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Scholarly discussion concerning rabbinic conceptions of the nature of halakhah—realist vs. nominalist—has for the most part focused on halakhic content and discourse. However, as Schremer has shown, non-halakhic passages may present conceptions that differ from those found in halakhic sources. Following Schremer’s suggested distinction, in this study I examine non-halakhic texts which use various metaphors or linguistic styles to characterize the miṣwot. In the cases I examine, I will demonstrate that the authors could have formulated their content in more than one way, and thus their choice of a particular linguistic style reflects their particular conception of the nature of the miṣwot. My suggestion is that non-halakhic sources that display both modes of thought, realist and nominalist views of Jewish law, offer more accurate reflections of the multifaceted conceptual world of the rabbis than do halakhic texts.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies