Abandonment of Religiosity: A Glance at Jewish Law and Law Study from Moses to Karo

Abandonment of Religiosity: A Glance at Jewish Law and Law Study from Moses to Karo

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Jewish Law is considered to be Divine Law due to its direct influence from God. God handed over a set of laws to the Jews and left it to adapt and flourish with them. They followed these rules, but in time they became obsolete which forced them to intervene and change the laws to better suit their society. Rabbinic judaism evolved as the philosopher king of interpreting the Hebrew Bible. These interpretations formed the Talmud. Although the interpretations were much like opinions on what the Bible said, they became universally accepted as law. Rabbi’s argued for centuries over which interpretation was better. A few notable Rabbis emerged like Rabbi Maimonides and Rabbi Joseph Karo. With large build ups and further outdated laws, Joseph Karo published the Shulhan Arukh, or the Set Table, in the early-modern period. This was an interpretation that allowed for practicality for Jews to follow Jewish Law. By doing this Joseph Karo abandoned religion’s influence on law. One would think that many would be angered, but only few objected. Why did Jewish people accept an abandonment of religion in law when it had been such a vital part of it for centuries?

A. The Beginnings of Jewish Law in the Ancient Period
Jewish Law began when God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses atop Mount Sinai as a way of teaching his people what law was. The only other major set of laws before this time was the Code of Hammurabi. Although the two sets of Laws were very similar, the commandments were specific to God’s divinity and the Jews. The Jewish people took this set of laws with great acceptance and seriousness. The commandments were given to them straight from God, the almighty ruler, as opposed to laws laid down by a king or by a human authority. They had...


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...id so in accordance with the circumstances of the time. In other words, it was inevitable that God and religion would be cut out of law, because law became complicated. Karo wanted a set of laws that gave support to the unique customs of the wide array of jewish communities all over Europe, Asia, and Africa Every Jewish community had their own set of practices and Karo set a standard that could be adapted to each individual. It was meant to blend with other law, thus still allowing for religious laws specific to the region.




Works Cited

Leow, Judah. Netivot Olam.
Karo, Joseph. "Introduction." In Biet Yosef, 1550.
Davis, Joseph. "The Reception of the ‘Shulḥan 'Arukh’ and the Formation of Ashkenazic Jewish Identity." AJS Review 26. 2002
Deshen, Shlomo. "The Varieties of Abandonment of Religious Symbols." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 11: 33-41.

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