Towards a judicial biography of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady

Levi Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study seeks to forge a new avenue of legal scholarship on the modern religious movement known as Hasidism. The paper focuses on Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (ca. 1745- 1812)-Hasidic master, religious thinker, and jurist. Much has been written on Shneur Zalman, his formidable leadership in the face of strident opposition and his groundbreaking religious philosophy. His legacy continues to animate contemporary Judaism, primarily through his spiritual heirs-the Lubavitch Hasidic community-and through his Hasidic thought known as Chabad. The present study maps out an aspect which has been widely neglected, but is nonetheless crucial to understanding this religious leader: Rabbi Shneur Zalman's legal activity. The first part of the study surveys existing research, assessing what has been achieved thus far, and what tools are available for further research. The second part of the essay highlights salient questions to be considered as part of a judicial biography, offering preliminary answers to these questions. The article concludes with the contention that without serious analysis of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's legal writings-or for that matter, legal writings of Hasidic masters in general-any intellectual history of this religious movement will be incomplete.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-135
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Law and Religion
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Admor-Posek
  • Chabad
  • Codification
  • Hasidism
  • Jewish law
  • Lubavitch
  • Shul{hcombining dot bellow}a n 'arukh ha-rav

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Law


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