Robert Cover's work, on which this conference reflected, indirectly but importantly contributed to this project. Over a decade ago, I devoted a chapter of my scholarly career to his justly celebrated Nomos and Narrative, showing how Cover extracted from Jewish sources an alternative, even if overly wishful, model of Jewish law and used that model to expand the horizons of American legal theory. Cover not only recalled for us modern law's connection to the sacred; he also gave those working in the field of Jewish religious thought a new and rich vocabulary with which to describe the rabbinic legal imagination and reminded us that law and narrative are deeply intertwined. Robert Cover's work figures as well in the specific subject I have chosen to explore. Cover was fond of presenting what he called rabbinic folktales of justice, focused, as befits a scholar of Civil Procedure and Federal Courts, on questions of jurisdiction, whether that of the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) asked to exercise jurisdiction over the king or of the attempt to revive the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrinin sixteenth-century Safed. What interested him most in these tales is the gesture of commitment to law involved in the act of asserting and accepting jurisdiction. Indeed, in Nomos and Narrative Cover condemns the Supreme Court's failure to accept jurisdiction in the Bob Jones University case. Like Robert Cover, I also teach Federal Courts and Civil Procedure, although my scholarly work is in the field of Jewish law and thought. This particular combination of disciplines is responsible for the interpretation I offer here of formulaic appeals to God involving the act of circle drawing. Robert Cover, through his rich interdisciplinary writings, played a seminal role in my own work, and for that I am deeply grateful.
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