Rabbinic Stories / Edition 1

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An appealing contribution to the Classics of Western Spirituality, Jeffrey Rubenstein has translated stories from the main works of classical rabbinic literature that were produced by Jewish sages between 200-600 C.E. The narratives include stories, legends, anecdotes and other traditions that relate to basic rabbinic values and practical concerns
  • charity, good deeds, marriage and children; and those that address important theological question, including suffering, theodicy, atonement and story of Torah.

Each story is accompanied by a brief analysis of the story's principal themes, meaning and literary character, while accompanying notes explain technical terms and references. In addition, to underscore the oral nature of the stories, the author offers translations of several versions of the same story, showing how later versions are more embellished and elaborate. The book treats the rabbinic stories not as accurate history, but as didactic fictions that model character, teach virtue and provide lessons.

There is no standard corpus of rabbinic stories available, says Rubenstein, and therefore this volume is a unique resource for courses on Judaism and rabbinic culture, comparative religions and religious narrative. Anyone interested in Jewish culture, early Christianity, folklore and Late Antique culture will find it to be fascinating reading as well.

About the Author:
Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, who holds a Ph.D. from the department of religion, Columbia University, is associate professor in the department of Hebrew and Judaic studies, New York University. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and two other books.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809140244
  • Publisher: Paulist Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2003
  • Series: Classics of Western Spirituality Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,472,159
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I Historical Memories and the Lessons of History
Ch. 1 Hasmonean Memories 25
Ch. 2 The Sages and King Yannai: Standing Up to Authority (Bavli Sanhedrin 19a-b) 31
Ch. 3 Herod and Bava b. Buta (Bavli Bava Batra 3b-4a) 33
Ch. 4 Stories of Destruction 38
Ch. 5 Bar Kokhba: Hubris and Defeat (Yerushalmi Taanit 4:8, 68d) 55
Ch. 6 Rebuilding the Temple (Genesis Rabbah 64:8) 61
Pt. II Rabbinic Authority, Rabbinic Character
Ch. 7 The Banning of Akavia b. Mehalalel: A Dissident Opposes the Majority (Mishna Eduyyot 5:6-7) 67
Ch. 8 Hillel and the Passover 71
Ch. 9 The "Oven of Akhnai": Rabbinic Authority and Human Dignity (Bavli Bava Metsia 59a-59b) 80
Ch. 10 The New Month and the Authority of the Patriarch (Mishna Rosh HaShana 2:9-11) 85
Ch. 11 Authority over the Calendar 88
Pt. III Life and Death in the Rabbinic Academy
Ch. 12 Conflict in the Academy: The Deposition of Rabban Gamaliel 95
Ch. 13 Leadership of the Academy: Lineage or Torah? (Bavli Horayat 13b-14a) 104
Ch. 14 The Saga of Rav Kahana: The Torah of Babylonia vs. the Torah of Palestine (Bavli Bava Qama 117a-b) 109
Ch. 15 The Tragedy of R. Yohanan and Resh Laqish: Give Me Dialectics or Give Me Death! (Bavli Bava Metsia 84a) 114
Ch. 16 The Tragedy of Honi: Give Me Fellowship or Give Me Death! (Bavli Taanit 23a) 117
Pt. IV Holy Men and Rabbinic Masters
Ch. 17 R. Shimon bar Yohai 121
Ch. 18 Honi the Circle-Drawer: The Holy Man and Rain 128
Ch. 19 R. Yehoshua b. Levi and the Angel of Death (Bavli Ketubot 77b) 133
Pt. V Women, Wives and Marriage
Ch. 20 Rabbis and Wives: Love, Babylonian Style (Bavli Ketubot 62b) 139
Ch. 21 God as Marriage-Maker (Leviticus Rabbah 8:1) 146
Ch. 22 Rabbis, Husbands and Wives 148
Ch. 23 Beruria (Bavli Eruvin 53b, Berakhot 10a) 151
Pt. VI Romans, Gentiles and Others
Ch. 24 Alexander Macedon and the World Court (Bavli Sanhedrin 91a) 157
Ch. 25 Alexander Macedon and the Faraway King (Yerushalmi Bava Metsia 2:5, 8c) 161
Ch. 26 Antoninus and Rabbi 163
Ch. 27 Jesus and His Disciples 169
Ch. 28 Onqelos the Convert (Bavli Avodah Zarah 11a) 176
Pt. VII The Life of Piety: Charity, Commandments, Virtues
Ch. 29 Hillel, Shammai and Converts: Virtues and Theological Basics (Bavli Shabbat 31a) 181
Ch. 30 The Commandment of the Fringes and Its Reward (Sifre Numbers 115) 186
Ch. 31 The Power of Righteousness (Bavli Shabbat 156b) 190
Ch. 32 The Honor of Parents (Yerushalmi Qiddushin 1:6, 61b / Bavli Qiddushin 31b) 193
Ch. 33 The Pursuit of Torah (Bavli Yoma 35b, Sanhedrin 10a, Berakhot 62a) 200
Pt. VIII Suffering, Martyrdom and Theodicy
Ch. 34 Nahum of Gamzu: Happy that You See Me Suffer 207
Ch. 35 Suffering: Not Them and Not Their Reward 210
Ch. 36 Theodicy and Torah (Bavli Menahot 29b) 215
Ch. 37 Stories of Martyrdom 218
Pt. IX Sin and Repentance
Ch. 38 Stories of Elisha b. Abuya 229
Ch. 39 The Power of Repentance (Bavli Avodah Zarah 17a) 245
Ch. 40 A Sinner's Good Deed (Yerushalmi Taanit 1:4, 64b) 247
Notes 249
Bibliography 303
Indices 305
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