In this week’s Torah reading of Mishpatim, God communicates to Moses a catalogue of civil laws, addressing such issues as torts, property, punishments for theft, and so forth. The German-born Spanish rabbi Jacob ben Asher (ca. 1269-1343), in the introduction to his codification of the corresponding body of talmudic law, attempts to explain the purpose of judges, courts, and the legal system itself, arguing that without such institutions, society would disintegrate into a war of all against all. Contrasting Jacob ben Asher’s approach with that of another Spanish talmudist, Nissim of Gerona (1320-1376), Shlomo Zuckier examines their radically different interpretations of Jewish law:
Is Jewish Law an Expression of Heavenly Ideals or a Pragmatic Measure for Bringing Order to Society?
Despite Reasons for Worry, Jews Shouldn’t Lose Faith in the American Promise
From synagogue shootings, to attacks on Jews on the streets, to the gathering strength and viciousness of anti-Zionism, especially in the corridors of political power, American Jewry has ample reason for concern about its safety and wellbeing. But, surveying both the present situation and the deep roots of what has made America a welcoming home to Jews with “no analogue in the 2,000 years after the destruction of the Temple,” Josef Joffe argues that the U.S. remains exceptional. The bad news, however, is still bad: