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Custom and Practice in Jewish Life

Edited by: Joseph Isaac Lifshitz, Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig, Simha Goldin, Jean Baumgarten,  and Hasia Diner

Parallel to the Halakhic laws, the minhagim (customs) are dependent on local practices and the regional schools of sages and rabbis. The minhagim played a decisive role in the history of the Jewish communities and in the formation of traditions of religious rulings. They gave stability, continuity, and authority to the local institutions.

The impact of Jewish custom on daily life cannot be overestimated. Evolving spontaneously as an ascending process, it presents undercurrents that emanate from the folk, gradually bringing about changes that eventually become part of the legislative code. It further reflects influences of social, cultural, and mythological tendencies and local historical elements of every-day life of the period.

The aim of this volume is to examine the concept of minhag in the broadest sense of the word. Focusing on the relationship between various types of customs and their impact on every aspect of Jewish life, the volume studies the historical, anthropological, religious, and cultural development and function of rites and rituals in establishing the Jewish self-definition and the identity of the local communities that adhered to them. The volume’s articles cover the subject of custom from three perspectives: an analysis of the theoretical and legal definition of custom, an analysis of the social and historical aspects of custom, and an anecdotal study of several particular customs.

Customs are a wonderful historical prism by which to examine fluctuations and changes in Jewish life.

Author Information

S. Goldin, I. Lifshitz, N. Feuchtwanger-Sarig, Tel Aviv University, J. Baumgarten, CNRS, Paris, H.R. Diner, New York University.

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