Law, Religion, and Culture Intertwined: A Case Study in the Development of American Jewish Law

By Goldfeder, Mark | Faulkner Law Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Law, Religion, and Culture Intertwined: A Case Study in the Development of American Jewish Law


Goldfeder, Mark, Faulkner Law Review


ABSTRACT

Law and religion share an underlying structure built on commandments and corresponding commitments. They also share a space in the formal regulation of a person's daily life. Oftentimes, they attempt to legislate in the same specific areas, and oftentimes they come to different final conclusions, or to similar conclusions, but for very different reasons. This article explores the concept of child support in Jewish and American law, respectively, noting how the standards that Jewish law courts impose are actually governed by the hybrid and sometimes competing claims of religious law, secular law, and contemporary cultural norms. In some times and places, the Jewish law, or Halakha, establishes a floor that can be built upon, while in other contexts it builds its own obligations upon existing legal structures and societal standards. Because of the well-formulated and embracing nature of the "Dina Demalchusa Dina" concept in Jewish law, which states (in a broad sense) that the law of the land is the law, the final product is still thought of and construed as a religious obligation under halakha itself, making this case a prime example of one in which law and culture can and do influence religion.

INTRODUCTION

Child support, or child maintenance, can refer to the obligation that parents have toward their offspring within a marital family structure, or to an ongoing periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Because it is so central of an institution, almost every legal system, religious or otherwise, has devised rules and structures to govern the calculation and distribution of this support.

Part I of this article establishes a framework for dealing with the intersections between law, religion, and culture. It also provides a background for child support in Jewish law, with an explanation of its legal development and application for the modern era. Part II of this article focuses on American legal standards for the same question, with a particular focus on New York as a typical state. Part III of this article argues from empirical evidence (court decisions, legislative practice) that the social norms in America are indeed changing, and that states are moving towards a standard that recognizes the need for child support all the way through a college education, instead of relying on a classic bright-line age-cutoff rule. Part IV of this article looks at employment statistics in the contemporary United States. It concludes that in order for a husband to fulfill the halakhic requirement, and for judges to award the proper amount in mandated child support, Jewish judges and arbitrators need to be aware of and in tune with both the legal progression and the cultural tide when making their determinations.

This example and case study is quite important for a modern society looking for paradigms to deal with questions of what happens when law and religion offer competing, or non-competing but different, visions for how a society should run. Rather than sparking fear, controversy, or aggression, these questions can and should provoke the desire amongst the religiously faithful and civic-minded to find nuanced answers, ideologically truthful and grounded in religious and legal integrity alongside practical effectiveness. Openness, including the built-in flexibility to allow other systems appropriate amounts of influence when necessary, should be the order of the day in establishing a truly respectful and integrated pluralistic society.

I. THE HALAKHIC BACKGROUND

Both law and religion operate on a system of commandments and corresponding commitments, obligations that are multifaceted and often lead to long-term accountability. It is often said that law gives religion its structure, and religion gives law its spirit. Law encourages devotion to order and organization, while religion inspires adherence to both ritual and justice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Law, Religion, and Culture Intertwined: A Case Study in the Development of American Jewish Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.