A comprehensive legal history of changing remuneration practices among the rabbinate
In his legal history of the rabbinic profession from biblical to modern times, Jeffrey I. Roth traces the development of principles governing compensation and related benefits for rabbis, scholars, teachers, and judges under Jewish law. Roth focuses on the disconnect that evolved as rabbis wished to serve God and their communities yet needed to provide for the material needs of their families. He charts the shift from the Talmudic ideal of uncompensated service and follows the development of four material advantages sought by the rabbinic profession—compensation, protection against competition, principles of tenure in office, and inheritance rights.
Roth assesses how Jewish legal authorities dealt with seemingly conflicting material and spiritual requirements. Analyzing two millennia of legal and intellectual history, he depicts the struggle of rabbinical authorities and scholars of the Torah to answer questions about their profession in a way that allowed the rabbinate to survive while limiting compromises with received standards. Through vivid historical vignettes, Roth tells a story of legal ingenuity and religious courage, of flexibility in Jewish law, and of a responsiveness to changing circumstances that ultimately, although often hesitantly, laid the foundation for the modern rabbinate.
In one of the few studies of the rabbinate cutting across countries and movements, Roth places rabbis in the social and economic contexts of their times and depicts them not just as religious leaders but as wage earners, providers for their dependents, and competitors in the provision of fee-based services for the more lucrative and prestigious positions. He also draws thoughtful parallels between rabbinic tenure and university academic tenure, noting that both protect the teacher and scholar from ever-changing political winds.
Jeffrey I. Roth is a professor of law at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Huntington, New York. A former Fulbright scholar in Budapest, he has also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam and in Berlin at Humbolt University. He holds degrees from Yeshiva University, Columbia University, and the Yale Law School.
"In his well written and thoughtfully organized legal study, Jeffrey Roth covers an enormous amount of historical material and is eminently fair to all sides of the many debates over rabbinic compensation, tenure, and inheritance. There is nothing else quite like it available."—Daniel H. Frank, professor of philosophy and director of the Jewish Studies Program, Purdue University, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy