The Boldness of a Halakhist: An Analysis of the Writings of Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Halevi Epstein (The "Arukh Hashulhan")

The Boldness of a Halakhist: An Analysis of the Writings of Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Halevi Epstein (The "Arukh Hashulhan")

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Simcha Fishbane

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781934843031 (hardcover)
Pages: 208 pp.
Publication Date: March 2008

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The Boldness of a Halakhist analyzes the writings of Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Halevi Epstein (1829–1908), author of "The Arukh Hashulkhan," a bold and unusual approach to Jewish law. Based primarily on the original text of Rabbi Epstein’s legal codes and homilies, this work covers topics such as women, modernity, customs, and secular studies. It analyzes the rabbi’s approach to Jewish law and Jewish life, designed to promote the spiritual welfare of Jews under the pressures of growing secularization and Russification. Although based upon the principles of the traditional judicial process, the rabbi’s rulings demonstrate a profound understanding of the contemporary social and historical reality facing the Jews of Russia at the turn of the century. 


Simcha Fishbane (PhD Concordia University) is an associate professor of Jewish Studies and the executive assistant to the president of Touro College. His recent publications include Deviancy in Early Rabbinic Literature (Brill, 2007); Jewish Studies in Violence (UPA, 2006); and Voodoo or Judaism, The Ritual of Kapparot: People Medicine and Maaic in Jewish and Slavic Cultural Tradition (Moscow, 2007).