‘In our generation the premier practitioner of history of, and through, halacha is Haym Soloveitchik . . . in addition to his many other merits, [he] is an elegant stylist . . . Part of the pleasure of reading him is that there is more learning and illumination to be found in his remarks dropped along the way than in the pages of a lesser scholar . . . profound, poignant essays.’
David Wolpe, Tablet Magazine
The essays in this volume reflect the author’s lifelong interest in the history of halakhah. What stimulated change, and why? What happened when strong forces impinged on halakhic observance and communities had to adapt to new circumstances? The volume opens with a brief description of the dramatis personae who figure throughout the essays: Rashi and the Tosafists. Further essays discuss halakhic commentaries and their authors; usury, moneylending, and pawnbroking; Gentile wine; and the self-image of the Ashkenazic community. Throughout, Haym Soloveitchik shows that the line between adaptation and deviance is a fine one, and that where a society draws that line is revelatory of its values and its self-perception. Many of the essays presented here are already well known in the field; two are completely new. Most of those previously published have been updated, and the major essay on pawnbroking has been significantly expanded.