Classical rabbinic literature comprises all those ancient Jewish literary compilations which transmit the traditions of tannaitic (70–200
This chapter explores the medieval genre of sifrut ha-musar (ethical literature), which has largely been ignored in the recent burgeoning of the field of Jewish ethics. This neglect is attributed to the fact that the genre does not call halakhah into question, as does Jewish ethics generally, particularly through the notion of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din (supererogation), that one must act beyond the letter of the law. But this does not mean that musar is non-ethical; rather, its purpose was to “harmonize the spirituality of God with the values guiding his worship.” This spiritualization of Jewish ritual and culture generated creativity for nearly a thousand years around the Jewish world, first in Islamic contexts and then climaxing in Christian milieus.
Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert
This chapter first sets out the difficulties in studying the sources for Jewish ethics in classical rabbinic literature. Not only do rabbinic texts lack the very notion of ethics, they also emerge from different terrains and times and perforce bespeak different moral conclusions if not presumptions on how to reach those positions. However, one exception is texts classified as rabbinic “ethical” literature, which include 'Avot or Pirkei 'Avot and its companion text(s), Avot de-Rabbi Natan. The discussion then turns to the relationship between law and ethics in rabbinic literature; ethical limits to halakhah in rabbinic literature; and issues of universality and particularity in rabbinic literature.
This article discusses Jewish interpretation of the Bible. It begins with a brief historical overview that will help establish the framework for the forms of Jewish interpretation that emerged. It then covers the approach of Midrash, medieval Jewish exegesis, the Wissenschaft movement of the nineteenth century, and the renewed Jewish scholarly interest in the Hebrew Bible in the twentieth century.
Timothy K. Beal
Like the literature that precedes and follows in the Hebrew Bible, the book of Judges is clearly the product of a complicated literary history involving the early formation and deformation of Israel in the land of Canaan. It is a book whose coherence is in many ways found in its dissymmetry. In recent decades, such tensions between surface structure and deep chaos, and predictable repetition and disturbing interruption, have made the book of Judges a significant focus of study for new literary approaches in biblical studies. The book of Judges may be divided into three main parts: 1: 1–3: 6, accounts of tribal conquest and failure in Canaan; 3: 7–16: 31, the cycles of thirteen judges who delivered Israelites from oppression by other peoples; and 17: 1–21: 25, narratives of atrocity, civil war, and collapse among the tribes of Israel.
The wisdom texts from Qumran are almost all non-Essene in origin, and date mostly to the third and second centuries BCE. They provide new insights into how Jewish wisdom thought developed in this period, but are far removed from the early proverb collections that are still perceived as characteristic of Jewish wisdom literature. The sapiential texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls show that in ancient Judaism, Job and Qohelet are exceptional responses to the cognitive crises of wisdom caused by the problem of theodicy. A more common answer was Torah wisdom, which claimed that God had revealed the sapiential order of the universe on Mt Sinai in the shape of the Torah. Texts such as Musar le Mevin and the Book of Mysteries declared the sapiential order of the universe a mystery, which was accessible only by specially trained sages.