentary, Meshekh Hokhmah, and his halakhic commentary, Or Sameah. It examines the reliance of the poskim on R. Meir Simcha’s innovations and hermeneutic methods as well as their view of his interpretations that broadened or narrowed the scope of Maimonides’ rulings. The book explores the broad-based judicial principles underlying R. Meir Simcha’s legal decisions and approach to Jewish law. It further examines how his legal creativity was impacted by metahalakhic principles that guided him in addressing changing historical and social realities. The book also considers R. Meir Simcha’s unique attitudes toward gentiles. His approach attests to his innovativeness and his halakhic moderation, as he tried to rule as leniently as possible on matters concerning non-Jews. In this book, R. Meir Simcha is shown to be a truly influential rabbi whose contributions will long be a source of study and discussion.
This month, Urim Publications will release “Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality, Beit Din Decisions in English – Volume 2,” by Rabbi Yehuda Warburg. The publisher’s description follows:
In the second volume of his groundbreaking series on rabbinic authority in English, Rabbi Warburg continues his in-depth discussion of rabbinical court arbitration decisions. He is the first rabbinic arbitrator to publish Piskei Din on cases in Jewish civil law. It is important that those who interact with the institution of a Beit Din know the inner dynamics and reasoning of those who issue rulings. This volume focuses on a number of topics such as the halakhic identity of an investment broker, the propriety of a civil will, contemporary issues relating to domestic violence, and the role of a rabbinical advocate in the Beit Din process. These topics and more are closely examined in “Rabbinic Authority” volume 2.
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.