By Jay M. Harris

This publication is a research of rabbinic criminal interpretation (midrash) in Judaism's rabbinic, medieval, and smooth sessions. It exhibits how the increase of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism within the glossy interval is tied to special attitudes towards the classical Jewish historical past, and in particular, towards rabbinic midrash halakah.

What has long past disregarded in the past is the level to which the fragmentation of recent Judaism is said to the interpretative foundations of classical Judaism. As this ebook demonstrates, spokespersons for any kind of Judaism that engaged modernity on any point needed to clarify the root for his or her rejection or persisted attractiveness of the authority of rabbinically constructed legislations. unavoidably and at all times, this want led them to handle anew what have been long-standing questions concerning the historical interpretations of biblical legislation. have been they compelling? have been they average? have been they nonetheless suitable? each one kind of Judaism shaped its personal reaction to those demanding situations, and every argued forcefully opposed to the responses of the opposite denominations.

Jay M. Harris describes the fragmentation of contemporary Judaism when it comes to every one 's dating to classical Judaism's procedure of interpretation partially of this publication.

“This is a seminal, suggestive, and accomplished learn of an important element of Jewish spiritual inspiration. it really is vastly major and cuts throughout a large cross-section of fields of study.” — Marc Hirshman, collage of Haifa

“Harris follows within the sturdy step of a few contemporary students who show a fit skepticism towards historic resources. Few of them have utilized this hermeneutic strategy to the texts. Harris is a pioneer during this regard.” — David Weiss Halivni, Hebrew college of Jerusalem

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Extra info for How Do We Know This?: Midrash and the Fragmentation of Modern Judaism

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The most radical position is that of Maimonides, who connects the unsuitability of a terefah to Mal. 1:8, possibly suggesting that the law is not based on the authority of the Torah. 49 Clearly, Maimonides did not find the interpretation of the Sifra definitive. How he and others dealt with this will be discussed more fully in chapter 4. Thus, the halakhah excluding terefot was affirmed by all, and, with the possible (albeit unlikely) exception of Maimonides, with the authority of the Torah. Yet, most commentators appear untroubled by the scriptural anomaly that triggered the derashah, and they therefore do not consider the midrashic interpretation of the verse definitive.

In attempting to harmonize this apparent discord, the Talmud leads us to the yet more complicated sixfold exegesis with which our passage concludes. It is not incredible that many found this too great a distance to travel. Let us consider yet another example, this time from Shabbat 132a. The Talmud has stated that all sages agree that circumcision done at the prescribed time supersedes the Sabbath; that is, the act of cutting done in circumcision would normally be prohibited on the Sabbath. But when the act is done for the purpose of circumcision on the eighth day of the child's life, all agree the act is permissible.

The resolution of these problems is that this is but one stock response developed to dissolve scriptural superfluities. In those cases in which the imposition of punishment is a live issue, its force is to suggest that here, in this case Scripture felt the need to specify what we would otherwise know so that punishment would be based on an explicitly promulgated imperative. This, despite the fact that elsewhere Scripture can live with such punishment without explicit promulgation. , a qat va-ramer) is, then, a strictly ad hoc, ad locum response to a particular scriptural difficulty, namely, the fact that Scripture bothers to tell us what we can learn from an argument a fortiori.

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