REL 203 Spring 2015 Judaism: Before The Law (D)

Cross Listed as JWST101
This course introduces the academic study of Judaism through a humanistic exploration of "the Law" as a concept in Jewish thought and practice. Coverage will include the Law of Moses in the Hebrew Bible, the rabbinic distinction between "Oral Law" and "Written Law," medieval philosophical justifications for the Law, modern interpretations of the Law as Moral Law, Hasidic challenges to the centrality of the Law, and twentieth-century Jewish fiction that is haunted by a felt absence of the Law. Topics may also include the nature of rabbinic authority, methods of Jewish legal interpretation and innovation, and Jewish law as it pertains specifically to women, gentiles, idolaters, food consumption, and the Land of Israel. In addition, the course will address non-Jewish depictions of Judaism as essentially legalistic. We will see how Judaism comes to be stigmatized as dead letter contrasted to living spirit, corrupt flesh contrasted to pure soul, and antagonistic particularism contrasted to benevolent universalism. We will investigate the origin and legacy of Immanuel Kant's claim that "strictly speaking Judaism is not a religion at all" but merely individuals "of a particular stock" who have established themselves under "purely political laws." We will trace this line of thought from Paul through Spinoza and Kant to contemporary thinkers like Alain Badiou. Course materials will include classical sources such as the Talmud and Midrash, modern philosophical texts by Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss and Joseph Soloveitchik, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Kafka's The Trial with his parable "Before The Law," short stories by Bernard Malamud, Woody Allen's film Crimes and Misdemeanors, and ethnographic accounts of contemporary Jewish observance. All readings will be in translation.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, three short papers, and a final take-home exam
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Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: Jewish Studies concentrators, Religion majors and students who are considering these options
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Divisional Attributes: Division II,Exploring Diversity
Other Attributes: JLST Interdepartmental Electives,JLST Enactment/Applications in Institutions,JWST Gateway Courses,REL Jewish Tradition Courses
Enrollment Limit: 30
Expected Enrollment: 15
Class Number: 3731
CLASSES ATTR INSTRUCTORS TIMES CLASS NUMBER ENRL CONSENT
REL 203 - 01 (S) SEM Judaism: Before The Law (D) Division 2: Social StudiesExploring Diversity Initiative Jeffrey I. Israel
MW 11:00 AM-12:15 PM 3731 Open
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