REL 203
Judaism: Before The Law Fall 2022
Division II
Cross-listed JWST 101
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Class Details

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. Course materials will include classical sources such as the Talmud and Midrash, modern philosophical texts, Franz Kafka’s The Trial with his parable “Before The Law,” ethnographic accounts of contemporary Jewish observance, and much else. All readings will be in translation.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 30
Expected: 15
Class#: 1314
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, three short papers, and a final longer paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Jewish Studies concentrators, Religion majors and students who are considering these options
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
JWST 101 Division II REL 203 Division II
Attributes: JLST Interdepartmental Electives
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