Canonization, Satire, and Criticism of Avot in Midrash Yelammedenu from the Genizah

In: Zutot
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  • 1 Hebrew Literature Department, Ben Gurion University of the Negev26732Beer-ShevaIsrael
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In this article, I present a midrashic reference to one mishnah of tractate Avot that would appear to undermine its canonical status. A close reading of the midrash, will show that it makes use of various satirical tools, including exaggeration and ridicule, which appear to be aimed at a mocking of the mishnah. However, further reading of the midrash in light of a more comprehensive look at tractate Avot will show that contrary to this initial impression, the use of satire may not be directed at undermining the canonical status of Avot but rather at strengthening it. According to this reading, the satire is directed at internal criticism that the midrash identifies in the heart of the mishnaic text, with the result that Avot’s status is restored.

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