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Spring 2023 Course

Neder: Vows, Promises, Oaths in Jewish Law

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: One-Day Take-Home

This course focuses on neder. The term is most often translated as vow, though as we will see, the Jewish legal meaning of neder changes dramatically over time. A premise of this course is that Jewish law develops by continual interpretation. Neder will serve as a case study of what our understanding of this premise looks like: how we can make sense of the different legal phenomena that collect under this term; the motivations for change; the perception and clues of this difference within the texts of Jewish law themselves.

These goals will necessarily involve honing philological skills, but our less technical purpose will to be consider the values the different phases of neder support. What (if anything) do these texts say about the best way to live life?

Primary readings from a range of periods, with a focus on amoraic, tannaitic, biblical and other ancient Near Eastern writings. Secondary readings include scholarship on these corpuses, general legal theory and anthropology.

Cross-registrants are encouraged to apply.