Collected Essays: v. 1

Haym Soloveitchik

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ISBN: 9781904113973

Publication: July 18, 2013

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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Written at different times and for different audiences - some for scholars of rabbinic literature, some for laymen or for scholars not necessarily Jewish - the essays gathered together in this volume nevertheless have an inner coherence. They reflect the author's lifetime interest in the history of halakhah - not as intellectual history per se, but rather a concern to identify measurable deflection in the unfolding of halakhic ideas that could point to an undetected force at work. What was it that stimulated change, and why? What happened when strong forces impinged upon halakhic observance, and both the scholarly elite and the community as a whole had to grapple with upholding observance while adapting to a new set of circumstances? Haym Soloveitchik's elegant presentation shows skilfully that the line between adaptation and deviance is a fine one, and that where a society draws that line is revelatory of both its values and its self-perception. Many of the articles presented here are well known in the field but have been updated for this publication (the major essay on pawnbroking has been expanded to half again its original size); some have been previously published only in Hebrew, and two are completely new. An Introduction highlights the key themes of the collection and explains the underlying methodology. Having these essays in a single volume will enable scholars and students to consult all the material on each theme together, while also tracing the development of ideas. The opening section of the volume is a brief description and characterization of the dramatis personae who figure in all these essays: Rashi and the Tosafists. It covers the halakhic commentaries and their authors; the creativity of Ashkenaz; and the halakhic isolation of the Ashkenazic community. The second section focuses on usury and money-lending, including the practice of pawn-broking, while the third section deals with the ban on Gentile wine and how that connected to the development of money-lending. The final section presents general conclusions in the form of four studies of the communal self-image of Ashkenaz and its attitude to deviation and change.

Haym Soloveitchik is the Merkin Family Research Professor at Yeshiva University in New York. He is the former Director of the School of Jewish Studies at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has taught at the Hebrew University, the Sorbonne, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has published books in Hebrew on pawn broking and usury, Jewish involvement in the medieval wine trade and the use of responsa as a historical source.

Note on Transliteration and Conventions Used in the Text Introduction I Overview of the Tosafist Movement 1 The Printed Page of the Talmud: The Commentaries and their Authors 2 Catastrophe and Creativity: Ashkenaz—1096, 1242, 1306 and 1298 3 The Halakhic Isolation of the Ashkenazic Community II Usury and Moneylending 4 Usury, Jewish Law 5 The Jewish Attitude to Usury in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000–1500) 6 Pawnbroking: A Study in Ribbit and of the Halakhah in Exile III The Ban on Gentile Wine and its Link to Moneylending 7 Can Halakhic Texts Talk History? 8 Halakhah, Taboo, and the Origin of Jewish Moneylending in Germany IV Some General Conclusions 9 Religious Law and Change: The Medieval Ashkenazic Example 10 ‘Religious Law and Change’ Revisited 11 A Note on Deviance in Eleventh-Century Ashkenaz 12 On Deviance: A Reply to David Malkiel REVIEW ESSAY: Yishaq (Eric) Zimmer, Ólam ke-Minhago Noheg Bibliography of Manuscripts Source Acknowledgments Index

‘In our generation the premier practitioner of history of, and through, halacha is Haym Soloveitchik . . . [he], in addition to his many other merits, 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 leading contemporary practitioner of the discipline of “History of Halacha” ... Over the past four decades, he has enriched Jewish scholarship and historiography immeasurably with groundbreaking monographs and books on a broad range of topics . . . [here] the author has updated and significantly expanded his previously published articles . . . should find pride of place on many bookshelves.’
Jeffrey R. Woolf, Jewish Action

Format: Hardback

Size: 235 x 155 x 41 mm

352 Pages


ISBN: 9781904113973

Publication: July 18, 2013

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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