Book Review: Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law
In an immaculate display of sheer intelligence, raw understanding, and intimate insight into the religious world, Chaim N. Saiman, Professor of Law at Villanova University, broaches an unexplored topic that is the true nature of Halacha, in his new and groundbreaking book: Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law.
In his work, Professor Saiman astutely delineates the difference between Jewish Halacha and the normative law usually found in societies around the world. Using keen insight into the Frum Jewish sphere, Saiman provides valuable insight and provokes deep thought on a ubiquitous aspect of our lives, a topic that isn’t normally broached in yeshiva circles. Never has a work delved so deeply into the nature of Halacha, to force the reader to take a step back from everything they were taught and led to believe, in order to gain a true understanding of the very construct that governs our everyday lives!
To merely read Professor Saiman’s chapters on Halacha as Non-Applied Law (plainly: that much of Halacha is written, taught, and learned in a way that makes it nigh impossible for it to ever be realized in actuality), or the chapter on Halacha in relation to its current state and previous transformations throughout the ages (from Gemara to Tur, etc.) warrants the purchasing of this book.
This book truly frames Halacha in a novel light and allows the reader to observe something they have known all their lives in a whole new light. The book first seeks to truly define what Halacha is and then moves on to explore its history and application. Saiman explores the many aspects of Halacha, such as: Halacha as Torah (Revelation on Sinai, learning for G-D), Halacha and Governance (Enforcement of Halachos and the legal system), Halacha as Theology (addressing laws of prayer and Shabbos), and Halacha as Education (how Halacha works in relation to human interactions with one another). In just a few hundred, well written pages, Saiman is able to present this familiar concept in a novel way to help the reader think as few ever have.
I will not delve any deeper into the contents of this seminal work, as I fear, at worst, misrepresenting Professor Saiman’s message, and at best, depriving another reader of enjoying this epic journey on their own.
Click the image below to check out this amazing work and discover a world beyond everything you’ve been taught to believe!