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The Rabbinic Polemic against Sanctification of Sites

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Author:
Eyal Ben Eliyahu Dept. of History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91905, Israel;, Email: eyalb@mscc.huji.ac.il

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Abstract

The attribution of holiness to various sites in antiquity was confined neither to a particular ethnic or religious group, nor to one particular geographical locale, but was rather practiced by a wide range of groups vis-à-vis many locations. Contrary to these views, the rabbis made a very clear and sharp statement regarding the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and negated the idea of the existence of holy places outside Jerusalem. The rabbis struggled against the sanctity of the biblical “holy mountain,” as well as against sites that could have been regarded as holy on the basis of the biblical narrative. The discovery of this polemic illuminates and offers an explanation for many surprising passages in early rabbinic literature that belittle high mountains and biblical “memorial sites” in the Land of Israel. The examples, drawn from the various strata of early rabbinic literature, demonstrate surprising rabbinic consensus on this issue.

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