The Cantor, the Mystic, and the Jurist

Posted by Levi Cooper on June 22, 2014
Topics: Rabbinic Literature, Hasidut, The High Holy Days, Halakha, Modernity

Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933) was offered an opportunity that would make any performer swoon: a star role in the ground-breaking film The Jazz Singer (1927). Yet Rosenblatt refused this artistic opportunity of the lifetime. This paper contextualises Rosenblatt’s baffling decision, by exploring one possible relationship between art and law; in this case – the art of storytelling and the Jewish legal system. The study demonstrates where the two pursuits tread separate, unlinked paths to a common end. This vector is refracted through the lens of performance of prayers outside of the religious synagogue service; specifically the propriety of cantorial concerts that presented prayers from the High Holy Day liturgy. This issue appears in Jewish legal writing and in storytelling – each modality using its own tools to tackle the trend. It is noted that legal systems without effective enforcement mechanisms – such as Jewish law in the late modern period – could use arts as compensatory media for achieving societal order. More significantly, however, arts are not umbilically connected to law; each cultural creation independently strives to fashion society.  The full article is available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2612762.

About Levi Cooper

Levi teaches Bible, Hasidut, Maimonides and Midrash at Pardes. Originally from Australia, Levi holds an LL.B., LL.M. and Ph.D. from the Law Faculty of Bar-Ilan University, and is a member of the Israel Bar Association. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Law Faculty of Bar-Ilan University and post-doctoral fellow in the Law Faculty of Tel Aviv University. Click here to read more.

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