Takkanot Kandiyah – A collection of legislative statutes as a source for the assessment of laymen’s legal authority in a Jewish community in Venetian Crete
The dissertations offers an analysis of Takkanot Kandiyah, a corpus of communal statutes from the Jewish community in Candia, the capital of Venetian Crete. These texts were written between 1228 and 1583 and collected as a coherent work by the Cretan Jewish historian Elijah Capsali. The collection has been used by scholars as a source regarding the social and economic history of Jewish Candia, but so far, not much attention has been paid to Takkanot Kandiyah as a specific work of Jewish legal literature, providing a unique opportunity to study the development of leadership of a semi-autonomous Jewish community. The dissertation is divided into an introduction, two parts and a conclusion. In the introduction (chapter one), I outline the structure of Takkanot Kandiyah, summarise its historical background and comment on the current state of research on the Jewry in Venetian Crete. Part One (chapters two-six) then provides a detailed overview of Takkanot Kandiyah and set it into its religious, historical, literary, and legal context. In Part Two (chapters seven-ten), I examine the various areas of life touched upon by the statutes and categorise the ordinances depending on the topics covered, pointing out the collection’s concern with both halakhic and (broadly speaking) extra-halakhic matters. The main argument of the dissertation is that Takkanot Kandiyah proves the gradual development of a specific political system in which the Jewish public affairs were managed largely by the group of lay leaders. Many of them were wealthy members of long-established local families whose authority was not sanctioned by their religious education or rabbinic ordination, but by popular consent and the readiness of the Venetian government to respect them as leaders of their coreligionists. The collection also reflects the ways in which the Jewish leadership dealt with the challenges of inner diversity arising from continuing arrivals of Jewish immigrants from various parts of the Mediterranean. Showing a strong tendency towards continuity, yet also an ability to accommodate to the need of the day, Takkanot Kandiyah is a major testimony to the legal history of Cretan Jewry and to the development of leadership and communal autonomy in a pre-modern Jewish community.