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Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature

Overview

The existence of suffering poses an obvious problem for the monotheistic religions. Why does an all-powerful, benevolent God allow humans to suffer? And given that God does, what is the appropriate human response? In modern times Jewish theologians in particular, faced with the enormity of the Holocaust, have struggled to come to grips with these issues. In Responses to Suffering, David Kraemer offers the first comprehensive history of teachings related to suffering in classical rabbinic literature. Beginning ...

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Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature

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Overview

The existence of suffering poses an obvious problem for the monotheistic religions. Why does an all-powerful, benevolent God allow humans to suffer? And given that God does, what is the appropriate human response? In modern times Jewish theologians in particular, faced with the enormity of the Holocaust, have struggled to come to grips with these issues. In Responses to Suffering, David Kraemer offers the first comprehensive history of teachings related to suffering in classical rabbinic literature. Beginning with the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), Kraemer examines traditions on suffering, divine justice, national catastrophe, and the like, in all major rabbinic works of late antiquity. Bringing to bear recent methods in the history of religions, literary criticism, canonical criticism, and the sociology of religion, Kraemer offers a rich analysis of the development of attitudes that are central to and remain contemporary concerns of any religious society.

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Editorial Reviews

Steven D. Fraade
The diverse views expressed within each of these documents are set historically in the time of its redaction, viewing the document as the shaper of the traditions it contains....Kraemer's own dissatisfaction with the standard biblical and Jewish response to suffering (if such exists) too often steers his course.....Nevertheless, Kraemer has produced a commendable work of thorough assembling, judicious translating, and careful explicating of rabbinic texts bearing on a perennial and central issue in the history of Judaism and religions.
Society of Biblical Literature
Steven D. Fraade
The diverse views expressed within each of these documents are set historically in the time of its redaction, viewing the document as the shaper of the traditions it contains....Kraemer's own dissatisfaction with the standard biblical and Jewish response to suffering (if such exists) too often steers his course.....Nevertheless, Kraemer has produced a commendable work of thorough assembling, judicious translating, and careful explicating of rabbinic texts bearing on a perennial and central issue in the history of Judaism and religions.
Society of Biblical Literature
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195089004
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1995
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Abbreviations
1 Introduction 3
Definitions 8
Previous Scholarship and Methodological Considerations 10
2 The Canonical Foundation 17
The Classical Biblical Position: Retributive Suffering 18
Suffering and Love 22
Suffering and Future Justice 25
The Tradition of Complaint 27
Suffering in Vain 33
3 Other Jews, Other Responses 36
Justice After Death 39
Come the Apocalypse 40
Dualisms 45
The Hellenistic Jewish View 47
4 Early Rabbinic Responses: Mishnah and Avot 51
Mishnah 53
Avot 61
5 Early Rabbinic Responses: The Tosefta 66
The Destruction of the Temple and Historical Reality 73
6 Early Rabbinic Responses: The Halakhic Midrashim 79
Related Traditions 91
National Suffering and the Destruction of the Temple 96
7 After Palestinian Documents: The Yerushalmi 102
Reward and Punishment 103
The Hint of Alternatives 108
Divine Mercy 109
Proper Responses to Suffering 110
8 Later Palestinian Documents: The Aggadic Midrashim 115
Traditional Explanations 116
Suffering and Divine Mercy 120
The Voice of Ambivalence 124
Lamentations Rabbah 140
9 The Bavli: Canonical Echoes, Intimations of Dissent 150
The Nature of the Bavli 151
The Bavli on Suffering 154
Intimations of Dissent 158
The Bavli Contrasted with the Palestinian Tradition 165
App. The Bavli on Divine Justice 172
App. The Bavli on the Destruction 176
10 The Bavli Rebels 184
Shabbat 55a-b 184
Berakhot 5a-b 188
Hagiga 4b-5a 200
Understanding the Bavli 207
11 Summary and Conclusions 211
Nonrabbinic Jews 214
Non-Rabbis 215
The History of Religious Ideas and Rabbinic Judaism 218
The Growth and Flexibility of a Religious Canon 222
Notes 225
Bibliography 249
General Index 255
Index of Primary Sources 259
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