On April 19, James Kugel, a fellow at NYU Law’s Tikvah Center for Law & Jewish Civilization, delivered the eighth annual Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss lecture, describing how Judaism evolved its elaborate system of rules for the smallest details of ordinary life. In his lecture, which also marked the inauguration of the Tikvah Center, Kugel described four stages in Jewish sensibility: one in which there were no rules; another when a temple priesthood served the people, pleasing a demanding God; a shift to placing demands on ordinary Jews; and the period in which law flowered, with rabbis freely interpreting—and even contradicting—the Torah, or Jewish Bible, adding rules of their own. Moshe Halbertal, co-director of the Tikvah Center, introduced Kugel, director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible and chairman of the Bible Department at Bar Ilan University, as a biblical scholar with a religious heart and a gift for understanding language and narrative structure.

Watch the full lecture (1 hr 38 min):

Posted April 26, 2010