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What's Divine about Divine Law?Early Perspectives$
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Christine Hayes

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691165196

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691165196.001.0001

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The Flexibility of Torah

The Flexibility of Torah

(p.287) Chapter 7 The Flexibility of Torah
What's Divine about Divine Law?

Christine Hayes

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines sources that shed light on a variety of issues bearing on the question of the flexibility of the divine law of Israel according to the talmudic rabbis. In many of these sources, the Law is seen to be susceptible to change through rational adjustments by humans. The rhetoric surrounding human adjustment of the Law varies. In some passages these adjustments are represented as a kind of natural evolution justified by values and commitments internal to the system. In some passages, however, they are represented as interventions based on values and commitments external to the system, raising important questions about the agency and authority of human beings in a system of divine law. On what grounds do humans modify the Law? How is it that rational modification of the Law and the implied fallibility of the divine lawgiver do not impinge upon the Law's divinity in the eyes of the rabbis?

Keywords:   divine law, Torah, rabbinic texts, Israel, talmudic rabbis

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