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Law Before The Law / Edition 1

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This book is a study in the law that exists before a founding moment of law-giving. More specifically, it looks at one foundational moment, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and examines how Hebrew commentators have envisioned what existed prior to receiving the commandments.

How do legal systems negotiate law enacted before their founding? The Law Before the Law examines nearly two millennia of responses by commentators to this problem. Pre-law, as it might be called, became the repository of an alternative legal tradition. Scattered, often fragmentary discussions of the law before the law were a commonplace in the Jewish legal tradition. Often involving conjecture and imaginative reconstructions of legal arguments, these discussions were a laboratory to work out the jurisprudential problems found in ordinary Jewish law. The law before the law was often envisioned as different from law after the founding moment and represented a legalism more oral, more customary, more discretionary, and, above all, more concerned with the psychological question of how a norm-bearing person is created.

About the Author:
Steven Wilf is a professor of law at the University of Connecticut

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Editorial Reviews

Winter 2010 Law and Social Inquiry
Steven D. Fraade
Steven Wilf has produced a profoundly interesting and important book that will long engage students of Jewish law, legal theory and practice, hermeneutics, and cultural history. It provocatively upsets, or at least problematizes, some conventional wisdoms regarding the original authority of foundational legal documents and moments, by entering the imaginative nomo-narrative worlds that both challenge and sustain them. Its subject is timely and timeless.
Winter 2010 Law & Social Inquiry
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739123140
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Series: Graven Images Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 0.58 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Wilf is professor of law at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

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Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xv
Abbreviations     xvii
Why Legal Prehistory Matters     1
In the Beginning was the Nomos     39
Did the Patriarchs Know the Torah?     83
The Giving of the Commandments at Marah     135
Law as Collective Memory     175
Conclusion: The Once and Future Law     211
Bibliography     217
Index     229
About the Author     237
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