Professor Stefan H. Krieger recently published his article, The Place of Storytelling in Legal Reasoning: Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Torah min Hashamayim in 6 Storytelling, Self, Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies 169 (2010).
This article reads the teachings of two rabbis from the Second Century through the lenses of cognitive science on legal reasoning and shows the relationship of their narratives and legal opinions. Cognitive scientists posit that both logical and narrative thinking are essential and interrelated modes of cognitive functioning. The stories and legal decisions of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael, as described by Abraham Joshua Heschel in his masterpiece, Torah min Hashamayim (Heavenly Torah) support these insights. Consistent with the findings of cognitive science, the narrative themes and images of each rabbi permeate their legal rulings. Heavenly Torah also reflects Heschel’s own narrative, his attempts to make meaning after the Holocaust and in the midst of 1960s America. As with Akiva and Ishmael, Heschel’s narrative infuses his own approach to legal decision making. This article demonstrates that in analyzing issues, all legal practitioners consider both the logical principles of their legal system and the narrative themes and images they have created to find meaning in the world in which they live.