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Ishay Rosen-Zvi

Abstract

Rabbinic literature contains several examples of a manner of silencing impious arguments that is usually identified only with later forms of piety, namely, ascribing the arguments to the evil inclination (yetzerhara). Arguments attributed to the yetzer represent serious discursive threats against rabbinic doctrine, marking fundamental problems in both its legal and nonlegal (aggadic) parts. Identifying a question or refutation as belonging to the yetzer automatically invalidates it. By ascribing arguments to the yetzer, the rabbis prevent their audience from actually engaging them, thus marking the limits of rabbinic dialogism.

Ishay Rosen-Zvi

The goy has been present in Jewish discourses since antiquity. Despite this, its birth and history have received almost no scholarly attention. In this paper we shift the focus from the various historical attitudes towards the goy, to the very constitution of the concept and the dichotomy it constructs. We claim that scholars have been anachronistically reading Jewish (or Judaean) texts from the centuries before the common era as if they contained the Jew/goy distinction. Through a series of readings in texts like Jubilees, Pseudo-Aristeas, Joseph and Aseneth, 1-4 Maccabees, the Damascus Document, we seek to demonstrate the plurality of options for separation that existed before the Jew/goy discourse took over.

Ishay Rosen-Zvi

Abstract

The scholarly consensus on the Rabbinic concept of the yetzer (inclination) takes for granted the existence of two yetzarim, good and evil, in every person. Some have noticed the marginality of the good yetzer in rabbinic discourse, as well as the fact that most sources discuss only one yetzer, but ascribed it to the inherent imbalance of power between the two yetzarim. In this paper I wish to rethink this scholarly consensus, while taking the single-yetzer model, which appears in almost all rabbinic sources, seriously. A systematic analysis of all rabbinic references to the yetzer, which attempts to distinguish as much as possible between sources, both chronologically (early or late), and geographically (Palestinian or Babylonian), yields a picture markedly different from the common view, and helps locate the (rather marginal) place of the two yetzarim in context of the rabbinic corpus in its entirety.

The Mishnaic Sotah Ritual

Temple, Gender and Midrash

Series:

Ishay Rosen-Zvi

This study analyzes the specific textual formation of Mishna Sotah. Diverging significantly from its origins in the book of Numbers, the Mishnaic ritual was traditionally read by scholars as an "ancient Mishna", narrating an actual ritual practiced in the second temple. In contrast to this generally accepted view, this book claims that while Sotah does contain some traditions, its overall composition has a clear ideological and academic form. Furthermore, comparisons
with parallel Tannaitic sources reveal the ideological redaction, which carefully selected only those opinions which support its rewriting of the ritual as a public punitive ritual, while rejecting all reservations and opposition to its specific punitive character – even ignoring the possibility of innocence of the suspected adulteress. The author’s groundbreaking conclusion is that, regardless of the form the real ritual did or did not take at the temple, the specific
Mishnaic ritual was (re)invented by the rabbis in the second century C.E. From its very inception, it was purely textual, reflecting rabbinic imagination rather than memory.