Jewish Legal Theories: Writings on State, Religion, and Morality

Leora Batnitzky and Yonatan Brafman, editors

"Inside the Antisemitic Mind" book coverAnthology of writings about Jewish law in the modern world

Contemporary arguments about Jewish law uniquely reflect both the story of Jewish modernity and a crucial premise of modern conceptions of law generally: the claim of autonomy for the intellectual subject and practical sphere of the law. Yet for all the interest in and importance of Jewish legal theory, there is no single volume that addresses it simultaneously in its historical and conceptual contexts, as well as in the context of modern legal theory more broadly defined.

Jewish Legal Theories collects representative modern Jewish writings on law and provides short commentaries and annotations on these writings that situate them within Jewish thought and history, as well as within modern legal theory. The topics addressed by these documents include Jewish legal theory from the modern nation state to its adumbration in the forms of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism in the German-Jewish context; the development of Jewish legal philosophy in Eastern Europe beginning in the eighteenth century; Ultra-Orthodox views of Jewish law premised on the rejection of the modern nation-state; the role of Jewish law in Israel; and contemporary feminist legal theory.

“This rich, fascinating volume shows Jewish legal thought in dialogue with modernity, from the nation-state to reproductive technology, feminism and beyond. Rightly emphasizing tensions and conflicts, the collection hints that Jewish law cannot be defined only as the law of God, the law of the Jews, or the law of the Jewish state. This is a canon-shaping accomplishment.” —Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School

“This is a brilliant and ambitious exploration of how the rise of the modern nation-state and the challenge of feminism have transformed the understanding of law in general and Jewish law in particular. Marked by careful selection of texts and a theoretically sophisticated introduction, this work will be a major resource for students of modern Jewish thought and, indeed, anyone interested in how traditions navigate the conditions of modernity.” —Suzanne Stone, Cardozo Law School

About the Authors