This special selection of sources and questions for study and research into authority is compiled from Hartman Institute courses and lectures in recent years.
Nachmanides – Commentary on Deut. 17:11
Sefer haHinnuch – Sefer Shoftim 496
Jerusalem Talmud Horayot 1:1
Philo, Special Laws III 169-175
Midrash Sifrei, Piska 292-293
1. Read carefully the Biblical case (Deuteronomy 25).
What sort of gender structure emerges from this text?
2. How does Philo enlarge the implications of the text to larger issues of the place of women in public space?
3. In the Midrash note the way the Sifrei reads the interpretation of the term "men."
4. In the Midrash Tannaim (the untranslated text on the top of page 8) 4 lines from the end, it reads: "miyad makehu." Who is the one who is attacking according to the Midrash and why does the Midrash restrict the character of the attacker as "shaliah beit din" i.e. a police officer.
1. Do moral considerations have a place in interpreting halakhah?
If so, what is their weight and what is their source?
2. How do we understand interpretation in light of the use of such considerations in shaping halakah?
3. Is interpretation uncovering an original intention or is it a creative act?
“The Limits of Religious Authority”
1. Read Deuteronomy 17:8-13
a. What is the source of religious authority in the Bible? How is authority upheld? by whom?
b. What does it mean to "act presumptuously"?
2. Read the Ramban commentary on Deuteronomy
a. How does Nachmanides understand the Biblical text: "You shall not depart from the word which they tell you, to the right nor to the left"?
b. How does Nachmanides attempt to resolve the problem of potential error on the part of the contemporary authority?
c. What are the limits of religious authority according to Nachmanides?
3. Read the Sefer HaHinuch commentary, Piska 496
a. How does the Sefer HaHinuch understand the reality of differing and multiple opinions?
b. How does the Sefer HaHinuch understand truth vis a vis majority rulings?
c. How does the Sefer HaHinuch understand the sage that gives a different ruling?