LITERARY ASPECTS OF RABBINIC ATTRIBUTIONS
IN THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD
This dissertation offers an innovative approach to a literary reading of the Talmud, by directing attention to the literary aspects of Amoraic attributions. It focuses on Amoraic names in the Babylonian Talmud as bearers of literary significance, and on the function of these attributions in directing readers towards understanding a Talmudic Sugya. The study evaluates five examples of Amoraic literary characters. Each chapter focuses on a specific Amora (Rabbi Yirmiyah, Rav Nahman, Rabbi Zeira, Rav Yehudah, and Rav Sheshet), establishes the literary characteristics of each personage, and shows how the redactors use those characteristics to create meaning and convey themes.
Situated within the field of “literary approaches to Talmud,” this research models the benefits of literary reading of all Talmudic sources, whether Aggadic or Halakhic. Such a reading does not ignore the differences between Halakha and Aggadah, although it does emphasize how these two genres are intertwined in the Talmud and present a coherent narrative. The dissertation demonstrates how literary characteristics are connected to specific Amoraic characters within both Aggadic and Halakhic sources, and thus emphasizes that both genres comprise one whole literary text.
The focus on Amoraic attributions as bearers of literary significance reveals how these names, as repeated words or expressions, serve the function of intertextual allusions within the Talmudic text. These intertextual allusions serve almost as hyperlinks that connect different sources in the Talmud and place them within a network of ideas, thus expanding the readers’ appreciation of each individual source. Identifying the literary characteristics of each Amoraic character elucidates the larger thematic and conceptual network in which the character is situated but also reveals new meanings within the individual sources in which they are mentioned. This novel type of reading represents a new perspective within the research field of Talmud as an intertextual literary creation.
At its core, this research follows the literary creation of the Talmudic redactors, and enables the identification of various stages in their editorial process. By identifying the literary characteristics that the redactors attribute to different characters, and by revealing the intertextual roles of these characters, this study suggests a vantage point for analyzing the value systems of the redactors, their religious, intellectual, and social motivations, and the educational goals that they set for themselves.