Rabbinic Prayer in Dialogue with Priestly Ritual: Palestinian Talmudic Aggada
In this article I engage in a close reading of an aggadic story contained within the first chapter of tractate Berakhot within the Palestinian Talmud in order to contribute to the scholarship investigating Aggada in the Palestinian Talmud. The aggada focuses on efforts by sages to establish rabbinic prayer practices in the aftermath of the vacuum left by the destruction of the Second Temple. The application of literary and genre-based analysis reveals that literary constructs widespread throughout the Greco-Roman world were adapted by the composers/redactors of the Palestinian Talmud. Contextual analysis indicates that a nuanced and varied set of responses to the Roman Empire is evident in this pericope in tractate Berakhot in the Palestinian Talmud.
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See David Stern’s introduction in Natalie B. Dohrmann and David Stern, eds., Jewish Biblical Interpretation and Cultural Exchange: Comparative Exegesis in Context (Philadelphia: University of Pennslyvania Press, 2008), 14–15. Richard Hidary, “Classical Rhetorical Arrangement and Reasoning in the Talmud: The Case of Yerushalmi Berakhot 1:1,” AJS Review 34, no. 1 (2010): 33–64. Burton Visotzky, Golden Bells and Pomegranates: Studies in Midrash Levititicus Rabbah (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 23–40. Peter Schäfer, ed. The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture I (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 14–16. Hezser, “The Graeco-Roman Context of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine,” 28–47.
Regarding reasons for the lacunae of PT scholarship see Leib Moscovitz, “The Formation and Character of the Jerusalem Talmud,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism the Late Roman Rabbinic Period, ed. Steven T. Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 663–77.
Jeffrey Rubenstein, Talmudic Stories (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). Jeffrey Rubenstein, ed. Creation and Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the Aggada (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005). Yaakov Elman, “Righteousness as its Own Reward: An Inquiry into the Theologies of the Stam,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 57 (1990–1991). Yaakov Elman, “The Suffering of the Righteous in Babylonian and Palestinian Sources,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 80, no. 3/4 (1990): 315–39.
I employ the term composers/redactors because it is difficult to determine whether a tradition entered the text of the PT at the stage(s) of composition or redaction.
Joshua Levinson, “Literary Approaches to Midrash,” in Current Trends in the Study of Midrash, ed. Carol Bakhos (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 189–226. Carol Bakhos, “Methodological Matters in the Study of Midrash,” in Current Trends in the Study of Midrash, ed. Carol Bakhos, Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2006), 179–84. Yaron Z. Eliav, “Realia, Daily Life, and the Transmission of Local Stories during the Talmudic Period,” in What Athens Has to do with Jerusalem, ed. Leonard V. Rutgers (Leuvin: Peeters, 2002), 253–63. Joshua Schwartz, “The Material Realities of Jewish Life in the Land of Israel, C. 235–638,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism The Late Roman Rabbinic Period, ed. Steven T. Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 431–56.
Galit Hasan-Rokem, Tales of the Neighbourhood: Jewish Narrative Dialogues in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2003), 130. Joshua Levinson, “The Athlete of Piety: Fatal Fictions in Rabbinic Literature” Tarbiz 68 (1999): 86 (Hebrew).
Steven D. Fraade, From Tradition to Commentary Torah and its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 15. See also Richard S. Sarason, “Toward a New Agendum for the Study of Rabbinic Midrashic Literature,” in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Liturgy in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, ed. Jakob J. Petuchowski and Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981), 55–70. See also Daniel Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 5.
Catherine Hezser, “Correlating Literary, Epigraphic, and Archaeological Sources,” in The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine, ed. Catherine Hezser (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 22. See also Saul Lieberman, “Roman Legal Institutions in Early Rabbinics and in the Acta Martyrum,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 35, no. 1 (1944): 1–57.
Vincent Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (London: Macmillan, 1933), 30, 63–87. See also, Vernon K. Robbins, “Classifying Pronouncement Stories in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives,” Semeia 20 (1981): 31. Earl Breech, “Stimulus-Response and Declaratory, Pronouncement Stories in Philostratus,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, ed. Paul J. Achtemeier (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1977), 257–71. Paula Nassen Poulos, “Form and Function of the Pronouncement Story in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives,” Semeia 20(1981): 53–63. Robbins, “Classifying Pronouncement Stories,” 29–52. John E Alsup, “Type, Place and Function of the Pronouncement Story in Plutarch’s Moralia,” Semeia 20 (1981): 15–27. Robert C. Tannehill, “Introduction: The Pronouncement Story and its Types,” Semeia 20 (1981): 1–13. Vernon K. Robbins, “A Rhetorical Typology For Classifying and Analyzing Pronouncement Stories,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, ed. Kent Harold Richards (Chicago: Scholars Press, 1984), 93–133. Rudolph Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (New York: Harper & Row, 1968). Martin Dieblius, From Tradition to Gospel (New York: Scribner’s, 1961). Robert C. Tannehill, “Varieties of Synoptic Pronouncement Stories,” Semeia 20 (1981): 101–119. Vernon K. Robbins, “Pronouncement Stories and Jesus’ Blessing of the Children: a Rhetorical Approach,” Semeia 29 (1983): 42–74. William D. Stroker, “Examples of Pronouncement Stories in Early Christian Apocryphal Literature,” Semeia 20 (1981): 133–41. Regarding tannaitic pronouncement stories see Gary Porton, “The Pronouncement Story in Tannaitic Literature: A Review of Bultmann’s Theory,” Semeia 20 (1981): 81–99. Tannehill, “Introduction: The Pronouncement Story and its Types,” 1. Alan J. Avery-Peck, “Classifying Early Rabbinic Pronouncement Stories,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, ed. Kent Harold Richards (Dallas: Scholars Press, 1983), 223–44. Alan J. Avery-Peck, “Rhetorical Argumentation in Early Rabbinic Pronouncement Stories,” Semeia 64 (1993): 49–71. Hezser categorizes some of the narratives in the PT Bavot tractates as pronouncement stories. Catherine Hezser, Form, Function and Historical Significance of the Rabbinic Story in Yerushalmi Neziqin (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1993), 288–92, 307–309.
Poulos, “Form and Function of the Pronouncement Story in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives,” 53.
Ibid. Vernon Robbins finds thirty objection stories in Plutarch’s Lives of Alexander, Julius Caesar, Demosthenes and Cicero. Robbins, “Classifying Pronouncement Stories,” 41. Avery-Peck identifies 7 Tannaitic stories as objection pronouncement stories. Avery-Peck, “Classifying Early Rabbinic Pronouncement Stories,” 230.
Eli Yassif, Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), 191.
David Stern, Parables in Midrash (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 20–21.
Hasan-Rokem, Tales of the Neighbourhood, 39, 156, note 125. Stern, Parables in Midrash, 19. See also Marc Brettler, God is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1989).
Kimelman, “Rabbinic Prayer in Late Antiquity,” 605. I. Ziegler, Die Königsgleichnisse in der Midrasch beleuchtet durch die römische Kaiserzeit (Breslau: Schlesische Verlagsanstalt, 1903). Daniel Boyarin, Sparks of the Logos: Rabbinic Hermeneutics (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2003), 110.
Ruth Langer, To Worship God Properly: Tensions Between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1998), 14. See y. Ber 1:1, 2d, y. Ber 4:1, 7c, y. Taanit 4:1, 67c, b. Ber 32b, and y. Ber 4:3, 8a. See also b. Ber 5a and 8a.
Avery-Peck, “Classifying Early Rabbinic Pronounce-ment Stories,” 241. Tannehill, “Introduction: The Pronouncement Story and its Types,” 3, 4.
The words for palace are פלטורין and פלטין. They may come from the Latin terms praetorium and palatium
Aryeh Cohen, Rereading Talmud: Gender Law and the Poetics of Sugyot (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 135–45. Michael Riffaterre, Fictional Truth (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1990), 23, 128–30; Michael Riffaterre, The Semiotics of Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana Press, 1984), 42.
