Justice Menachem Elon's classic text surveys the panorama of Jewish law from biblical times to contemporary Israel. The result is the most definitive record to date of a unique legal system that integrates criminal, civil, and religious law to form a unified whole of unprecedented range. This four-volume set is an essential resource for academic, legal, and personal libraries.
The objective of these volumes is to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire field of Jewish law. Part One outlines the history and basic principles of Jewish law. Part Two studies the legal sources of Jewish law, namely, exegesis and interpretation, legislation, custom, precedent, and legal reasoning. These are the creative processes and modes of growth that enable the law to take account of changing circumstances and adapt to changing needs. Part Three surveys the literary sources of Jewish law—including pre-Biblical, Biblical, and immediately post-Biblical literature; the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmund; post-Talmudic commentaries, novellae, and codes; the response literature; and scholarly studies and reference works.
The overview presented by all four volumes combines two different perspectives: one, from within the Jewish legal system, thoroughly reviews the literature of the system itself; and the other, from outside the system, uses the technique of comparative law and the methodologies of general jurisprudence in order to provide broader insight and a better appreciation of the nature and quality of Jewish law in relation to other legal and social systems. The summary of contents at the beginning of each volume and the detailed analytical table of contents of the entire work at the beginning of Volume I indicate the vastness of the field and the scope of the study.
Menachem Elon has published many works on the history and nature of Jewish law and the relation between it and the modern State of Israel, including The Freedom of the Person of the Debtor in Jewish Law (1964) and Religious Legislation in the Laws of the State of Israel and Within the Jurisdiction of the Civil and Rabbinical Courts (1968). From 1968 to 1971 he was editor of the Jewish Law section of the Encyclopedia Judaica, which was subsequently collected in his Principles of Jewish Law (1975). By 1984 he had edited 10 volumes of The Annual of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was also editing a digest of the response of the medieval authorities. He has been a member of government committees for the preparation of various bills of the Israeli Civil Law Coordination.
An ordained rabbi, Justice Elon earned his diploma from the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics in 1948, received a master’s degree in humanities, and was awarded a doctor of laws degree cum laude from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He began his affiliation with The Hebrew University in 1954 as an instructor of law and was subsequently appointed teaching associate, senior lecturer, associate professor, and, in 1972, Professor of Jewish Law.
Justice Menachem Elon was first appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel in 1977 and was named Deputy President of the Court in 1988. A legal scholar and teacher, he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1979 for Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri, the Hebrew edition of Jewish Law.