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Caroline Zelaznik & Joseph S. Gruss Lecture

The Caroline Zelaznik & Joseph S. Gruss Lecture in Talmudic Civil Law

In 1987 Mr. Gruss, by a bequest from his wife Caroline’s estate, established the Caroline Zelaznik Gruss and Joseph S. Gruss Chair in Talmudic Civil Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. One of the responsibilities of the Gruss Chair is to present lectures to the public on Talmudic Civil Law.

Joseph Gruss explained the estate gift in these terms: “Talmudic civil law reflects the universal principles of justice and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable. It has played a substantial role in the development of the Judeo-Christian heritage that serves as a foundation of the Common Law.” The Gruss gift has enhanced the Law School’s curriculum and the University’s Jewish Studies Program. An international advisory committee assists in development of the associated academic program. In addition to the Chair in Talmudic Civil Law, Mr. Gruss gave generously to establish a special Talmudic Law collection in the Biddle Law Library.

2019-2020 Gruss Lecture

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Biblical Struggle for Social Justice: New Perspectives

Dr. Benjamin Porat

Vice Dean and Director of the Israel Matz Institute for Jewish Law; Dr. Benjamin Porat
Joseph H. and Belle Braun Senior Lectureship in Law,

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

5:30 PM | Silverman 245A, Levy Conference Room

 

Past Gruss Workshops

Past Gruss Lectures

2018-2019

“Impeachment and the Afterlife: Insights from Jewish Law on a Basic Constitutional Ambiguity”

Dr. David Flatto, Associate Professor of Law and Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew University

2017-2018

Divine Law: A Tale of Two Concepts (And Three Responses)

Christine Hayes, Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University
Video

2016-2017

Rabbinic Constitutionalism

Dr. David Flatto, Professor of Law, Religion and History at Penn State Law; Visiting Professor and Lecturer at Hebrew University Law School, NYU Law School and Yeshiva University

2015-2016

Liberal Multiculturalism as a Remedy for the Religion and State Relations in Israel

Shahar Lifshitz, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at Penn Law, Dean of Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, and Co-Director of The Human Rights and Judaism Project of The Israel Democratic Institute

Video

2014-2015

The Struggle over Jewish Marriage and Divorce Law

Shahar Lifshitz, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at Penn Law, Dean of Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, and Co-Director of The Human Rights and Judaism Project of The Israel Democratic Institute

Lecture I: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Jewish Divorce Law

Video

Lecture II: “Civil Unions for All”: A Remedy for the Predicament of Israeli Marriage Law

Video

2013-14

The Impact of Torah Study on Halakhic Codification

Chaim Saiman, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at Penn Law and Professor of Law at Villanova Law School

Video

2012-13

Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law

Chaim Saiman, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at Penn Law and Professor of Law at Villanova Law School

Lecture I: Talmud Torah: The Study of Law as Religious Devotion

Lecture II: Law as Literature: The Talmudic Sugya

2011-12

Is it a Sin to Accidentally Sin?: Mistake and Error in Rabbinic Law

Arye Edrei, Visiting Professor of Law, Tel Aviv University

2010-11

The House of Israel Divided: Schisms of Language, Law, and Legitimacy

Arye Edrei, Visiting Professor of Law, Tel Aviv University

Lecture I Video

Lecture II Video

2009-10

Defining Community in an Era of Nationalism: Who is in and who is out in the eyes of the law?

Arye Edrei, Visiting Professor of Law, Tel Aviv University

Lecture I Video

Lecture II Video

2008-09

Religion and the State of Israel: Views from within Jewish Law

Suzanne Last Stone, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Law, Cordozo School of Law at Yeshiva University

2007-08 Between Revenge and Reconciliation: Rabbinic Views on Historical Justice
Suzanne Last Stone, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Law, Cordozo School of Law at Yeshiva University
2006-07

The Image of God in Classical Judaism

Yair Lorberbaum, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy of Law, Jewish Law and Jewish Thought at Bar Ilan University; Senior Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study at Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem

2005-06 Halakhah, Aggadah, and the Limits of Law
Yair Lorberbaum, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy of Law, Jewish Law and Jewish Thought at Bar Ilan University; Senior Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study at Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem
2004-05 Maimonides on the Commandments to Eradicate Amaleq
Josef Stern, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Divinity School and Committee on Jewish Studies, University of Chicago
2003-04 Unbinding of Isaac: Maimonides on the Aqedah
Josef Stern, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Divinity School and Committee on Jewish Studies, University of Chicago
2002-03

Two Concepts of Kedushah/Holiness

Josef Stern, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Divinity School and Committee on Jewish Studies, University of Chicago

2001-02 Moshe Halbertal, Ph.D., Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy at Hebrew University; Fellow at the Hartman Institute
2000-01 Moshe Halbertal, Ph.D., Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy at Hebrew University; Fellow at the Hartman Institute
1998-99 Gideon Libson, Professor of Muslim Law, Jewish Law and Comparative Jewish-Islamic Law, Hebrew University
1996-97 Moshe Halbertal, Ph.D., Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy at Hebrew University; Fellow at the Hartman Institute
Izhak Englard, Israel Supreme Court Justice and Professor of Law at Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Gruss Workshop in Jewish Law

Thinking Legally vs. Thinking Historically

Thursday December 12, 2013

This workshop is designed to bring together scholars of law, history, and religious studies to assess the relationship between thinking legally and thinking historically. This idea emerges out of the deep divisions regarding the role of historical/contextual vs. doctrinal reasoning in the study of the Jewish legal tradition. However, by approaching the issue as a matter of general legal theory, we hope to draw on the parallel experiences of other thought traditions to address the following question: To what extent are lawyers justified in assuming that thousands of individualized acts separated by time, space and social context, form a legal system that transcends any individual action?

