Duquesne Law Review


Phillip Sigal


Halakhah, or the body of Jewish norms of conduct and religious practices, consists of an everchanging aggregate of ethical principles. Halakhah is thus unlike most "legal" systems, which are characterized by the presence of a governmental authority reinforced by a justice system established to impose penalties. This article highlights the nature of halakhah as distinct from such traditional legal systems. Following this introduction, the author focuses on hermeneutics, the rules of religious textual interpretation, and their application to halakhic revision. The author then applies the hermeneutic to illustrate halakhic development in the areas of abortion and self-incrimination, and, in addition, discusses halakhic intimations in the New Testament. The author concludes by noting that the Christian values which influenced the Western legal systems are in fact based upon a matrix of Jewish theological-halakhic elements; an understanding of the process of halakhic interpretation and evolution would thus be valuable in analyzing the Judaeo-Christian ethical tradition in contemporary legal systems, in order to renew concern for the

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