In the Margins of the Rabbinic Curriculum: Mastering ʿUqṣin in the Light of Zoroastrian Intellectual Culture

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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  • 1 Judaic Studies Program, Yale University, 115 West Elm St., Apt. 1, New Haven, Conn. 06515

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The study situates the Babylonian rabbinic discussion concerning the spread of ritual pollution in produce in a broader cultural and intellectual context, by synoptically examining the rabbinic discussion against the backdrop of contemporaneous Zoroastrian legal discourse. It is suggested that the intimate affinity exhibited between the Babylonian rabbinic and Pahlavi discussions of produce contamination supports a fresh examination of the cultural significance of tractate ʿUqtzin in the Babylonian Talmud and the implications of its mastery on the intellectual and cultural identity of the Babylonian rabbis. The study posits that the self-reflective Talmudic reference to the knowledge and interest later generations of Babylonian rabbis possessed in tractate ʿUqtzin and the spread of ritual pollution in produce reflects the relative significance of these topics in the broader intellectual agenda of the Sasanian period. The later Babylonian rabbis boasted about their knowledge of tractate ʿUqtzin, which extended far beyond the capacity of earlier generations, precisely because this topic best reflected the intellectual currents of their time.

  • 11

    See, e.g., Jeffrey Rubenstein, Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition, and Culture (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 182; Louis Jacobs, “How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?” jjs 28 (1977): 46-59, esp. 56.

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  • 14

    Rubenstein, Talmudic Stories, 201-6.

  • 19

    See, e.g., t.ʾOhal. 4:3; t. ʿUq. 1:7; b. Giṭ. 60a.

  • 26

    Cf. Jacob Neusner, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism: A Systematic Account: The Sources, Media, Effects and Removal of Uncleanness (Tampa: University of South Florida, 1994), 103-7.

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  • 38

    Saul Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim (4 vols.; New York and Jerusalem: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1999), 4:174.

  • 52

    New York 1608, Oxford 366 and printed editions add: דלצורך\שלצורך אכילה נינהו.

  • 56

    New York 1608, Munich 95, London 5508 and Oxford 366: רגזנות; Munich 140: הדין.

  • 61

    Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, 4:174.

  • 66

    See, e.g., m. Mak. 6:1; m. Kelim 25:9; Neusner, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism, 46-50, 97-107; Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (ab 3; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 253-92.

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  • 67

    Leib Moscovitz, Talmudic Reasoning: From Casuistics to Conceptualization (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002).

  • 91

    Prods Oktor Skjærvø, “On the Terminology and Style of the Pahlavi Scholastic Literature,” in The Talmud in its Iranian Context (ed. Carol Bakhos and Rahim Shayegan; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 178-205, esp. 190-94.

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  • 92

    Cf. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, 93.

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