The Role of Jewish Law in a Secular State
Jewish Law Association Studies, Forthcoming
12 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2010 Last revised: 14 Aug 2013
Date Written: July 22, 2010
Proper use of Jewish law can help Israeli courts develop a sense of national identity. However, the reasons justifying a court’s reliance upon another State’s law are not likely to be present when a secular court uses rules of Jewish law. As a result, there is a risk of either taking Jewish law out of context or reading modern doctrines into Jewish law. A recent Israeli District Court case, Estate of Rachlin. v. Tzisin, makes extensive use of Jewish law. It and two expert opinions that it considered present two different approaches to Jewish law. The more conservative approach emphasizes the differences between Jewish law and Israeli law; the more liberal approach finds elements within Jewish law that tend to close the gap. Because rabbinic and non-rabbinic courts differ in their goals and methods, it would difficult if not impossible for a secular court to decide a case the same way that a rabbinic court would do. It is suggested that courts can use Jewish law most effectively when they draw upon its policies.
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