In this volume, Moshe Lavee offers an account of crucial internal developments in the rabbinic corpus, and shows how the Babylonian Talmud dramatically challenged and extended the rabbinic model of conversion to Judaism. The history of conversion to Judaism has long fascinated Jews along a broad ideological continuum. This book demonstrates the rabbis in Babylonia further reworked former traditions about conversion in ever more stringent direction, shifting the focus of identity demarcation towards genealogy and bodily perspectives. By applying a reading-strategy that emphasizes late Babylonian literary developments, Lavee sheds critical light on a broader discourse regarding the nature and boundaries of Jewish identity.
Moshe Lavee, is a lecturer of Rabbinic Literature and chair of the Cairo Genizah center and Digital Humanities program at the University of Haifa. He has published various articles on identity, conversion and gender in rabbinic literature as well as the reception of aggadic midrash as reflected in the Cairo Genizah.
No one to my knowledge has unpacked as clearly or as convincingly the Bavli’s integrated and interlocking ideas about converts and conversion to Judaism as well as explaining how it created the impression that its new ideas really were not new. This is for this reason an important work about conversion to Judaism in late antiquity and an equally important example of the best of contemporary scholarship on the Babylonian Talmud. Gary G. Porton, University of Illinois,
Journal for the Study of Judaism, 2018
Introduction: Methods and Models
Part 1: “Like an Israelite in Every Respect”: The Conversion Procedure
The Babylonian “Mini-Tractate” of Conversion
The Invention of the Conversion Court
Immersion and Circumcision
Sinai as Conversion: Acceptance of the Commandments
Part 2: “Like a Scab”: Negative Attitudes toward Converts and Conversion
“Like a Scab”: A Babylonian Expression
Converting Missionary Images
Hillel and Shammai Revisited Appendix 7.1 Hillel and Shammai: Comparison Charts
Part 3: “Like a Newborn”: The Erasure of the Convert’s Past
Newborn: Conversion and the Severing of Kinship Appendix 8.1 The Severing of Maternal Relations in Palestinian Sources
Appendix 8.2 A Palestinian Concept in a Geonic Text?
Newborn: From Forgiveness of Sins to a New Personality
Part 4: Contextualizing the Talmud “Against its Will”
Dominantization: The Rabbinic Conversion of Judaism
Legalization, Rabbinization and the Shift of Authority
Genealogical Anxiety and the Body: The Iranian Context
Conclusion—A Newborn, an Israelite, a Scab: The Babylonian Convert
Appendix—The Conversion Mini-Tractate: Annotated Texts 1 The Preceding Narrative
2 The first Baraita: The Requirement for Both Immersion and Circumcision
3 The Second Baraita: The Case of Circumcision without Immersion
4 The Third Baraita: Witnessed Conversion
5 The Fourth Baraita: the Conversion Court
6 The Fifth Baraita: The Procedure of Conversion
7 The Sixth Baraita: A Theological Reflection on the Suffering of Converts
8 The Meimrot of Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba in the name of Rabbi Yohanan
9 Conversion at Night and the Conversion Court
All interested in the study of Judaism in Late Antiquity, the formation of Rabbinic Literature in Babylonia and the Land of Israel, conversion and demarcation of Identity.