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The Myth of the Cultural JewCulture and Law in Jewish Tradition$
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Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780195373707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373707.001.0001

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The Norms of Jewish Law Observance

The Norms of Jewish Law Observance

A Bottom-Up View

Chapter:
(p.55) 3 The Norms of Jewish Law Observance
Source:
The Myth of the Cultural Jew
Author(s):

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373707.003.0004

Chapter 3 concentrates primarily on the medieval period and focuses on the development of the mesorah from the standpoint of the practices of the people. These practices are known as minhagim, or customs that became unquestioned due to their continuity. Just as the surrounding majority cultures influenced the rabbis in their top-down formation of halakhah, the same is true of the people’s bottom-up practices. Many minhagim also had a strong basis in the biblical and rabbinic traditions, even if the people sometimes adapted these traditions. This chapter also argues that the mesorah is the product of a negotiation between the rabbinic top-down law and culture and the bottom-up minhagim. It illustrates these points by exploring certain life cycle events such as birth, ritual circumcision (brit), death, mourning, and the Jewish dietary laws known as kashrut.

Keywords:   medieval Judaism, life cycle events, custom, minhag, birth, circumcision, mourning, death, dietary laws, kashrut

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