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In: Sects and Sectarianism in Jewish History
In: Talmudic Transgressions
Volume Editor:
This volume presents the major works of classical rabbinic Judaism as inter-related aggregates analyzed through three central themes. Part 1, “Intertextuality,” investigates the multi-directional relationships among and between rabbinic texts and nonrabbinic Jewish sources. Part 2, “East and West” explores the impact on rabbinic texts of the cultures of the Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian West and the Sasanian East. Part 3, “Halakha and Aggada,” interrogates the relationship of law and narrative in rabbinic sources. This bold volume uncovers alliances and ruptures -- textual, cultural, and generic -- obscured by document-based approaches to rabbinic literature.
In: The Literature of the Sages
In: The Literature of the Sages
In: The Idea of Biblical Interpretation

In the present article I examine the rhetorical function of the phrase “in the west [the Land of Israel], they laughed at him/it” found in dialectical halakhic contexts in the Babylonian Talmud. I argue that the literary motif of “mocking westerners” allows Babylonian rabbinic authors/redactors to voice reservations about the nominalist or anti-realist orientation of some rabbinic legal interpretation as seen in the use of legal fictions, contrary-to-fact presumptions and judgments, a high degree of intentionalism, and acontextual interpretive techniques. The ability of Babylonian rabbinic authors/redactors to depict the rabbis’ nominalist approach as the object of mockery by various external and, in this case, internal others indicates a high degree of rabbinic self-awareness regarding legal interpretative assumptions and methods. The paper concludes by suggesting that rabbinic nominalism flows from a distinctive and somewhat scandalous rabbinic understanding of divine law—one that self-consciously rejects an ideal of divine law that assumes its truth and verisimilitude.

In: Journal of Law, Religion and State