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (New York: Routledge, 2002), 128–30. Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction From Bunyan to Beckett (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1974), 274–94. Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), 76–77. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texure of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1996), 3–5.
David Kraemer, Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 102–14. Yaakov Elman, “The Suffering of the Righteous in Babylonian and Palestinian Sources,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 80, no. 3/4 (1990): 315–39; Yaakov Elman, “Righteousness as its Own Reward: An Inquiry into the Theologies of the Stam,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 57 (1990–1991): 35–67.
Bavli Eruvin 62b, b. Nedarim 8b, b. Sanhedrin 5b, y. Shevit 6:1, 3c.
Hezser, The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine, 339–41. Lee Levine, The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1989), 59–61; Martin Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 147–51.
James Scott, C., Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 4. See also Beth Berkowitz, Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 154. Hasan-Rokem, Tales of the Neighbourhood, 129–30.
Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, xii.
Daniel Boyarin detects differing responses to Roman power played out in y. Shabbat 1:3, 3c between R. Hiyya the Great and R. Shimon ben Yohai. One sage advocates accommodation and the other resistance. Boyarin, Dying for God, 46v48.
Bavli Shabbat 110a
Tosefta Sotah 15:8.
Bavli Ketuboth 17a
Bavli Gittin 68b. Michael Zohary, Plants of the Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 1982), 119.
Sepher Ha-Razim: The Book of Mysteries, trans. Michael A. Morgan (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1983), 38.
Leviticus Rabbah 30:14.
Myrtle is also mentioned in: Nehemiah 8:15, Isaiah 41:19, 55:13, Zechariah 1:8, 1:10, 1:11.
P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, “Myrtle and the Eleusinian Mysteries,” Wiener Studien 6 (1972): 145. See also Marcel Detienne, The Gardens of Adonis: Spices in Greek Mythology, trans. Janet Lloyd (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1977), 63.
Aristophanes, Wasps, 826. The birds eat myrtle flowers in Aristophanes, Birds 1099–100.
Pindar, Isthmian 4, 117–18. A garland of myrtle is also mentioned in Isthmian 8, 65.
Herodotus 1.132. Maxwell-Stuart, “Myrtle and the Eleusinian Mysteries,” 150. Emily Kearns, Ancient Greek Religion: A Source Book (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 251, 315.
Pliny the Elder, The Natural History,12.2.1; The Natural History, 15.29 lists myrtle leaves as a remedy for wounds.
Ovid, Fasti, 4, 865
Plutarch, Numa 19.
Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5. 13. 7.
Detienne, The Gardens of Adonis, 63.
Martin Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem: the Clash of Ancient Civilizations (London: The Penguin Group, 2007), 272.
Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 88.
The term “pagan” is viewed as problematic by scholars who conclude that “paganism” implies a more unified system of religious tradition in the Roman world than existed. I follow James Rives who employs the term “pagan” because no completely adequate substitute has been devised. James B. Rives, “Graeco-Roman Religion in the Roman Empire: Old Assumptions and New Approaches,” Currents in Biblical Reseaarch 8, no. 2 (2010): 242–43.
Martin Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee AD 132-212 (Totawa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allenheld, 1983), 46-49. F. Millar, The Roman Near East: 31 BC-AD 337 (Cambridge: Harvard Univeristy Press, 1993), 369. Mordecai Aviam, Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Galilee: 25 Years of Archaeological Excavations and Surveys Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods (Rochester, N. Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2004), 17. Nicole Belayche, Iudaea-Palaestina: The Pagan Cults in Roman Palestine (Second to Fourth Century), trans. Monica Brain (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001).
Averil Cameron, The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 284-430 (London: Fontana Press, 1993), 74–75.
Amnon Linder, “The Legal Status of the Jews in the Roman Empire,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, ed. Steven T. Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 144–45. Günther Stemberger, “The Impact of Paganism and Christianity,” in The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine, ed. Catherine Hezser (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 511, 514.
Beit Shean is synonymous with Scythopolis, a pagan city, in which Jews dwelt. Millar, The Roman Near East: 31 BC-AD 337, 378. G. Fuks, “The Jews of Hellenistic and Roman Scythopolis,” Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982): 407.
