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You Be the Judge: Behind the Steering Wheel of Jewish Law

Honor Among Thieves

If you are hired to give an inflated property assessment, and then are not paid for the service you performed, can you collect in court? In this lesson, we examine the enforceability of immoral contracts.

Finders Keepers
What happens when objects are abandoned for long periods of time or are unavailable due to the ravages of war? Are there circumstances under which people, against their will, can lose the right to their property?

When Glitter Turns
Out To Be Gold
What happens if you lose a piece of costume jewelry that you agreed to watch over and it turns out to be real? How much liability do you assume for loss incurred because of negligence or willful destruction of an object that turns out to be worth more than expected?

The Parasite
Is it fair to do business using your neighbor's cow? May you sublet your apartment for more than you pay in rent? How do we distinguish creative opportunity from crass opportunism

Your Money or My Life
What happens if under gun point, you deliver the property of your neighbor to robbers? Do you have to compensate your neighbor? We examine a real case, stemming from the Holocaust, in which this issue had to be addressed.

Burdens of Proof
If two people lay claim to an object, how can we decide who is right? Upon whom does the burden of proof fall, and what kind of evidence will the court require?

Course Endorsements
"Many thanks for sharing with me the exciting curriculum of "You Be The Judge" and for the excellent idea of bringing the treasure of Jewish law, a major point of Jewish life and Jewish ethos, to the attention of interested people. The idea is relevant and timely, and I am confident that this venture will enjoy great success. 

Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein Former Attorney General of Israel 

What one learns from these cases is that legal adaptation is not just a matter of facing new conditions but thinking harder about what is already implied in old principles. The study of Talmudic law is sobering, challenging, inspiring - and also fun for anyone who enjoys puzzles and discoveries. 

Professor Jeremy Rabkin Department of Government, Cornell University 

"Talmud is concerned with the role of the human reasoning in the interpretation and application of a "revealed law". Hence the relevance attributed by Talmudic Law to the quality and subtlety of the reasoning in the interclash of opinions. The Law is not an abstraction, but a concretion . . . 

Dr. Celso Lafer Chair of Law Faculty, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil Former Minister of Foreign Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil 

"It looks like a remarkably interesting and important work for layman and scholars alike. This will prove to be a very thoughtful as well as provocative course. I am looking forward to its presentation. 

Herbert H. Franks Past President, Illinois State Bar Association 

"Talmudic law offers students of the law the perspective of an ancient tradition of jurisprudence. In this course, a brilliant scholar and teacher introduces the subject in a clear and analytical way, using recent decisions of rabbinical courts to illustrate the application of basic principles. There could be no better way of wrestling with the deeper issues that underlie every legal system. 

Professor Barry Strauss Department of History and Classics, Cornell University 

"In reasoned discourse and telling wonderful stories along the way, Rabbi Eli Silberstein gives us in this book real insight into the way the Talmud applies the law to the actions of individuals and their property.

Professor Roald Hoffman Nobel Prize Laureate Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University 

"The more things change, the more things stay the same. Would a case decided 1800 years ago in a rabbinical court be decided differently by a modern-day jurist? Is legal reasoning different today in America than in third-century Asia? I endorse and look forward to this fascinating course. 

Dennis G. Kainen Past President, Dade County Bar Association Member, Florida Bar Board of Governors 

"Art imitates life. The best stories in the world are true. "You Be The Judge" is a great opportunity to learn about Jewish law through the drama and excitement of real people and real cases. I highly recommend it. 

Michael Helfant, President and CEO, Marvel Studios  

"There are no dogmas in the Jewish religion. Almost everything can and should be questioned. That is the importance of this course, for it reflects the search of Judaism for absolute truth, without dogmas, through discussions and questioning, in relation to concrete situations.

On the other hand, the aim of the course is not utilitarian, as neither is the Talmud. The interpretations and conclusions are primordial, the factual details of particular situations are of secondary importance. Without doubt, knowledge of the Talmudic legal system will enhance the intellectual repertoire of Brazilian jurists.

Evane Beiguelman Kramer, Assistant Secretary of Justice and Citizen Defense, State of S. Paulo

opportunity presented to us by this course, "You Be The Judge", to compare Talmudic law with the common law and civil law systems is unique, and may bring us to a new appreciation of the Jewish way of deciding day-to-day problems of ordinary people. The opportunity to understand how legal cases are decided in this way is one that may open the minds of many who are skeptical about human justice.

That ordinary people, and not only lawyers, examine real cases and how they were decided in the Talmudic legal system will certainly enhance our ability to understand how we can fairly solve the real problems of peoples' lives.

Arthur Rotenberg, President, Advisory Board, Brazilian Hebrew Association of São Paulo

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