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Elad Schlesinger

The reception History of the Shulhan Arukh in Europe and the Formation of its Communities of Readers, 1589-1726

Elad Schlesinger is a Ph.D. candidate at the Jewish Thought department, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He earned his MA at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writing his thesis in the Jewish History department and the Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

His research, “The reception History of the Shulhan Arukh in Europe and the Formation of its Communities of Readers, 1589-1726”, focuses on the various modes of reading, reception, and interpretation of the 16th-century Jewish legal code known as the Shulhan Arukh by the Jews of Christian Europe, in the “long” 17th century. Centered around the Shulhan Arukh, arguably the most influential Jewish legal code of the past millennium, the research touches broader contexts, involving issues of intellectual, cultural, social, and religious aspects pertinent to early modern Jewish societies, contexts in which Shulhan Arukh and its reception have been a central factor.

The research lies in the junction of book history and the history of scholarship, history of the law in post-reformation European societies (and legal history), and intellectual and cultural early modern European history. As such, his research aims both to reveal the relations between the themes of interpretation, reception, and canonization, and also to describe the history of Shulhan Arukh’s physical production, publication, printing, and “packaging,” and how these were formative factors in the process in which the original text of the work became a multi-layered, multi-faceted text. In addition, the research deals with aspects of legal and scientific thinking and reasoning, focusing on legal “deciding rules” that to no small extent were produced as a response to Shulhan Arukh and as a way to enable (or to justify) the text’s usage. Other aspects underlying the research include, among others, themes of cultural geography, related to the role that various and diverse geographical spaces and local identities (and the relationships between them) played in the dynamics examined in the research. This study seeks to weave together the different angles of this historical portrayal and moment, hence to shed light on this chapter of early modern Jewish cultural life, which is continued to be echoed to this day.