20 juillet 2014

Literal Meaning in Talmud Literature

par Stefan Goltzberg

The purpose of Stefan Goltzberg’s paper is to examine how two antithetical legal principles (Stick to the letter ! Go beyond the letter !) are articulated in Jewish law. The above principles are known as The Literal Rule and The Purposive Rule. The former requires respect for the formulation of the law, namely for its letter. The latter requires respect for the value that the law seeks to defend, even if against the very letter of the law.
The respect for the letter is expressed through the following principle in Talmudic law : Eyn miqra yotse midey peshuto, “The verse should not be deprived of its peshat [Literal Meaning or, more precisely, contextual meaning]”. This makes non-literal interpretation spurious. However, there is no current in Jewish or non Jewish law that does not allow some cases where it is legitimate to depart from Literal Meaning (Go beyond the letter !).

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