In the seventy years of its existence there were dramatic changes in the Jurisprudence of the Israeli Supreme Court (ISC). From its inception in 1948 till the late 1970s, ISC subscribed to what scholars describe as formalistic, rule-oriented ways of legal reasoning. Yet, from the early 1980s, under the aegis of Justice Aharon Barak, the ISC turned to legal reasoning based not on applying rules, but on weighing reasons and justifications. One scholar called this shift: "The decline of formalism and the rise of values in Israeli law." Jewish Law, on the other hand, underwent in the modern era an opposite process: its legal (halakhic) reasoning increasingly became entrenched in formalism, conceptualism and rulism. The lecture will describe these two opposite processes, depict their background, and analyze part of their causes.
The tension between Israel as a Jewish state and Israel as a democratic state finds expression in the debate over the relationship between Jewish law and Israeli law. While some advocate for a strong influence of Jewish law in Israeli courts, others view this as antithetical to the ideals of a modern, secular state. Professor Arye Edrei, a scholar of talmudic jurisprudence and Jewish law in the 20th century, will examine this issue by analyzing Israeli Supreme Court opinions that incorporate Jewish law.
Panel discussion on Yair Lorberbaum's recent book, In God's Image: Myth, Theology, and Law in Classical Judaism
In the Guide of the Perplexed III: 31, Maimonides describes a view that treats the rationales of the commandments (ta'amei ha-mitzvot) as transcendent. For the people who subscribe to this view the transcendence of the reasons for the commandments is not simply a theological doctrine; in their view, obedience to mysterious decrees of a sublime and incomprehensible God is the very essence of religious and halakhic life. I will call this spiritual mood "halakhic religiosity of transcendence and mystery."
In chapter 31 Maimonides clarifies the deep irrationality embedded in this religiosity in order to persuade his readers that every commandment has a rational reason, that is, that the "whole purpose [of the commandments) consists in what is useful for us."
In the lecture, I will argue that: (1) halakhic religiosity of transcendence and mystery is absent from ancient Jewish literature – Bible, Midrashic, Talmudic and Geonic literature - and that it is the innovation of the high middle ages. (2) This halakhic religiosity spread in various Jewish circles during the generations after Maimonides, culminating in the modern era. (3) It has a profound impact on halakhic discourse.