Intention in Talmudic Law

Between Thought and Deed


In Intention in Talmudic Law: Between Thought and Deed, Shana Strauch Schick offers the first comprehensive history of intention in classical Jewish law (1st-6th centuries CE). Through close readings of rabbinic texts and explorations of contemporaneous legal-religious traditions, Strauch Schick constructs an intellectual history that reveals remarkable consistency within the rulings of particular sages, locales, and schools of thought. The book carefully traces developments across generations and among groups of rabbis, uncovering competing lineages of evolving legal and religious thought, and demonstrating how intention gradually became a nuanced, differentially applied concept across a wide array of legal realms.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Shana Strauch Schick is a Leon Charney fellow at Yeshiva University’s Center for Israel Studies and teaches in the United States and Israel. Her recent articles have appeared in AJS Review and Nashim. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 from Yeshiva University.

1 Summary of Findings
2 Previous Scholarship and Methodology
3 Methodological Concerns
4 Historical Context of the Bavli: Hellenistic, Christian, Zoroastrian
5 Outline of Chapters
6 A Note on Gender Pronouns

1 From Tannaitic to Early Amoraic Law: Contrasting Systems of Tort Law in the Yerushalmi and Bavli
1 Overview of Tort Law in Tannaitic Sources
2 M. Bava Qama 2:6: “A Person Is Always Forewarned”
 2.1 Yerushalmi: R. Isaac on the Necessity of Fault
 2.2 Bavli: Strict Liability
3 M. Bava Qama. 3:1: Exemption for Accidental Damages
 3.1 Yerushalmi - Rav, Samuel and R. El’azar: Liability Determined by Fault
 3.2 Bavli - Rav, Samuel and R. Yohanan: Strict Liability
 3.3 Bavli and Yerushalmi: Identical Traditions, Divergent Rulings
4 Contextualizing Tort Liability in the Yerushalmi
5 Contextualizing Tort Liability in the Bavli

2 The Third Generation of Babylonian Amoraim: A Period of Transition
1 Overview: The Emergence of Competing Schools of Thought in Pumbedita and Mahoza
2 Pumbedita: Negligence and Deliberate Action in the Rulings of Rabbah
 2.1 B. Bava Qama 26b-27a: Strict Liability and Negligence
 2.2 B. Bava Qama 56a: Liability for Negligence
 2.3 B. Bava Qama 28b-29b: Intent to Act
3 Mahoza: Negligence and Purposeful Action
 3.1 R. Nahman: Purpose Defines the Prohibition
 3.2 Mitasseq and Melakhah She- eina Tzerikha Le-gufa: Exemptions in the Laws of Shabbat
 3.3 R. Hisda: Intention in the Fulfillment of Religious Precepts
4 Summary

3 The Fourth Generation of Babylonian Amoraim: A Period of Innovation
1 Overview
2 Pumbedita: Abaye
 2.1 Challenge to Rabbah’s Strict Liability
 2.2 Challenges Regarding the Laws of the Sabbath
3 Mahoza: Rava
 3.1 Tort Law
  3.1.1 B. Bava Qama 27b: Rights of Pedestrians
  3.1.2 B. Bava Metzia 96b: Borrower’s Rights
  3.1.3 B. Bava Metzia 83a: Borrower’s Oath
  3.1.4 B. Bava Qama 62a: Guarding a Golden Dinar
 3.2 Religious Law: Intention in the Laws of Sabbath
4 Rava in Contrast to Abaye in Religious Law
 4.1 B. Sanhedrin 61b: Idol Worship Out of Love and Fear
 4.2 B. Sanhedrin 74a-b: Martyrdom
 4.3 B. Shabbat 72b-73a: Davar She-ein Mitkavvein
 4.4 B. Menahot 64a: Action versus Intention
5 Rava’s Emphasis on Intention: Precedents and Parallels
 5.1 Land of Israel Precedents
 5.2 Parallels in Zoroastrian Literature
6 Rava’s Jurisprudence and Aristotelian Corrective Justice
 6.1 Aristotle on Corrective Justice
 6.2 Parallels with Rava
 6.3 Reading Aristotle in Mahoza?

4 Mitzvot Ein Tzerikhot Kavvanah: Divorcing Ritual Performance from Intention
1 Overview: A Radical Change in Ritual Law
2 The Development of Mitzvot Ein Tzerikhot Kavvanah
 2.1 The Mishnaic View: Shema, Shofar, Megillah
 2.2 Early Amoraic Views: Accidental Immersion
 2.3 Rava’s View
3 Rava’s Ruling in Context
 3.1 The Bavli Context: Intent in Tort Law and Religious Violations
 3.2 Cultural Context: Zoroastrian and Monastic Texts
4 Summary

5 Views in the Bavli after Rava
1 Overview: The Late Amoraim and the Bavli’s Redactors
2 Rava’s Students
 2.1 Continuity
 2.2 Innovation: Manslaughter
3 The Redactors
 3.1 Intent to Derive Benefit/Pleasure: Davar She-ein Mitkavvein and Hana’at Atzmo
4 Summary

Conclusion: Intentionality in Rabbinic Law in Historical and Cultural Perspective
1 Transitions from Subjective to Objective Standards in Legal Thought
2 The “Evolution” of Legal Systems
3 Intention and the Self
4 Intention, Argumentation, and Conceptualization


This book would be of interest to academics in the fields of Talmud, Jewish law and thought, and to laypeople interested in Talmud study and the development of rabbinic law.
  • Collapse
  • Expand