Thursday, January 14, 2016

Recent articles in JSIJ

Collective Punishment and the Redaction of the Sugya of Akhan's Sin in the Babylonian Talmud (In Hebrew)

This article analyzes the redactional considerations underlying the sugya about Akhan’s sin in B. San. 43b–44b. At first sight, the structure of the sugya seems problematic, since it does not follow the order of the biblical narrative. This is especially remarkable when this passage is compared to the parallel sugya in the Palestinian Talmud, where the biblical narrative sequence is preserved. An analysis of the Babylonian sugya reveals that the Babylonian editors chose to add homiletic material of both Palestinian and Babylonian origin, which interrupted the original narrative sequence. The central theme of this additional material is collective punishment, which already lies at the center of the biblical story. Thus, the desire to expand discussion of this theme was of great importance to the Babylonian editors, who gave it priority over the original sequence of the biblical narrative.

Dror Erlich, The Retributive Theory of Punishment in Ancient Rabbinic Discussions of Hell (In Hebrew)

Classical rabbinic texts espoused the notion that sinners are punished in hell. The concept of hell was discussed in ancient rabbinic literature from several perspectives, some technical (e.g., when hell was created, its size and structure) and others theological and ethical (e.g., who deserves to be punished there and why, does hell entail eternal damnation or only temporary suffering). This paper focuses on one such theological-ethical issue, namely, the justification for punishment in hell. The paper examines the relevant rabbinic sources from a philosophical perspective and aims to show that their discussions of hell are based on the principles of classical retributive theory of punishment, as opposed to the utilitarian theory of punishment.

Itay Marienberg-Milikowsky, “Exile Yourself to a Place of Torah”? Independence, Marginality and the Study of Torah in Rabbinic Depictions of R. Elazar ben Arakh (In Hebrew)

Most of the rabbinic sources dealing with R. Elazar Ben Arakh seem charged, although some appear neutral, and we may accordingly inquire as to whether they reflect more complex traces of meaning. This article concludes that contrary to accepted opinion, R. Elazar ben Arakh was not perceived as a representative of rabbinic creativity until a relatively late stage. The description of R. Elazar b. Arakh by his teacher, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, as a “welling spring” (ma‘ayan ha-mitgabber), does not reflect R. Elazar’s intellectual creativity, but rather his ability, and perhaps also his inclination, to disseminate his teachings in circles extending beyond those of the Rabbis. Based on a fresh reading of most of the rabbinic traditions dealing with R. Elazar ben Arakh, this article seeks to distinguish between the description of R. Elazar ben Arakh as “welling spring” and the history of creativity in Torah study throughout the ages.