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Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg

Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg is currently a seventh-year PhD Candidate at the History Department of the University of Pennsylvania. She is researching and writing her dissertation, with plans to finish sometime in the next academic year.


The Organisation of Halakhic Knowledge: Early Modern Responsa

Tamara's dissertation deals with the history of halakha (Jewish law) in early modern Ashkenaz by following the genre of responsa, rabbinic correspondence regarding questions of halakha. She uses methods from  the history of knowledge to investigate changes in the structure, organization, transmission, and production of these texts, arguing that between the 1470s and the 1570s major changes took place in this realm. Examples of such changes are the printing press replacing manuscripts as the main means of disseminating knowledge and the growing popularity of codification rather than the more random compilations of Jewish law that used to be typical in these communities. These changes reveal deep shifts in the Ashkenazic approach to religious law and knowledge. These shifts also have a profound impact on halakhic outcomes and legal interpretation.