Akhnai: Legal Responsibility in the World of the Silent God
68 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2003
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.
Keywords: Akhnai, originalism, counter-majoritarian, democracy, jurisprudence, Constitutional interpretation, Jewish law
JEL Classification: H10
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