Tuesday, July 05, 2005

JEWISH STUDIES, AN INTERNET JOURNAL (JSIJ) has published several articles in this year's volume 4. For some reason these are listed on the page for forthcoming articles rather than the page for current articles. I haven't been keeping up as they've been posted, so here are abstracts of three that are of interest:
Judith Hauptman, "The Tosefta as a Commentary on an Early Mishnah" (English)

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that much of the Tosefta precedes the Mishnah and serves as its basis. However, this raises a fundamental question: how could the Tosefta have been a source of the Mishnah, if the Tosefta is essentially a wide-ranging commentary on and supplement to the Mishnah, as evidenced by the fact that numerous passages in the Tosefta make no sense on their own, and can only be understood when read together with the text on which they comment?

The author suggests that while the Tosefta often comments on a Mishnah, this was not *our* Mishnah, but rather some other, organized, older collection of tannaitic teachings. Numerous examples are adduced to prove this point, thereby providing evidence for the existence of a version of the Mishnah which preceded our Mishnah, which was used and modified by the redactor of our Mishnah.

Amram Tropper,"Yohanan ben Zakkai, Amicus Caesaris: A Jewish Hero in Rabbinic Eyes" (English)

In the foundation myth of Yavneh, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai flees besieged Jerusalem, surrenders to the Romans, predicts Vespasian�s promotion to emperor and is subsequently granted Yavneh as a new center for the rabbinic movement. This rabbinic story risks portraying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as a deserter, perhaps even as a traitor and it is puzzling that the rabbis would have depicted one of the most important sages of the formative period in rabbinic Judaism in such a potentially damaging fashion. Indeed, the nationalistic atmosphere that reigned in Judea during the late first and early second centuries would probably have discouraged contemporary rabbis from portraying a rabbinic hero in this manner, and accordingly, there is not even a hint of the escape story in tannaitic literature. I suggest, however, that later rabbis were comfortable depicting Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in this potentially unflattering manner because of the precedent set by Jeremiah. Jeremiah�s experiences during the destruction of the First Temple, as narrated in the Bible, resemble those of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai at the end of the Second Temple period, and it seems that the rabbis typologically depicted Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as the Jeremiah of the Second Temple.

Ronit Shoshany, "Rabbi Elazar ben Shimeon and the Thieves�A Story of Sin and Atonement" (Hebrew)

The story of R. Elazar and the thieves consists of two parts. The first part describes R. Elazar�s service under Roman rule as a thief-catcher (Bavli, Bava Metzi�a 83b). The story is interrupted by a sequence of short stories, concluding with the story of R. Yohanan and Resh Lakish (84a). This interruption is apparently an intentional editorial one, aimed at encouraging the reader to compare the stories of R. Elazar and R. Yohanan. There are several similar motifs, but there is an important difference between the two stories: R. Yohanan mourns for the dead Resh Lakish, but does not repent for having caused his death by his cruel behavior, whereas R. Elazar deeply repents of his misconduct. This repentance and self-punishment is described in the second part of the story (84b). In this article, I present a close reading of the two parts of the story of R. Elazar, and a detailed comparison between this story and that of R. Yohanan. I argue that the main theme of R. Elazar�s story is his sincere repentance and atonement, which eventually enables acknowledgment of his righteousness by readers of the story.

The full texts can be downloaded in Word or PDF format.

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