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Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster

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Rabbinic tales of drought, disaster, and charismatic holy men illuminate critical questions about power, ethics, and ecology in Jewish late antiquity. Through a sustained reading of the Babylonian Talmud's tractate on fasts in response to drought, this book shows how Bavli Taʿanit challenges Deuteronomy's claim that virtue can assure abundance and that misfortune is an una Rabbinic tales of drought, disaster, and charismatic holy men illuminate critical questions about power, ethics, and ecology in Jewish late antiquity. Through a sustained reading of the Babylonian Talmud's tractate on fasts in response to drought, this book shows how Bavli Taʿanit challenges Deuteronomy's claim that virtue can assure abundance and that misfortune is an unambiguous sign of divine rebuke. Employing a new method for analyzing lengthy talmudic narratives, Julia Watts Belser traces complex strands of aggadic dialectic to show how Bavli Taʿanit's redactors articulate a strikingly self-critical theological and ethical discourse. Bavli Taʿanit castigates rabbis for misuse of power, exposing the limits of their perception and critiquing prevailing obsessions with social status. But it also celebrates the possibilities of performative perception – the power of an adroit interpreter to transform events in the world and interpret crisis in a way that draws forth blessing.


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Rabbinic tales of drought, disaster, and charismatic holy men illuminate critical questions about power, ethics, and ecology in Jewish late antiquity. Through a sustained reading of the Babylonian Talmud's tractate on fasts in response to drought, this book shows how Bavli Taʿanit challenges Deuteronomy's claim that virtue can assure abundance and that misfortune is an una Rabbinic tales of drought, disaster, and charismatic holy men illuminate critical questions about power, ethics, and ecology in Jewish late antiquity. Through a sustained reading of the Babylonian Talmud's tractate on fasts in response to drought, this book shows how Bavli Taʿanit challenges Deuteronomy's claim that virtue can assure abundance and that misfortune is an unambiguous sign of divine rebuke. Employing a new method for analyzing lengthy talmudic narratives, Julia Watts Belser traces complex strands of aggadic dialectic to show how Bavli Taʿanit's redactors articulate a strikingly self-critical theological and ethical discourse. Bavli Taʿanit castigates rabbis for misuse of power, exposing the limits of their perception and critiquing prevailing obsessions with social status. But it also celebrates the possibilities of performative perception – the power of an adroit interpreter to transform events in the world and interpret crisis in a way that draws forth blessing.

13 review for Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster

  1. 4 out of 5

    BHodges

    JWB highlights intrareligious critique of (and by) rabbinic elites in the Babylonian Talmud. She argues that it uses an "aggadic dialectic," stories are stacked together in a way that challenges some aspects of rabbinic culture while reinforcing other aspects.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  3. 4 out of 5

    LPenting

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mirah Curzer

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Mark

  7. 4 out of 5

    Judy Zingher

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rav

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hyaliine

  11. 5 out of 5

    Allie Howard

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ada Quasibee

  13. 5 out of 5

    Philip Yoder

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