Scales of Justice by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer: From Rabbinic Tradition to Public Participation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher (1795–1874), best known for his proto-national thinking and advocacy of settlement in the Land of Israel in the third quarter of the 19th century, was crowned a preeminent ”Precursor of Zionism”. However, his halakhic teachings, which have never been properly researched, represent a fount of perspectives that help refine our understanding of his ideological and activist program. This article focuses on Moznayim LaMishpat (1855) and his unfinished halakhic work that attempted to complete the Ḥoshen Mishpat codex, not by composing another commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh or an independent halakhic treatise but by glossing the text of the Shulkhan Arukh itself, as did Isserles. Apart from all the halakhot that were renewed by commentators and the halakhic approaches of the medieval sages that were absent from the Shulkhan Arukh and the Isserles glosses, this codex also contains the sources and reasons for the halakhot. Finally, Kalischer sought to restore the authority of communal autonomy that had eroded in the 19th century and had rendered the relevance of the laws of Ḥoshen Mishpat questionable by emphasizing public consent as an alternative to transcendent authority. He even extended the idea of public consent to the legislative, executive, and punitive powers of the monarchial legal system (Mishpetei ha-Melukhah) by arguing that these rested on the authority of the general public, just as they are vested in the king. In his view, public authority is not limited to community legislation or repealing the regulations of the Sages; it also wields the power of the monarchial legal system, which parallels the halakhic legal system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number218
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Code of Jewish Law
  • Zvi Hirsch Kalischer
  • communal enactments
  • glosses
  • monarchial legal system


Dive into the research topics of 'Scales of Justice by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer: From Rabbinic Tradition to Public Participation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this