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Setting the Table
An Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Rabbi Yechiel Mikhel Epstein's Arukh HaShulhan1569
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One of the most basic questions for any legal system is that of methodology: how one interprets, analyzes, weighs, and applies a mass of often competing legal rules, precedents, practices, customs, and traditions to reach final determinations and practical guidance about the correct legal-prescribed course of action in any given situation. Questions of legal methodology raise not only practical concerns, but theoretical and philosophical ones as well. We expect law to be more than the arbitrary result of a given decision maker's personal preferences, and so we demand that legal methodologies be principled as well as practical. These issues are especially acute in religious legal systems, where the stakes are raised by concerns for respecting not just human, but divine law. Despite this, the major scholars and codifiers of halakhah, or Jewish law, have only rarely explicated their own methods for reaching principled legal decisions. This book explains the major jurisprudential factors driving the halakhic jurisprudence of Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel Epstein, twentieth-century author of the Arukh Hashulchan-the most comprehensive, seminal, and original modern restatement of Jewish law since Maimonides. Reasoning inductively from a broad review of hundreds of rulings from the Orach Chaim section of the Arukh Hashulchan, the book teases out and explicates ten core halakhic principles that animate Rabbi Epstein's halakhic decision-making. Along the way, it compares the Arukh Hashulchan methodology to that of the Mishna Berura. This book will help any reader understand important methodological issues in both Jewish and general jurisprudence.
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Michael J. Broyde is Professor of Law at Emory University and Director of its Center for the Study of Law and Religion. This book was written while Broyde was a Fulbright Senior Scholar and completed while he was a Visiting Professor of Law at Stanford. In his nearly thirty-year rabbinic career he was the Rabbi of the Young Israel Congregation in Atlanta and the Director of the Beth Din of America. Shlomo C. Pill is Senior Lecturer at Emory Law School and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, where he is Deputy Director of Law and Judaism and Managing Editor of canopyforum.org. Dr. Pill received his LLM and SJD from Emory Univeristy, JD from Fordham Law School, and rabbinic ordination from Beit Midrash L'Talmud of Lander College.
Introduction Part One: Setting the Table: The Codification of Jewish Law 1. Codifying Jewish Law 2. Rabbi Yechiel Mikhel Epstein's Arukh HaShulhan 3. Competing Models: The Arukh HaShulhan and Mishnah Berurah Part Two: The Methodological Principles of the Arukh HaShulhan Introduction 4. The Rule of the Talmud 5. Rabbinic Consensus 6. Resolving Doubtful Cases 7. Non-Normative Opinions 8. Superogatory Religious Conduct 9. Law and Mysticism 10. Law and Custom 11. Temporal Rationalization of Halakhic Rules 12. Law and Pragmatism Conclusion Part Three: Illustrative Examples from the Arukh HaShulhan The Arukh HaShulhan's Methodological Principles for Reaching Halakhic Conclusions Bibliography Index