The Codification of Jewish Law and an Introduction to the Jurisprudence of the "Mishna Berura"

The Codification of Jewish Law and an Introduction to the Jurisprudence of the "Mishna Berura"

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Michael J. Broyde & Ira Bedzow

ISBN: 9781618112781 (hardcover) / 9781618114518 (paperback)
Pages: 396 pp.
Publication Date: November 2014

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The Mishna Berura is, without a doubt, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan's greatest and most complex contribution to the canon of Orthodox Jewish Law; it is a singular work that synthesizes Jewish traditions, laws, and mores into a practical halakhic guide to daily religious life. For all of his traditionalism, Rabbi Kagan was an iconoclast, and the Mishna Berura broke from many of the traditional approaches of deciding halakhic directives. Instead, he favored studying, engaging, and asserting decisions in a nuanced, almost natural approach to how ethical people should live their daily lives consistent with Jewish law. Today, the Mishna Berura has gained widespread recognition and is considered authoritative by essentially all of contemporary Orthodox Jewry, a measure of greatness that few works of Halakha have attained. Michael J. Broyde and Ira Bedzow here investigate this seminal text and explore its background and decision-making process.


Ira Bedzow is director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program and assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at New York Medical College. He is also senior scholar of the Aspen Center for social values.

Michael J. Broyde is a professor of law at Emory University as well as project director and senior scholar in the Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

The Codification of Jewish Law and an Introduction to the Jurisprudence of the Mishna Berura

I. General Methodology of Codification of Jewish Law
II. History of Codification
III. Introduction to Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan and the Mishna Berura
IV. Mishna Berura’s Philosophy of Jewish Law
V. Mishna Berura’s Jurisprudence
VI. The Mishna Berura’s Technique of Legal Interpretation
VII. The Mishna Berura’s Use of Key Terms
VIII. Examples of the Mishna Berura’s Methodology

(A) Adding a New Dimension to Resolve a Disagreement
Example 1—Androgynous and Tumtum: Intersex and Jewish Law
Example 2—Tefillin (Phylacteries) of Rabbenu Tam and
Tefillin on Hol HaMoed
Example 3—Praying the Morning Prayer (Shaharit) Late
(B) Inclusion of all Jews
Example 4—Calling One who is Blind or who Cannot Read to the Torah
Example 5—Reciting Birkat HaMazon for Those Who Cannot
Example 6—Giving Food to One who Doesn’t Know the Blessing
(C) Jewish-Gentile Relations
Example 7—Carrying for a Gentile on Yom Tov
Example 8—Giving Mail to a Gentile before Shabbat
Example 9—Having a Gentile Buy Things for a Jew
(D) The Existence of Erroneous Customs
Example 10—Eruv and Public Domains
Example 11—Saying “Amen” After “Ga’al Israel”
Example 12—Eating Hadash

IX. Alternative Views of the Mishna Berura’s Methodology
Simcha Fishbane’s Method and Meaning of the Mishna Berura
Benjamin Brown’s “Soft Stringency”
X. Conclusion

Two Hundred Fifty Illustrative Examples from the Mishna Berura
Terminology
Juridical Strategy
Interpretative Strategy
The Accretive Technique
In Addition to Juridical Strategy
In Addition to Interpretative Strategy
Reliance on the Gra
In Addition to Juridical Strategy
In Addition to Interpretative Strategy
The Role of Custom

Appendix A: A Summary Index of the Examples
Appendix B: A Brief Note on the History of Halakha
Appendix C: Biography of Selected Rabbis Mentioned
in Mishna Berura
Appendix D: A Brief Note in the Names of Jewish Books
Index