Stuart A. Cohen

Publications by Stuart A. Cohen

The Bible and Intra-Jewish Politics: Early Rabbinic Portraits of King David

This essay explores some of the concerns which might have influenced early rabbinic reconstructions of the private life and public career of King David. David and his monarchy were treated as vehicles for constitutional polemic, transposed into symbols of a particular type of ruler and regime. Three specific instances recorded in the Babylonian Talmud which lend themselves to political interpretation are discussed. When linked to allied early rabbinic dicta on the exercise and distribution of political power, they illustrate separate facets of what appears to have been an integrated constitutional doctrine. That doctrine is outlined and the
purposes to which it was put are demonstrated. Read More »

Succession to Public Office in Rabbinic Law

This article comprises an annotated translation of a responsum (Orah Hayyim, No. 12) by R. Moses Sofer (the “rlatam Sofer”; 1762-1839). The is sue addressed is one central to all political discourse? legitimate succession to public office. Particularly noteworthy, however, is Sofer’s analysis of this question by explicit reference to the differences between the characters of office in the three governmental demesnes known to Jewish tradition as “ketarim.” Read More »

A Framework and Model for Studying and Teaching the Jewish Political Tradition

The very existence of a Jewish political tradition has gone virtually unrecognized in our own time, despite the Jewish national revival of the twentieth century. To correct this situation, a widening group of scholars has initiated a systematic effort to recover the several dimensions of the Jewish political tradition, seeking to build a comprehensive and fully integrated program in the teaching of this tradition and its contemporary uses. The subject matter of Jewish political studies falls into three major divisions: Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs, which in turn include numerous subdivisions. The four primary tasks that should occupy scholars in the field include investigation, interpretation, presentation, and policy application. This article focuses on the first two tasks, outlining what has been done
and what still needs to be done. Read More »

Keter as a Jewish Political Symbol: Origins and Implications

The use of the Hebrew term keter (lit. “crown”) to describe agencies of Jewish autonomous rule is first apparent in tanna’itic texts, and especially in Mishrtah, Avot 4:13. This article examines the reasons for that innovation, and examines the categories of rulership to which the term was applied. It is suggested that keter reflected an identifiable notion of “sovereignty” and its exercise. In early rabbinic usage, it became a vehicle which conveyed a unique view of the constitutionally correct ordering of Jewish political life. Read More »