Collected Essays

BookCollected Essays

Collected Essays

Volume I

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

2019

June 12th, 2019

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‘In our generation the premier practitioner of history of, and through, halacha is Haym Soloveitchik . . . in addition to his many other merits, [he] is an elegant stylist . . . Part of the pleasure of reading him is that there is more learning and illumination to be found in his remarks dropped along the way than in the pages of a lesser scholar . . . profound, poignant essays.’
David Wolpe, Tablet Magazine

The essays in this volume reflect the author’s lifelong interest in the history of halakhah. What stimulated change, and why? What happened when strong forces impinged on halakhic observance and communities had to adapt to new circumstances? The volume opens with a brief description of the dramatis personae who figure throughout the essays: Rashi and the Tosafists. Further essays discuss halakhic commentaries and their authors; usury, moneylending, and pawnbroking; Gentile wine; and the self-image of the Ashkenazic community. Throughout, Haym Soloveitchik shows that the line between adaptation and deviance is a fine one, and that where a society draws that line is revelatory of its values and its self-perception. Many of the essays presented here are already well known in the field; two are completely new. Most of those previously published have been updated, and the major essay on pawnbroking has been significantly expanded.

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Author Information

Haym Soloveitchik is the Merkin Family Research Professor at Yeshiva University, New York, and the former director of the School of Jewish Studies at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has also taught at the Sorbonne and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has published books in Hebrew on pawnbroking and usury, Jewish involvement in the medieval wine trade, and the use of responsa as a historical source. Three volumes of his Collected Essays have been published by the Littman Library.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright5
Dedication6
Preface8
Acknowledgments12
Contents14
Note on Transliteration and Conventions Used in the Text16
PART I OVERVIEW OF THE TOSAFIST MOVEMENT18
1. The Printed Page of the Talmud: The Commentaries and their Authors20
2. Catastrophe and Halakhic Creativity: Ashkenaz—1096, 1242, 1306, and 129828
3. The Halakhic Isolation of the Ashkenazic Community48
PART II USURY AND MONEYLENDING56
4. Usury, Jewish Law58
5. The Jewish Attitude to Usury in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000–1500)61
6. Pawnbroking: A Study in Ribbit and of the Halakhah in Exile74
PART III THE BAN ON GENTILE WINE AND ITS LINK TO MONEYLENDING184
7. Can Halakhic Texts Talk History?186
8. Halakhah, Taboo, and the Origin of Jewish Moneylending in Germany241
PART IV SOME GENERAL CONCLUSIONS254
9. Religious Law and Change: The Medieval Ashkenazic Example256
10. ‘Religious Law and Change’ Revisited275
11. A Note on Deviance in Eleventh-Century Ashkenaz295
12. On Deviance: A Reply to David Malkiel300
REVIEW ESSAY311
Yishaq (Eric) Zimmer, ’Olam ke-Minhago Noheg311
Bibliography of Manuscripts326
Source Acknowledgments333
Index of Names334
Index of Places341
Index of Subjects344