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Zuri (Zuri-Szezak), Jacob Samuel


ZURI (Zuri-Szezak), JACOB SAMUEL (1884–1943), lawyer, authority on Hebrew law, and author. Zuri, who was born in Poland, studied in France and Germany. After immigrating to Palestine after World War i, he lectured for a time at the Jerusalem Law School. In 1927 he moved to Paris and in 1931 to London. Zuri's single scholarly purpose was to introduce into the European study of Greek, Roman, and Islamic law the data of the Jewish legal tradition. He published most of his 31 works in Hebrew, because, as a Zionist, he hoped to lay the foundation for a system of legislation for the coming Jewish state. In his biographical studies and in his analysis of Jewish jurisprudence, Zuri distinguishes between two main currents in rabbinical methodology, the southern, characteristic of Judean scholars, and the northern, of Galilean scholars. These recur in Babylonian Sura and Nehardea-Pumbedita, respectively. Southern methodology seeks for the underlying unity of surface differences. In mishnaic study, a southerner will relate the view of an anonymous Mishnah to the total view held by a tannaitic authority or to an abstract legal principle. Northern methodology concentrates on concrete characteristics of cases and looks for fine individual differences. In mishnaic controversy, the northerner looks for an explanation of difference in the differing circumstances of specific cases. Zuri worked out these principles in, among others, the following works: Rab, sein Leben und seine Anschauungen (1918); Rabbi Akiva (Heb., 1924); Rav Ashi (Heb. 1924); Tarbut ha-Deromim (1924); Toledot Darkhei ha-Limmud (1914); Toledot ha-Mishpat ha-Ẓibburi ha-Ivri (3 vols. 1931–34); and Tarbut ha-Deromim (1924). Zuri made a substantial contribution to the study of talmudic history and law. However, his prolixity and occasional inaccuracies, combined with a single-minded adherence to his primary interpretive principle, have limited his impact.


S. Kanter, in: J. Neusner (ed.), Formation of the Babylonian Talmud (1970).

[Jacob Neusner]

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