Title

Akhnai

Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Utah Law Review

Publication Date

1997

Abstract

In the Talmudic story of the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer - symbol of unchanging law and original intent - decides a disputed issue of law, supporting his claim with all the arguments in the world and then with miracles including a voice from the Author proclaiming his interpretation correct. Nonetheless, his interpretation is rejected.

The Akhnai story is a complicated commentary on the problems of democracy and justice, with insights into the majoritarian (and counter-majoritarian) difficulties, the status of ancient law, and the meaning of originalist interpretation. I draw out lessons for those who seek to create a single society in a world where we have deep committments to ultimate values and, often, equally deep disagreements as to their content.

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