Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism

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Food often defines societies and even civilizations. Through particular commensality restrictions, groups form distinct identities: Those with whom “we” eat (“Us”) and those with whom “we” cannot eat (“Them”). This identity is enacted daily, turning the biological need to eat into a culturally significant activity. In this book, Jordan D. Rosenblum explores how food regulations and practices helped to construct the identity of early rabbinic Judaism. Bringing together the scholarship of rabbinics with that of food studies, this volume first examines the historical reality of food production and consumption in Roman-era Palestine. It then explores how early rabbinic food regulations created a distinct Jewish, male, and rabbinic identity. Rosenblum’s work demonstrates how rabbinic food practices constructed an edible identity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rosenblum presents a rich, usable survey of all that relates to foodways for tannaitic Judaism. Rosenblum offers an excellent synthesis that helps correct explorations of rabbinic identity that neglected either a sufficiently theoretical view of foodways or, alternately, recognition of the textual nature of evidence for food practices. By making important connections between disparate fields and studies, this book makes a strong contribution to the study of Jewish identity. —H-Judaic (May 2011)

"...there is much to learn from Rosenblum’s analyses, and students of early rabbinic Judaism and of foodways in general will be richer for considering his contribution." —Journal of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521195980
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/17/2010
  • Pages: 238
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jordan D. Rosenblum is Belzer Assistant Professor of Classical Judaism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has contributed to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, the Jewish Quarterly Review, and the Journal of Jewish Studies.

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Table of Contents



Introduction 1

"The Set Table": Organization and Structure 10

A Brief Introduction to the Tannaitic Corpus 13

1 Realia 15

What Did They Eat? 17

How Did They Obtain Their Food? 22

How Did They Prepare Their Food? 24

In What Manner Did They Eat Their Food? 30

Realia: Conclusions 33

2 Jewish Identity 35

Pre-Tannaitic Evidence for Commensality Restrictions 36

Food as Metonym/Food as Embodiment 45

The "Abominable Pig" 48

Manna 58

The Passover 63

The Laws of Kashrut 68

Food as Metonym/Food as Embodiment: Conclusions 73

The Status of Food Correlates with the Status of Its Cook 75

Meat 76

Non-Meat Items 81

Conclusions 89

Commensality as Idolatry 91

Jewish Identity: Conclusions 101

3 Jewish Male Identity 103

Preparing Food as (Re)Producing Male Identity 104

Sharing the Kitchen with the Haber and the 'Am ha' Ares 117

Preparing Food as (Re)Producing Male Identity: Conclusions 120

Women at the Tannaitic Table? 123

"It Leads to Transgression": Commensality Among Zabim 132

Jewish Male Identity: Conclusions 135

4 Jewish Male Rabbinic Identity 138

The Cuisine of the Rabbinic Jew 140

Purity and Commensality 143

Commensality between the Haber and the 'Am ha' Ares 146

Purity and Commensality: Conclusions 153

The Status of Food Correlates with the Status of Its Cook 154

Reinterpreting Festival Observance 161

Passover 162

Sukkot 170

The Sabbath 174

Commensality and the Synagogue 178

Jewish Male Rabbinic Identity: Conclusions 182

Conclusion 185

Bibliography 193

Selected General Index 209

Index of Pre-Modern Sources 212

Selected Index of Modern Scholars 220

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