Cohen, “Maimonides and the Merchants”

In May, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release Maimonides and the Merchants:
Jewish Law and Society in the Medieval Islamic World by Mark R. Cohen (Princeton University). The publisher’s description follows:

maimondiesThe advent of Islam in the seventh century brought profound economic changes to the Jews living in the Middle East, and Talmudic law, compiled in and for an agrarian society, was ill equipped to address an increasingly mercantile world. In response, and over the course of the seventh through eleventh centuries, the heads of the Jewish yeshivot of Iraq sought precedence in custom to adapt Jewish law to the new economic and social reality.

In Maimonides and the Merchants, Mark R. Cohen reveals the extent of even further pragmatic revisions to the halakha, or body of Jewish law, introduced by Moses Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, the comprehensive legal code he compiled in the late twelfth century. While Maimonides insisted that he was merely restating already established legal practice, Cohen uncovers the extensive reformulations that further inscribed commerce into Jewish law. Maimonides revised Talmudic partnership regulations, created a judicial method to enable Jewish courts to enforce forms of commercial agency unknown in the Talmud, and even modified the halakha to accommodate the new use of paper for writing business contracts. Over and again, Cohen demonstrates, the language of Talmudic rulings was altered to provide Jewish merchants arranging commercial collaborations or litigating disputes with alternatives to Islamic law and the Islamic judicial system.

Thanks to the business letters, legal documents, and accounts found in the manuscript stockpile known as the Cairo Geniza, we are able to reconstruct in fine detail Jewish involvement in the marketplace practices that contemporaries called “the custom of the merchants.” In Maimonides and the Merchants, Cohen has written a stunning reappraisal of how these same customs inflected Jewish law as it had been passed down through the centuries.

“The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law” (Hayes, ed.)

This month, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law,” by Christine Hayes (Yale University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law explores the Jewish conception of law as an essential component of the divine-human relationship from biblical to modern9781107644946.jpgtimes, as well as resistance to this conceptualization. It also traces the political, social, intellectual, and cultural circumstances that spawned competing Jewish approaches to its own ‘divine’ law and the ‘non-divine’ law of others, including that of the modern, secular state of Israel. Part I focuses on the emergence and development of law as an essential element of religious expression in biblical Israel and classical Judaism through the medieval period. Part II considers the ramifications for the law arising from political emancipation and the invention of Judaism as a ‘religion’ in the modern period. Finally, Part III traces the historical and ideological processes leading to the current configuration of religion and state in modern Israel, analysing specific conflicts between religious law and state law.

Novak, “Jewish Justice”

In March, Baylor University Press will release “Jewish Justice: The Contested Limits of Nature, Law, and Covenant,” by David Novak (University of Toronto).  The publisher’s description follows:

In Jewish Justice David Novak explores the continuing role of Judaism for crafting ethics, politics, and theology. Drawing on sources as diverse as the Bible, the screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-1-00-19-amTalmud, and ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, Novak asserts Judaism’s integral place in communal discourse of the public square.

According to Novak, biblical revelation has universal implications—that it is ultimately God’s law to humanity because humans made in God’s image are capable of making intelligent moral choices. The universality of this claim, however, stands in tension with the particularities of Jewish monotheism (one God, one people, one law). Novak’s challenge is for Judaism to capitalize on the way God’s law transcends particularity without destroying difference. Thus it is as Jews that Jews are called to join communities across the faithful denominations, as well as secular ones, to engage in debates about the common good.

Jewish Justice follows a logical progression from grounded ethical quandaries to larger philosophical debates. Novak begins by considering the practical issues of capital punishment, mutilation and torture, corporate crime, the landed status of communities and nations, civil marriage, and religious marriage. He next moves to a consideration of theoretical concerns: God’s universal justice, the universal aim of particular Jewish ethics, human rights and the image of God, the relation of post-Enlightenment social contract theory to the recently enfranchised Jewish community, and the voices of Jewish citizens in secular politics and the public sphere. Novak also explores the intersection of universality and particularity by examining the practice of interfaith dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Rosenblum, “The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World”

This month, Cambridge University Press will release “The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World,” by Jordan Rosenblum (University of Wisconsin).  The publisher’s description follows:

In The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World Jordan D. Rosenblum explores how cultures critique and defend their religious food practices. In particular he focuses on 9781107090347how ancient Jews defended the kosher laws, or kashrut, and how ancient Greeks, Romans, and early Christians critiqued these practices. As the kosher laws are first encountered in the Hebrew Bible, this study is rooted in ancient biblical interpretation. It explores how commentators in antiquity understood, applied, altered, innovated upon, and contemporized biblical dietary regulations. He shows that these differing interpretations do not exist within a vacuum; rather, they are informed by a variety of motives, including theological, moral, political, social, and financial considerations. In analyzing these ancient conversations about culture and cuisine, he dissects three rhetorical strategies deployed when justifying various interpretations of ancient Jewish dietary regulations: reason, revelation, and allegory. Finally, Rosenblum reflects upon wider, contemporary debates about food ethics.

“Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning” (Emon, ed.)

In April, Oneworld Publications released Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning: Encountering Our Legal Other edited by Dr. Anver M. Emon (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

Islamic Jewish Legal Reasoning.jpg By pairing a scholar of Islamic law with a scholar of Jewish law, a unique dynamic is created, and new perspectives are made possible. These new perspectives not only enable an understanding of the other’s legal tradition, but most saliently, they offer new insights into one’s own legal tradition, shedding light on what had previously been assumed to be outside the scope of analytic vision.

In the course of this volume, scholars come together to examine such issues as judicial authority, the legal policing of female sexuality, and the status of those who stand outside one’s own tradition. Whether for the pursuit of advanced scholarship, pedagogic innovation in the classroom, or simply a greater appreciation of how to live in a multi-faith, post-secular world, these encounters are richly-stimulating, demonstrating how legal tradition can be used as a common site for developing discussions and opening up diverse approaches to questions about law, politics, and community. Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning offers a truly incisive model for considering the good, the right and the legal in our societies today.

Salaymeh, “The Beginnings of Islamic Law”

In December, Cambridge University Press will release The Beginnings of Islamic Law: Late Antique Islamicate Legal Traditions by Lena Salaymeh (Tel Aviv University). The publisher’s description follows:

beginnings-of-islamic-lawThe Beginnings of Islamic Law is a major and innovative contribution to our understanding of the historical unfolding of Islamic law. Scrutinizing its historical contexts, the book proposes that Islamic law is a continuous intermingling of innovation and tradition. Salaymeh challenges the embedded assumptions in conventional Islamic legal historiography by developing a critical approach to the study of both Islamic and Jewish legal history. Through case studies of the treatment of war prisoners, circumcision, and wife-initiated divorce, she examines how Muslim jurists incorporated and transformed ‘Near Eastern’ legal traditions. She also demonstrates how socio-political and historical situations shaped the everyday practice of law, legal education, and the organization of the legal profession in the late antique and medieval eras. Aimed at scholars and students interested in Islamic history, Islamic law, and the relationship between Jewish and Islamic legal traditions, this book’s interdisciplinary approach provides accessible explanations and translations of complex materials and ideas.

Berman, “Boundaries of Loyalty”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Boundaries of Loyalty: Testimony Against Fellow Jews in Non-Jewish Courts,” by Saul Berman (Yeshiva University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Talmudic legislation prescribed penalty for a Jew to testify in a non-Jewish 9781107090651court, against a fellow Jew, to benefit a gentile – for breach of a duty of loyalty to a fellow Jew. Through close textual analysis, Saul Berman explores how Jewish jurists responded when this virtue of loyalty conflicted with values such as Justice, avoidance of desecration of God’s Name, deterrence of crime, defence of self, protection of Jewish community, and the duty to adhere to Law of the Land. Essential for scholars and graduate students in Talmud, Jewish law and comparative law, this key volume details the nature of these loyalties as values within the Jewish legal system, and how the resolution of these conflicts was handled. Berman additionally explores why this issue has intensified in contemporary times and how the related area of ‘Mesirah’ has wrongfully come to be prominently associated with this law regulating testimony.

Lecture: “To Save a Life” (New York, Sept. 12)

On Monday, September 12, the Jewish Law Institute (JLI) at Touro Law Center, in conjunction with Proskauer Rose, will co-sponsor a CLE event, “To Save a Life: Confidentiality and the Innocent Convict in Jewish Law and American Law.” The event will be held at Proskauer’s Manhattan office, Eleven Times Square. The featured speaker will be Samuel J. Levine, Professor of Law and Director of the JLI. For more information on the event, click here.

Cesarani, “Disraeli”

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 45eea7288533ef9fcae4ba0676f7a9c2in 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.

Rist, “Popes and Jews, 1095-1291”

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 9780198717980analyses 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.

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