A Sage Story as Dramatized Biblical Exegesis

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Abstract

In the study of rabbinic legend there is a widely accepted generic distinction between those legends that expand on biblical stories (exegetical narratives) and those that feature the sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud (sage stories). This article questions the absolute nature of this generic distinction by examining the circumstances that shaped the development of a sage story that appears in the midrashic collection Leviticus Rabbah and its parallels. I seek to demonstrate that occasionally stories about the sages emerge from the exegesis of biblical verses. My article demonstrates how a verse from Psalms takes on the shape of a story, which serves to solve a linguistic problem in the verse. This example sheds new light on the relationship between exegetical narratives and sage stories, and suggests that we view them as part of the same broader creative intellectual context.

Zutot

Perspectives on Jewish Culture

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