Theology in the Responsa

BookTheology in the Responsa

Theology in the Responsa

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


March 24th, 2005



Other Formats



Responsa are replies given by prominent rabbinic authorities to questions put to them by other scholars, asking for rulings on specific issues, generally of a practical nature. The responsa literature is thus a repository of the learning and sound sense of some of the greatest rabbinic authorities over a period of more than a thousand years down to the present, and relates to all the countries where Jews have lived. Although most of the emphasis in the responsa literature is undoubtedly on practice, nearly all the great compilations of responsa also contain discussions of a theological nature since changing conditions posed problems for belief as well as practice.

In this volume, first published in 1975 and unrivalled in its treatment of the subject, Louis Jacobs examines those responsa in which theology is considered and highlights the changes that have occurred in the theological principles affecting the rabbis’ attitudes to such questions as life after death, reward and punishment, and the problem of suffering.

Author Information

Louis Jacobs, founding rabbi of the New London Synagogue, was a renowned scholar with an international reputation as a lecturer. He was the author of The Jewish Religion: A Companion (1995) and of many other distinguished books, several of them published by the Littman Library, including Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1999), Hasidic Prayer (paperback 1993), and Theology in the Responsa (paperback 2005), as well as an edition and translation of Zevi Hirsch Eichenstein’s Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good (1995). He died in 2006.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half Title2
Title Page 4
I: The Gaonic Period (to 1050) 12
II: The Eleventh Century40
III: The Twelfth Century49
IV: The Thirteenth Century 63
V: The Fourteenth Century 91
VI: The Fifteenth Century 99
VII: The Sixteenth Century 121
VIII: The Seventeenth Century 159
IX: The Eighteenth Century 183
X: The Nineteenth Century 217
XI: The Twentieth Century299
XII: Summary and Conclusions340
Appendix I: Saul Berlin and the 'Besamim Rosh'358
Appendix II: Isaac Lampronti's 'Pahad Yitzhak'364