Background and Premise

9:45 – 10:00 am

Welcome

Chaim Saiman, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law, U. Penn Law School

 

10:00 - 12:00 pm

Panel 1: Law and History: Conjunctions & Disjunctions

Michelle Dempsey, Professor of Law, Villanova Law School
“Thinking Legally vs. Thinking Historically: A Legal Positivist’s Take”

 

Shyam Balganesh, Assistant Professor of Law, U. Penn Law School
“The Distinctiveness of Legal Reasoning”

 

Serena Mayeri, Professor of Law and History, U. Penn Law School
“History and Law, History-in-Law: A Legal Historian’s Perspective”

 

Tamara Eisenberg, Doctoral Candidate, University of Pennsylvania
“Some Historical Context about Historical Context”

 

Discussion:

12:45 – 2:45 pm

Panel Two: Rabbis, Lawyers & Historians

Talya Fishman, Assoc. Professor & Director of Jewish Studies, U. Penn
“Readers and Raiders of the Rabbinic Archive”

 

Chaim Saiman, Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law, U. Penn. Law School
“The Moving Average of Legal Meaning”

 

Ezra Schwartz, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva University
“Concepts and Categories: A View from the Yeshiva’s Beit Midrash”

 

Ethan Tucker, Rosh Yeshiva, Mechon Hadar Institute
“Should a Rabbinic Judge be Sensitive to Historical Context?”

 

Discussion:

3:00 - 4:45 pm

Panel 3: Halakhah and History: Case studies

Yishai Kiel, Post-Doctoral Associate in Jewish Studies, Yale University
“The Role of History and Legal Theory in Shaping Noahide Law: The Case of the Sexual Prohibitions”

 

Richard Hidary, Assistant Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva University
“Confluence and Cacophony Between Hilkhot Shabbat and the Development of the Laws of the Sabbath”

 

David Flatto, Assoc. Professor of Law, Penn. State University Law School
“Impeaching Testimony in Halakhah: A Case Study of Historical and Conceptual Dimensions of an Evolving Legal Rule”

 

Perry Dane, Professor of Law, Rutgers University Law School
“Jewish Legal Change and the Ironies of Historical Consciousness”

 

Discussion:

5:00-5:45 pm

Concluding Discussion

Christine Hayes, Professor and Chair of Religious Studies, Yale University
Suzanne Last Stone, University Professor of Jewish Law, Yeshiva University

 

Background and Premise

In 1888, the legal historian F. W. Maitland inaugurated the Downing Professorship of the Laws of England at Cambridge with a lecture titled, Why the History of English Law is not Written. There, Maitland asked why the English— who had been enthusiastic writers of histories on the Roman, German, and French law—had yet to tell the story of their indigenous common law.

Maitland answered that it is difficult to write history when ancient materials are not “history,” but rather constitute present day authority. Historians employ the “logic of evidence” to recover what a legal text meant by probing the context in which it was written. Lawyers, by contrast, use the “logic of authority” to determine how the text was read and applied by subsequent legal interpreters. In Maitland’s words, “the process by which old principles…are charged with new content, is from the lawyer’s point of view an evolution of the true intent and meaning of the old law; from the historians point of view it is…the process of perversion and misunderstanding.” To the historian, presentism is a vice; to the lawyer, it is a virtue.

Maitland’s dichotomy offers a useful framework for understanding a major divide within the contemporary study of Jewish law. Housed in departments of history and religion, academic scholars of Talmud and Jewish law trade in the logic of evidence. Their goal is to recover how the texts were formed and transformed over time, and to explore the contextual factors that influenced legal actors. By contrast, traditionalist rabbinic seminary scholars employ the logic of authority. They understand halakhah as an ongoing chain of normative doctrine that is at least partially autonomous from the circumstances of its actors. Conversation between the two groups—where it exists at all—is largely at an impasse.

The forum offered by the Gruss Chair of Talmudic law housed within Penn’s law school provides the opportunity to approach this debate from a different angle. On the one hand, lawyers are hardly naïve about the formants of legal doctrine, and few in the academy doubt that circumstantially contingent questions of social policy are central to legal decisionmaking. And yet, even the most primitive legal argument is deeply acontextual: it strings together several events (precedents) by way of legal doctrine which inevitably brackets the very social facts and assumptions historians work to uncover. While this ahistorical reasoning may be nonsensical when evaluated under the logic of evidence, it is the foundation of all legal reasoning.

Maitland’s question lived on in discourse of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but has largely receded from view. Yet lawyers continue to reason through doctrinal categories divorced from social and historical context. And like Talmudic law, the American legal system is largely designed to ignore the contextual details that historians, sociologists, and political scientists see as the primary targets of inquiry. Which brings us back to the core of Maitland’s question: What does legitimate the lawyerly practice of stringing together texts and rules with little regard for the time, space and culture that produced them? By contrasting the lawyer’s approach with the assumptions of other discourses and legal systems, the workshop will offer an interdisciplinary interrogation of what it means to “think like a lawyer.”

Joseph and Caroline Gruss

Gruss Bio

Joseph S. Gruss, a banker who founded Gruss and Company in 1942, was counted among the leading benefactors of Jewish education in both New York and Israel. In 1987 Mr. Gruss, by a bequest from his wife Caroline’s estate, established the Caroline Zelaznik Gruss and Joseph S. Gruss Chair in Talmudic Civil Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Mr. and Mrs. Gruss gave generously to Jewish education. They were responsible for forming the Fund for Jewish Education in association with the Federation for Jewish Philanthropies and the United Jewish Appeal of New York.