Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law

How the rabbis of the Talmud transformed Jewish law into a way of thinking and talking about everything


Published (US):
Sep 29, 2020
Published (UK):
Sep 22, 2020
6.13 x 9.25 in.
2 b/w illus.
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Typically translated as “Jewish law,” halakhah is not an easy match for what is usually thought of as law. This is because the rabbinic legal system has rarely wielded the political power to enforce its rules, nor has it ever been the law of any state. Even more idiosyncratically, the talmudic rabbis claim the study of halakhah is a holy endeavor that brings a person closer to God—a claim no country makes of its law. Chaim Saiman traces how generations of rabbis have used concepts forged in talmudic disputation to do the work that other societies assign not only to philosophy, political theory, theology, and ethics but also to art, drama, and literature. Guiding readers across two millennia of richly illuminating perspectives, this panoramic book shows how halakhah is not just “law” but an entire way of thinking, being, and knowing.

Awards and Recognition

  • One of Mosaic's Best Books of 2018 (Moshe Koppel)