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Introduction to Halakhah: Jewish Family


Admission requirements

Students are recommended to have successfully completed either Introduction to Judaism or Joodse cultuurgeschiedenis. For other admissions, please consult the instructor.


Family law is one of the few areas that still fall under the jurisdiction of Jewish laws and the Jewish law courts (batei din) and their rabbis who are authorized to interpret it. In this course we will study the mishnaic and Talmudic texts relating to marriage and divorce. We will focus specifically on adultery and the problem of the agunah (the so-called “chained wife”) and the rabbinic attempts to solve the problem of abandoned women. Finally we will turn to present-day issues and solutions regarding the agunah and their parallel in Islamic law.

Course objectives

This course will serve as an introduction to Jewish law or Halacha, by way of Jewish family law. Students will gain insight into the functioning and methods of Jewish law including the manner in which change may be or may not be introduced.
Students will gain insight into the potential conflict between Jewish family law and state law as well as attempts to integrate Jewish and/or Muslim law into state law in the case of marriage and divorce.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar: students will read and study rabbinic texts with the instructor and write brief summaries of their readings weekly.

Course Load

  • Total course load 130 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars 2 hours per week x 13 weeks = 26 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature 52 hours (4 hours per week)

  • Time to prepare for the exam 52 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

  • written examination with essay questions 70%

  • weekly assignments and class participation 30%

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. In order to pass the student must receive a grade of 6 or more for each part of the assessment.


Blackboard will be used for notifications, weekly schedule and reading requirements, uploading assignments.

Reading list

  • Mishnah Nashim. Hebrew tekst and the English translation by Danby is available in the university library.

  • Talmud Nashim. Original text and English translations available in the university library.

  • Other source text will be made available in class

  • Michael Broyde, Marriage, Divorce and the Abandoned Wife in Jewish Law (Ktav Publishing House 2001)

  • Eliezer Berkovits, Jewish Women in Time and Torah (Ktav Publishing House 1990)

  • A selection of working papers from the Agunah Research Unit Publication, The Centre for Jewish Studies,

  • University of Manchester (available online manchesterjewish


Registration through uSis. Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the Registrationprocedures for classes and examinations for registration deadlines and more information on how to register

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

A la carte


This course will be of interest to those studying Judaism, rabbinic Judaism, family law, Islamic family law.