Jewish Law as Great Literature

How can Jewish law help us answer fundamental questions about life? Drawing on her background as a lawyer and Talmud scholar, Dr. Alyssa Gray uses the example of Jacob ben Asher and his Arba’ah Turim to explore the idea of Jewish law as a work of literature. Dr. Gray argues that by approaching Jewish law as literature, we learn how to answer fundamental questions such as: What does it mean to be a Jew? What makes a just society?a

Dr. Alyssa Gray is the Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics and Associate Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature at HUC-­‐JIR in New York. She received her PhD with distinction in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and also earned an LLM in Mishpa Ivri (Jewish law) from the Hebrew University Faculty of Law. She is a graduate of Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and earned a JD from the Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. Dr. Gray’s current research interests are Talmud criticism (with a special focus on comparative study of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds), wealth, poverty, and charity in classical and medieval rabbinic literature, and the application of new theoretical perspectives on law, literature, and history to the reading of medieval Jewish legal literature. Dr. Gray is the author of A Talmud in Exile: The Influence of Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah on the Formation of Bavli Avodah Zarah, and the co-editor of Studies in Mediaeval Halakhah in Honor of Stephen M. Passamaneck, as well as many scholarly articles.

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