History of Halakhah: Jewish Law Confronts Modernity
Prerequisites: Reading skills in rabbinic literature (Hebrew and Aramaic..
This two-point course explores the variety of Orthodox rabbinic responses to the complex challenges of modernity. It covers key questions posed to rabbinic authorities on urgent topics of the day, from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, including the novelty of secular education, the impact of religious reform, the winds of political change and democratic government, and advances in technology and medicine. Each week we will explore another aspect of modern life to which Jewish law responded by combining adherence to tradition with social realism. Our main source material will be the responsa literature from rabbinic authorities across the Jewish world, from Western and Eastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, and from the State of Israel to the United States.