Mishnayot Avodah Zarah 1:1–1:3 discuss idolatrous festivals that take place on specific days.
Excavations have discovered many examples of cultic shrines in taverns and shops. James B. Rives, Religion in the Roman Empire (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 119. See Yaron Z. Eliav, “Viewing the Sculptural Enviornment: Shaping the Second Commandment,” in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture III, ed. Peter Schäfer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 411–33.
Pausanias, “Description of Greece,” (The Loeb Classical Library, 1954), 6. 24. 26, 151.
Bowden, “Before Superstition and After,” 63. Robert Parker, Polytheism and Society at Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 178. Rives, Religion in the Roman Empire, 114.
Rives, “Graeco-Roman Religion,” 251.
Belayche, Iudaea-Palaestina: The Pagan Cults in Roman Palestine (Second to Fourth Century), 35, 71.
See Schwartz, Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society, 118-119. See also Louis Feldman, “Some Observations on Rabbinic Reaction to Roman Rule in the Third Century,” Hebrew Union College Annual 63(1992): 39–81.
Tannehill, “Introduction: The Pronouncement Story and its Types,” 8–9.
Sperber, Magic and Folklore in Rabbinic Literature, 228.
See Kimelman, “Rabbinic Prayer in Late Antiquity,” 577.
Amram Tropper, “Roman Contexts in Jewish Texts: On Diatagma and Prostagma in Rabbinic Literature,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 95, no. 2 (2005): 207. Ranon Katzoff, “Sperber’s Dictionary of Greek and Latin Legal Terms in Rabbinic Literature: A Review Essay,” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian Hellenistic and Roman Period 20(1989): 202. Daniel Sperber, “Angaria in Rabbinic Sources,” Antiquite Classique XXXVIII (1969): 166. Gafni, “The World of the Talmud,” 230. Peter Schäfer, The History of the Jews in Antiquity (Luxembourg: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995), 170–75. Goodman, State and Society, 147.
Epictetus 4. 1. 79 cited by F. Millar, The Roman Empire and its Neighbours (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), 98. John Sellars, The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (London: Ashgate, 2003), 178.
The term אנגריא is found in m. Bava Metzia 6:3,
t. Bava Metzia 7:7, 7:8, y. Ber 1:1, 2, y. Bava Metzia 7:1,11c, 7:4,10c, b. Bava Qamma 38b, b. Bava Metzia 78a, 78b, b. Sanhedrin 101b, b. Avodah Zarah 2b, b. Yoma 35b, and b. Sotah 10a.
Stephen Mitchell, “Requisitioned Transport in the Roman Empire: A New Inscription from Pisidia,” The Journal of Roman Studies 66(1976): 106–12.
Clyde Pharr, The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions: A Translation with Commentary, Glossary and Bibliography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), 194–205. See also Cameron, The Later Roman Empire, 6. Victor Ehrenberg and A. H. M. Jones, eds., Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus & Tiberius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 320. W. H. C. Frend, “A Third-Century Inscription Relating to Angareia in Phrygia,” The Journal of Roman Studies 46(1956): 53, note 25.
Mitchell, “Requisitioned Transport in the Roman Empire,” 129.
Frend, “A Third-Century Inscription,” 48.
Mitchell, “Requisitioned Transport in the Roman Empire,” 120. See also, F. Millar, “Evidence on the Meaning of Tacitus “Annals XII”. 60,” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geshichte 13, no. 2 (1964): 182.
Rives, “Graeco-Roman Religion,” 252. S. R. F. Price, “Gods and Emperors: The Greek Language of the Roman Imperial Cult,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 104(1984): 79–95. Ittai Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), 198–212.
Rives, “Graeco-Roman Religion,” 256. Monika Bernett, “Roman Imperial Cult in the Galilee: Structures, Functions, and Dynamics,” in Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee: A Region in Transition, ed. Jürgen Zangenberg, Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 356.
In y. Ber 9:1, 13b and y. Avodah Zarah 3.1, 42c divine rule is contrasted with Roman rulers who are shown to be less powerful than divine rule.
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