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

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Yishai Kiel 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.

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