The second edition of Understanding Jewish Law includes new chapters that explore the unique processes involved in analyzing Talmudic texts, and the methodology employed in issuing definitive Jewish law rulings. These chapters compare and contrast the underlying goals and natures of American and Jewish law, as well as their principal substantive and procedural characteristics, including Jewish law's focus on duties rather than on rights and on the roles of confessions, judicial discretion, and equity.
This edition also updates, deepens, and develops all of the preexisting features that make the book an essential resource for any course or seminar in Jewish law. For example, it:
- Identifies Jewish law's fundamental assumptions, including an individual's responsibilities to and for others;
- Presents a clear, concise overview not only of Jewish law's institutions, but also of the hierarchies of its literary and human authorities; and
- Provides a wealth of resources to enable students to comprehend Jewish law and engage in Jewish law research.
Understanding Jewish Law also includes appendices that provide a comprehensive listing of Jewish law materials, databases, and research available online (in both English and Hebrew); an extensive bibliography of Jewish law periodicals, books in English; an invaluable explanation of the diverse (and otherwise confusing) ways in which Jewish law terms are transliterated into English; a glossary of commonly used Hebrew and Aramaic terms; and much more.
In addition, it:
- Differentiates between Jewish law's biblical and non-biblical precepts, explaining their distinct practical and theoretical consequences;
- Debunks the myth that Jewish law narrowly and literally construes Biblical texts;
- Describes the innovative processes through which Jewish law unfolds, the creative roles played by individuals and communities, and the effects of commercial, cultural, sociological, and technological change;
- Compares and analyzes the interrelationships between Jewish and secular law in several key areas, including legal ethics, bioethics, bankruptcy law, and alternative dispute resolution; and
- Examines other significant matters of doctrinal and practical importance, such as whether the ends justify the means and the role of personal autonomy.