Professor Samuel J. Levine compares many Jewish laws with American laws that address the same issues in two 2018 volumes of “Jewish Law and American Law.” His analysis of the two systems and his detailed focus on many laws in each system enhances our insight into both laws. His books are very comprehensive. He writes in an easy to read and interesting fashion. The books are eye-opening. They tell readers many ideas about both laws that many rabbis and jurists never knew before.
Among a wealth of information, in his twenty-six chapters, well supported with numerous readable notes that refer to lots of Jewish and American sources, he tells us that Jewish law addresses every area of human behavior and therefore American legal scholars and even American courts have turned to Jewish thoughts to illuminate areas of the American legal system.
He gives us a history of both Jewish and American law. He tells us, for example the differences between the famed American Miranda decision which warns people who are arrested that what they say may be used against them and the Jewish system that does not allow a defendant to make any kind of confession, and he describes the psychological principles underlying both approaches. He also discusses, among the much else, the views of both systems regarding capital punishment and whether American jurisprudence can rely on the Jewish view regarding the death penalty. While the Torah has many instances where a wrong-doer is sentenced to death, the rabbis developed rules that make it virtually impossible to implement capital punishment.
Among scores of others, he discusses Rabbi Soloveitchik’s view that there are times when humans lack free will and the implications of this view. Also, the concept of happiness in both the American and Jewish system, as well as can we interpret the US Constitution as rabbis interpret the Torah, strict constructionists in both systems, the differences between the Catholic and Protestant views of the American Constitution, the differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees in interpreting the Torah, how we can solve American legal problems by visiting Jewish law, what the biblical account of “the stubborn and rebellious son” that a view in the Talmud states was never implemented can tell us about American law, comparing constitutional rights and biblical obligations, an evaluation of a prosecutor’s ethical obligations in light of Jewish law, and much more.
The books are very insightful, and it will not be possible to view American and Jewish law as we do now after reading Professor Levine’s books.
The second volume of Jewish Law and American Law contains ten chapter in which Professor Samuel J. Levine compares many Jewish laws with American laws that address the same issues and thereby enhances our insight into both laws. Among much else, this book examines halacha and aggadah, law and narrative – such as the narratives in Genesis. He tells us, for example, that one fourth of the material in the Talmud is aggadah and that narratives give meaning to legal precepts, and he tells us how this is done. He devotes five chapters to legal history and three to law and public policy. This book, like the first, is eye-opening. It will not be possible to view American and Jewish law as we do now after reading Professor Levine’s books.