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Codification of Jewish Law—Medieval

(9,209 words)

Author(s): Basser, Herbert W.
The sources of Jewish law are scattered widely. Ancient Jewish texts were not organized so as to discuss all the laws pertinent to a subject in single entries; rather, the laws are enumerated by the needs of larger discussions of legal principles. Thus the Talmud could discuss six legal topics in regards to one principle on one page and another ten in regards to another principle on another page. The subject matter of one topic might be continued hundreds of pages later in another discussion. Co…

Exegesis of Scripture, Medieval Rabbinic

(9,734 words)

Author(s): Basser, Herbert W.
Understanding the Hebrew Scripture to be the authoritative teachings of God or, at least, the mediated message of God, Jews always have looked to the Bible. as the ultimate source of knowledge of the divine will. To clarify and amplify this will, a tradition of analysis and commentary has emerged, stretching from the biblical period itself and continuing into the present day. Producing their works in diverse cultural, philosophical, and historical settings, including times of persecution and gre…

Rabbinic Literature in Medieval and Modern Times

(14,084 words)

Author(s): Basser, Herbert W.
The writing of commentary upon the literature of the oral Torah begins within the earliest layers of that literature itself. The Talmud itself preserves statements in which such second century Tannaim as Meir and Judah comment on the earlier first century teachings of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, teachings that appear in the Mishnah without commentary. The result of this continuing process of exegesis is that in later Rabbinic writings we often find several tiers of interpretation on earlie…

Mamzer

(4,223 words)

Author(s): Basser, Herbert W. | Fishbane, Simcha
Illegitimate children have been a source of concern to many societies. Each of these societies stigmatizes in some way its “illegitimate offspring.” In general, illegitimacy refers to a child whose conception and birth do not conform to the institutional rules governing reproduction in the community to which its parents belong. 1 Even today, the concept is related to the structures of the institution of marriage—an institution that among other purposes, embodies the social and religious “lawfulness” of the group. These controls, in many societi…