Akhnai: Legal Responsibility in the World of the Silent God
Daniel J.H. Greenwood
Hofstra University College of Law
Utah Law Review, Symposium Issue - New Approaches to Comparative Law, pp. 309-358, 1997
In the Talmudic story of the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer - symbol of unchanging law and original intent - decides a disputed issue of law, supporting his claim with all the arguments in the world and then with miracles including a voice from the Author proclaiming his interpretation correct. Nonetheless, his interpretation is rejected.
The Akhnai story is a complicated commentary on the problems of democracy and justice, with insights into the majoritarian (and counter-majoritarian) difficulties, the status of ancient law, and the meaning of originalist interpretation. I draw out lessons for those who seek to create a single society in a world where we have deep committments to ultimate values and, often, equally deep disagreements as to their content.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 68
Keywords: Akhnai, originalism, counter-majoritarian, democracy, jurisprudence, Constitutional interpretation, Jewish law
JEL Classification: H10
Date posted: January 1, 2003