The Kosher Bookworm: Alan Jay Gerber

Rabbi Moshe Walter: ‘The Making of a Halachic Decision’


Rabbi Walter is visiting the Five Towns this Shabbat. See page 13 for locations. This Bookworm column is continued from last week.

Rabbi Moshe Walter’s modest book of 231 pages, “The Making of a Halachic Decision, is subtitled, “A comprehensive analysis and guide to halachic rulings,” and indeed this is so. The use of the word “analysis” serves as the major motif of the methodology employed by Rabbi Walter to serve as the touchstone of what Jewish law is all about: analysis of the halachic method.

To better understand where Rabbi Walter is leading us to, we have to refer briefly to his introduction:

“The word halachah is used by our Sages, of blessed memory, and halachic authorities in many different contexts. The root of this word is halach, which means ‘to go.’ This helps us to understand the nature of halachah. Halachah is a process; just as one walks from point A to point B, so too, halachah is a process that begins at point A and finishes at point B.”

This book is a trip through logical legal sequences and descriptions of the various personalities and their works who have inhabited the Jewish legal landscape for most of Jewish history. The clear and lucid language employed by the author enables you, the reader and student, to comprehend and thus best appreciate the genius of the Jewish legal system.

This work is divided into three sections: part one focuses on the methodology utilized by halachic authorities; part two explains the laws of ruling on halachic queries; part three expounds on the guidelines set out by halachic authorities for proper use of these works.

Rabbi Walter goes into great detail explaining how to use this work, which is both an introduction to the halachic process and a guide for veteran scholars who are already immersed in the study of Jewish law. Ever-present and valuable source materials and footnotes enable you to continue your studies in greater depth. Glossaries of both names and terms that appear in this work serve as another vital resource to further enhance the quality of your studies.

Another resource is a detailed appendix that includes the following works in the original Hebrew, obviating the need to consult the original:

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