Hebrew Union College Press Announces Publication of “A Great Voice that Did Not Cease” The Growth of the Rabbinic Canon and its Interpretation by Michael Chernick - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Hebrew Union College Press Announces Publication of “A Great Voice that Did Not Cease” The Growth of the Rabbinic Canon and its Interpretation by Michael Chernick

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

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Hermeneutics may be described as the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts. They are essentially the lenses through which interpreters view the material they interpret. In this seminal study, Michael Chernick demonstrates how hermeneutical methods confronted the difficulties that arose for the Rabbis when various literary and logical problems appeared in scriptural texts and later in rabbinic texts. Given the Rabbis’ theological, literary, and rhetorical concerns, these reading strategies were adopted to obviate the problems the texts presented.


Chernick focuses on six midrashic hermeneutics:  outright midrashic resolutions of contradictions in Scripture; distinguishing between what constitutes true scriptural proof and what is merely prooftexting; a midrashic hermeneutic that transfers the rules of one rubric to another; two hermeneutics that limit interpretive extensions of halakhot; and the claim that two redundant pentateuchal rubrics are needed to ward off incorrect analogies. Chernick not only analyzes and illustrates these hermeneutical methods in great detail. He highlights the significant changes that occurred in rabbinic legal hermeneutics from the tannaitic through post-amoraic strata of rabbinic literature—some 500 years at least—as well as the persistence and continuity of rabbinic hermeneutical interests as evidenced through such changes.               


Of  particular significance is Chernick’s connecting of those changes in hermeneutical practice to changing rabbinic views about the level of the revelatory status of non-Pentateuchal parts of the Hebrew Bible and of rabbinic legal discourse as they developed during the formative rabbinic period.  Indeed, Chernick’s study draws its title from the Torah’s portrayal of the Sinaitic revelation, when God spoke to the assembled people with “a great voice that did not cease” ( kol gadol ve-lo yasaf--Deut 5:19). This view, Chernick believes, is at the core of rabbinic Judaism—the Judaism that claims to hear that “great voice” through the medium of interpretation, a notion imaginatively illustrated on the dust jacket in the painting “Harim” by artist Miriam Stern.

Michael  Chernick is Arthur-Morton-Dora Deutsch Professor of Jewish Jurisprudence and Social Justice at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion



A Great Voice that Did Not Cease

 is available from Wayne State University Press  1-800-978-7323

ISBN 978-0-87820-461-8; 311 pages, $49.95

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu