“Even if One Found a More Beautiful Woman”: An Analysis of Grounds for Divorce in Rabbinic Literature
This paper analyzes the development of rabbinic views about grounds for divorce. The common rabbinic view, which grants the husband the sole right—indeed, an almost unlimited right—to divorce his wife, differs both from the strict prohibition on divorce found in the New Testament and Qumran literature and the view of Roman law, which permits both husbands and wives to divorce one another. Through comparison of the principal tannaitic sources with parallel material in the New Testament and Qumran literature, we distinguish between first and second century views about divorce, and claim that the principal rabbinic source on this issue (Mishnah Gittin 9:9), which ostensibly describes a first century debate, actually reflects later tannaitic discourse. We suggest that this Mishnah, which takes the right of divorce for granted, reinterprets the original, first-century debate of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai as dealing with grounds for divorce. This reconstruction is based, inter alia, on the recent publication of a new tannaitic midrash by Menahem Kahana.
On the Need to Correct Krauss's Lehnw?rter: Pnqrysyn
S. Krauss’ Lehnw?rter (vol. 2) was published in Berlin in 1899. It constitutes a masterpiece of pioneering lexicography, listing words in rabbinic literature derived from Greek and Latin. However, it is full of errors and needs radical revision. This short article demonstrates how the entry ôð÷øéñéï should be corrected and rewritten as several different entries with varied meanings and emended readings.
Mishnah Study and Study Groups in Modern Times
This article discusses study of the Mishnah in modern times, beginning with the period after the Spanish Expulsion. We analyze the reasons that Mishnah was studied in modern times as an independent work, without connection to the Talmud. We then discuss the phenomenon of Mishnah study groups (hevrot Mishnah) and the regulations (taqqanot) adopted by these groups, examining some of the notebooks of these groups which have been preserved in archives. Finally, we publish several new collections of these taqqanot.
A Good Story Deserves Retelling – The Unfolding of the Akiva Legend
Original composition and creative transmission are native to the talmudic corpus. One of the pervasive literary devices of this corpus is transfer of motifs from one context to another, or even duplication and reapplication of a story from one hero to another.
The body of this paper is devoted to the famous accounts of Rabbi Akiva’s scholarly beginnings as recorded in the Bavli, Ketubbot 62b and Nedarim 50a.
The closest approximation to the original literary kernel of the Akiva legend is in ARNB, in short, unconnected pericopae. Akiva is unlearned and poor, but determined to conquer the study of Torah, and eventually he raises 12,000 pairs of disciples. Ultimately he is rewarded with great riches, and he bestows magnificent gifts upon his wife. He justifies this extravagance with the recollection of the suffering she underwent during his studies. In ARNA her role moves from passive suffering to active contribution; she supports the children. In the Yerushalmi her contribution is made directly to Akiva and romanticized: she cuts off her braids and devotes the money to his study of Torah.
Only in the Bavli are these themes woven into a continuous narrative, as they are further developed and romanticized. Most creatively, their son Yehoshua’s betrothal bargain (Tosefta Ketubbot) of having his wife support his study is assigned to his parents. Akiva’s boorishness now has him cast as a shepherd. The disinheritance theme is borrowed from R. Eliezer’s appearance before Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, and is connected to one of the personalities who was sitting in the audience, Kalba Savua. The 12,000 disciples are combined with the 13 years of study. During this period he was described as living separately from his wife with her permission, in contrast to the literary description of the wrongdoings of Hanania ben Hakhinai, who remained in R. Akiva’s academy for 13 years without communicating with his wife.
The full exemplum was then taken over by an author working within the framework of Nedarim, who added the other fabulous tradition about R. Akiva and the Jerusalem-of-Gold. The brilliant prefiguration of the golden diadem in the straw scene allows the storyteller to shift Ketubbot’s betrothal pact a la Yehoshua to a more tender and stirring scene. Delaying the exhortation to study to a time after the betrothal and anticipating the Jerusalem-of-Gold bring both themes together as the couple exchange their mutual vows of love
“Up to the Ears” in Horses Necks (B.M. 108a): On Sasanian Agricultural Policy and Private “Eminent Domain”
In B.M. 108a the first-generation amora, Samuel, to whom the rule that “the law of the secular state is valid” is attributed, rules that though one who takes possession of a riverbank is considered impudent, the court cannot remove him. To this is added a later comment: “Now that the Persians write that ‘[the adjacent riverbed] is acquired by you to the [depth] of water to the [height] of a horse’s neck, we do remove him.’” This decision raises a number of questions, among which are: Why should anyone be interested in acquiring riverbed property? Why should the court care?
Now that an early-seventh-century compilation of Sasanian laws is available – the Book of a Thousand Decisions – a relevant Persian law is available (see MHD 85:8–11). The Babylonian Aramaic term “water to the [depth] of a horse’s neck” is equivalent to the Middle Persian gosh balay, “the height of a horse’s ear.” The Sasanian law relates to the digging of a cana, and the rights of eminent domain that the diggers receive in return for this public service. The context of this decision becomes clear when we realize that the Sasanians introduced rice-cultivation into Iraq, and that a riverbed property in a meandering stream, such as the Euphrates, with a very gentle slope, might permit as much as a 30-meter strip to be cultivated. We may learn much about Sasanian agricultural and commercial policy from this decision and related ones.