Law’s Dominion, Jay Berkovitz offers a novel approach to the history of early modern Jewry. Set in the city of Metz, on the Moselle river, this study of a vibrant prerevolutionary community draws on a wide spectrum of legal sources that tell a story about community, religion, and family that has not been told before.
Focusing on the community’s leadership, public institutions, and judiciary, this study challenges the assumption that Jewish life was in a steady state of decline before the French Revolution. To the contrary, the evidence reveals a robust community that integrated religious values and civic consciousness, interacted with French society, and showed remarkable signs of collaboration between Jewish law and the French judicial system.
Law’s Dominion, Jay Berkovitz has gathered and meticulously mined a dazzling array of rich and complex rabbinic texts and records from Western Europe during the early modern period, including the
pinkas of the rabbinic court of Metz that he previously rescued from oblivion. What emerges is a remarkably fresh depiction and incisive comparative treatment of central aspects of Jewish law, religion and family, which will have far-reaching ramifications for all future studies in these disciplines.
-Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and Law at Yeshiva University
Jay R. Berkovitz, Ph.D. (1983), Brandeis University, is Distinguished Professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies (Emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has published extensively in the fields of early modern history and law, including
Protocols of Justice (Brill, 2014).
Writing Jewish History through a Legal Lens Rabbinic Responsa Literature
Communal Registers (Pinkasim)
Lay and Rabbinic Court Records
Law as a Cultural System
The Production of the Metz Pinkas Beit Din
The Foundations of the Metz Kehillah Return of the Jews to France and the Establishment of the Metz Community
Ritual and Identity
Part 2: Community, Governance, Authority
Communal Autonomy and Governance Electoral and Administrative Procedures
Consumption and Social Status
Poverty and Social Welfare
Juridical Autonomy and Recourse to Non-Jewish Courts
Policing Religious and Cultural Boundaries
Lay and Rabbinic Judicial Authority Lay and Rabbinic Tribunals
Sources of Law
Functions of the Beit Din
Navigating the Challenges of Multiple Jurisdictions Language
Production of Bi-lingual Documents
Patterns of Litigation in the Beit Din
Judicial Behavior of the Metz Beit Din
The Acquaintance of the Beit Din with French Law and Judicial Procedure
Navigating the Two Systems
The Impact of French Law on Rabbinic Jurisprudence
Part 3: Family Affairs
Guardianship and Inheritance Guardianship
Women, Marriage, and Property Betrothal and Marriage
Women in Credit and Commerce
Conclusion and Epilogue Glossary Bibliography Index
All interested in Jewish history, Jewish law and religion, and anyone with interest in law, jurisprudence, and early modern France.