chapter
7 Pages

Introduction: The Constitutional Dimension of Jewish History

WithDaniel J. Elazar

This chapter starts by distinguishing periods of constitution making and constitutional change in the course of Jewish history on the basis of the Jewish response, or series of connected responses, to challenges from within or without the edah. Implicit in the foregoing discussion and otherwise a matter of commonsense knowledge is that the edah has gone through periodic regime changes in the course of Jewish history. A reconstruction of the communal constitution of any particular period of Jewish history must come to terms with the entire range of communal living during that time and thereby provide a framework that can encompass virtually all aspects of Jewish civilization. The idea of Jewish history as constitutional history is not new, just as explicit reference to the Torah as the fundamental constitution of the edah is at least as old as Philo and Josephus.