Tuesday, August 04, 2009

World Congress - day 2 part 2 (guest post)

AG agreed to write up his thoughts on session 311

Avishalom Wistrich spoke about the development and mutual dependance
of two stories in b. Ketubot and b. Nid. (the relationship between
paralell traditions like this in the Bavli needs more work - AG).

Jonathan Feintuch spoke about the development of the "academic story"
from the Yerushalmi to the Bavli and tried to point out how a barbed
reply is preserved in two paralell stories, in the name of the same
sage, participating in two different polemics, according to preference
and sitz-im-leben of the sugya.

Mira Balberg (A graduate of Hebrew U, currently at Stanford) spoke
about the boundaries of the human body as viewed through the prism of
the discussions of the impurity of human rot (טומאת רקב), in Bavli and
Yerushalmi Nazir. Taking their cue from the Tosefta, which severely
limits the cases in which rot would cause impurity, the talmudim
impose several limits of their own in the same vein, all stemming from
the fact that rot causes impurity only when the human body rots all at
once with no extra elements rotting around it (such as a coffin, or
even dead skin or snot). Balberg suggested these limits may reveal the
rabbinic image of the human body and its boundaries, a question which
is also interesting for those of us who live in a world with
artificial limbs and donated kidneys.

Keshet Shoval examined the role of bread in the Rabbinic meal liturgy.
She showed a story from the yerushalmi in which the blessing before
and after eating bread is said by the same sage, forming a cogent
frame for the meal, pointed out that bread was singled out among foods
for being the center of the meal and the subject of the long blessing
after meals (and other foods which are the subject of the short
version, are similar to bread in some way). Taking her lead from W.
Robertson Smith, she pointed out that bread was "human food" in the
semitic religion, while meat was "divine food", to be shared with the
gods. The concentration on bread in many religious communities at the
time (Qumran, Early Christians and Rabbinic Jews) was to be a
replacement for sacrifices, and a casting of bread as divine food as
well (in the Christian case, just plain divine).
(This should be problematized, though, since tractate Hullin contains
many many laws regarding meat, but no meal liturgy. Bread is
therefore not a simple replacement for meat, and the meal liturgy is
not a liturgy meant to supplant the temple cult. A better explanation,
focusing on the table and not on the altar, should be found - AG).


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