Boston University School of Law’s Institute of Jewish Law and Harvard Law School’s Gruss Program in Talmudic Civil Law will jointly sponsor their fifth international conference on Jewish law. This year’s conference, entitled “Free Will, Responsibility and Coercion in the Talmud,” will be held at Harvard Law School’s Pound Hall. It will begin Monday afternoon, May 19, 2008, and continue through Wednesday afternoon, May 21, 2008. BU Law Professor Neil Hecht, the founding director of Boston University’s Institute of Jewish Law will participate as a moderator and presenter at the conference on Monday, May 19th.
For the last several years, a diverse group of law professors and specialists in Jewish law from North America and Israel has gathered for a late spring conference on various aspects of Jewish law (Equity in Jewish Law, 2002; Genesis in Jewish Law, 2003; Legal Heritage of Maimonides, 2004, Jewish Law and Narrative, 2005). The aim of these conferences is learning and discussion. The main sessions are organized around study of texts (translated into English) in small groups, after which the group meets to discuss the texts more broadly with a leader. This format permits participation by both novices and specialists.
Legal discourse is framed in terms of the distinction between freely willed acts and coerced acts. The conference is devoted to exploring--from the Talmudic perspective--the question of when it is correct to say of an act that it is coerced, and what this understanding of coercion implies. The issues under discussion will include: sale under duress; divorce under duress; precept-observance and transgression under duress.