The Paths Not Taken

There have been two moments in the last 150 years when the assumptions behind Jewish law seemed poised to change. Nothing happened. Is today different?

From Moses Maimonides Amadeo Ruiz Olmos, 1985. Old Quarter, Cordoba. Photograph © Emanuele Leoni, Dreamstime.
From Moses Maimonides Amadeo Ruiz Olmos, 1985. Old Quarter, Cordoba. Photograph © Emanuele Leoni, Dreamstime.
Response
Dec. 15 2013
About the author

Chaim Saiman is the chair in Jewish law at the Charles Widger School of Law at Villanova University and the author of Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law (Princeton 2018).


Joshua Berman’s “What Is This Thing Called Law? has much to commend it. As opposed to the rather simplistic declarations typically heard on the subject, Berman offers a serious discussion about what halakhah is, what it should be, who decides it, who decides who decides it, and what role it ought to fill in Israeli and Jewish society—Orthodox and otherwise. In so doing, he draws much-needed attention to the social as well as textual forces that shape halakhic decision-making, and to the conflicts between Orthodox doctrine and the inner life of many committed Jews.

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More about: Bible, Common law, Halakhah, Jewish identity, Joshua Berman, Maimonides, Mishnah, Orthodoxy, Shulhan Arukh, Talmud