Throughout the history of critical academic Jewish studies, scholars have inthe main categorized rabbinic sages either as semantically or conceptuallydeductive readers who gave no thought to the purposes and values of the laws oras conscious distorters of their deductive sources due to new values. According tothis view, committed legal interpreters necessarily worked to either discover ormanipulate a semantic-based law, a law composed of either discreteterminological and conceptual units or merely conceptually related legalcategories, in order to apply the law to new problems that arise. No scholar hasseriously considered and attempted to defend a very different possibility: thatrather than either blindly apply or distort their sources, these sages may actuallyhave derived policy positions from their authoritative sources. The aim of this research has been to do just that: to present an approachwhich argues that rabbinic sages may have viewed themselves as reading theirsources accurately, even as they seemingly misread their sources and madedecisions that differed from those of their sources. In a religious culture that hadno formal way to modify its traditional laws and rarely articulated its theoreticalprinciples, leading legal authorities viewed themselves as sages rather than asscholars. As such, they carefully studied the legal sources, empathetically viewingthem as a multiplicity of narratives, of grounded intents, of insights on the humancondition. This enabled them to develop an intuitive sense of what Jewish lawconsiders right and wrong. They then applied these intuitions to theircontemporary conditions so as to maintain the critical connection between law andconcrete reality and thus achieve good laws. They were casuists who hadcultivated their intuitions. They thought through internalized earlier norms, andthey addressed their contemporary situations in the language of those earliernorms. Thus, what has always been viewed as a semantic or conceptual reading of legal texts, without regard to the texts’ purpose, is actually a combination both of (1) internalizing the insights of legal rulings and justifications which were read asnarratives or details of narratives, and (2) of using that traditional terminology torefer to these insights – and to apply the insights to contemporary problems. The dissertation is structured as follows: It begins with an introductorychapter that explains the nature of the thesis here advanced. It continues withfour chapters which examine examples from four successive periods of Jewish law– Tannaitic, Amoraic, high-medieval, and modern. Finally, it concludes with a sixthchapter that defends the thesis against a series of possible theoretical objectionsto its historical claim that a sage can engage in understanding another person’snon-verbalized insights across cultures and historical periods – or at least mustengage in such endeavor as if it were possible.