“FROM USHA TO YAVNEH”—THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF A TRADITION
Scholars have discussed the historical validity of one detail of the tradition transmitted by R. Johanan about the ten wanderings of the Sanhedrin (bRH 31a): Did the Sanhedrin return to Yavneh after it moved from there to the Galilee? This article attempts to determine the original character of this tradition based on internal considerations methodologically detached from the historical issues. Based on analysis of the textual and literary features of the material and parallels in liturgical poetry, we demonstrate that the return to Yavneh is an integral feature of the tradition, whose transformations and their reasons are clarified in this article.
THE TEXT-TRADITION OF THE TOSEFTA: A PRELIMINARY STUDY IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SAUL LIEBERMAN
Saul Lieberman, in the Introduction to his Tosefet Rishonim, Vol. 4 (Jerusalem 1939), drew attention to variant readings in the text-witnesses of the Tosefta which parallel the varying traditions in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds. These variant readings, Lieberman suggested, show that the Tosefta was transmitted in two different branches, similar to the Mishnah, whose text-witnesses represent two lines of transmission – Palestinian (mishnat Eretz Israel) and Babylonian (mishnat Bavel).
Although Lieberman repeated this thesis in numerous places in his later works, it was recently challenged by Y. Sussmann. In a lengthy note at the end of his article, “The Ashkenazic Yerushalmi MS” (Tarbiz LXV , pp. 61–63, n. 166), Sussmann drew attention to the affinity between the Erfurt manuscript of the Tosefta and an Ashkenazic manuscript of the Palestinian Talmud in which a massive process of emendation and harmonization with the text of the Babylonian Talmud is clearly apparent. This affinity led Sussmann to suggest that the text-tradition of the Tosefta preserved in the Erfurt manuscript does not reflect an ancient, genuine tradition. Rather, it is the product of a long process of emendation aimed at harmonization with parallel tannaitic traditions found in the Babylonian Talmud. In fact, Sussmann argues, Lieberman himself, as he progressed in his work on the Tosefta, adopted a more reserved attitude towards his original thesis and stressed the “Babylonian” character of the Erfurt manuscript.
The present study demonstrates that Lieberman maintained his original theory throughout his comprehensive commentary on the Tosefta, Tosefta Ki-Fshutah, and suggests that this theory be accepted. It is argued that the variant readings between the text witnesses of the Tosefta on which Lieberman based his thesis do not emanate from adjustment to the Babylonian Talmud, but reflect the text-tradition of the tannaitic sources with which the Babylonian Talmud itself was familiar. Through an analysis of more than 120 variant readings it is shown that the two major manuscripts of the Tosefta, MSS Vienna and Erfurt, indeed reflect two distinct text-traditions. Moreover, it is shown that in most cases where these two manuscripts preserve different readings which correspond to different traditions preserved in the Babylonian Talmud on the one hand and the Palestinian Talmud on the other, the reading of the Erfurt MS resembles that of the Palestinian Talmud! Consequently the notion of an extreme “Babylonian influence” on the Erfurt MS, which led some scholars to regard it as a manuscript that reflects “Babylonian tradition,” should not be accepted.
THE RISE OF THE BABYLONIAN RABBINIC ACADEMY: A REEXAMINATION OF THE TALMUDIC EVIDENCE
This paper offers a fresh examination of the talmudic evidence for the rise of the rabbinic academy in Babylonia, the subject of a debate between David Goodblatt and Yeshayahu Gafni. Based on a thorough examination of all references to rabbinic schools and institutions in the Bavli, Goodblatt concluded that rabbinic academies, the large-scale institutions of learning known from Geonic sources, did not exist in the amoraic period. The Bavli typically associates Babylonian amoraim with the be rav or be rav ploni, which Goodblatt argued was a small disciple circle that gathered around an individual rabbi. Gafni challenged Goodblatt’s conclusion, arguing that some Bavli traditions—about 35 in total—do indeed use the term yeshiva to mean “academy,” and that some descriptive passages reflect the existence of such an institution in talmudic times.
Gafni concluded that yeshivot originated in late amoraic times in Babylonia. This debate can be resolved by taking into account the theories of David Weiss Halivni and Shamma Friedman concerning the post-amoraic or “stammaitic” provenance of the anonymous stratum of the Bavli, as well as some recent work on the post-amoraic origins of many Bavli narratives. Here I review all the sources that in Gafni’s view indicate the existence of academies in amoraic Babylonia. It turns out that almost all of these derive from the post-amoraic stratum. Thus both Goodblatt and Gafni were correct. Goodblatt was correct to date the rise of the academy to post-amoraic times. Gafni was correct to claim that there are indeed references to academies in the Bavli. However, these references belong to the post-amoraic stratum, and therefore support Goodblatt’s rather than Gafni’s, conclusion.
HOLY MEN DO NOT DEFILE – LAW AND IDEOLOGY
According to the accepted halakhah, the corpse of a Jewish person is considered unclean and Kohanim are forbidden to defile themselves through contact with it. Sometime in the Middle Ages a new idea appears in rabbinic literature, according to which the corpse of a holy man is not considered unclean and does not defile others, and hence Kohanim are not forbidden to handle it or come in contact with the grave of such a person. This article explains how this ideological and halakhic change took place, its loose contact with the Palestinian understanding of these matters, and its closer connection with the problem of the Christian Reliquia Sacra and Jewish-Christian polemics.
MISHPAT IVRI, HALAKHAH AND LEGAL PHILOSOPHY: AGUNAH AND THE THEORY OF “LEGAL SOURCES”
This paper examines Menachem Elon’s jurisprudential model for mishpat ivri (a version of the positivist “sources” theory) in terms of both its jurisprudential accuracy and halakhic appropriateness. The latter is questioned by drawing upon aspects of the problem of the agunah (see further my recent lecture at http://www.mucjs.org/agunahunit.htm). I conclude by suggesting that the underlying problems of applying a jurisprudential model reflect tensions of a theological nature, regarding the nature of revelation.
A PROLEGOMENON TO THE STUDY OF JEWISH CULTURAL HISTORY
Defining culture as "a history of meaning and feelings broadly defined, as embedded in expressive practices widely observed," this article attempts to clarify basic issues that any history of Jewish culture must confront. After an assertion of the importance of the history of the group in forming the cultural identity of its individuals in the present, the problems delineated are: the elusiveness of historicist analysis; influence versus polysystem as models for Jewish-Gentile interaction; the place of Gentiles in Jewish culture; the evolving ascendancy of written cultural forms; norms versus praxis; genderization; and the place of Kabbala in life.
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ADDENDA AND CORRIGENDA TO SAREI HA-ELEF
Last Update:February 09, 2004