Roman rule
Roman Senate. Ancient Images /Flickr

Rabbinic Battery Law in Light of Roman Rule

Dr. Yoni Pomeranz

Abstract: The rabbinic laws of personal injury differ markedly from those in the Torah. They are, however, substantially similar to the laws of personal injury that guided Roman courts in Palestine in the second century CE. Reading perek ha-ḥovel (m. Bava Kamma 8) alongside Roman law codes reveals the influence that Roman law had on rabbinic law. Roman models were responsible for the rabbinic rejection of a strict “eye for an eye” law, the calculation of נזק by valuing the victim as a slave, and the idea that an assailant could be liable for payments for בושת.

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Fox on the Temple Mount
Blanford's Fox (Vulpes cana) photographed in Israel. Eyal Bartov / Wikimedia

Rabbi Akiva’s Laugh: The Hidden Call for the Bar Kokhba Revolt

A New Reading of the Midrash of R. Akiva and the Fox on the Temple Mount.

Dr. Meir Ben-Shahar

Abstract:  In recent years, a growing consensus has emerged that the Bar Kokhba revolt should be connected to Rome’s establishment of the city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem. A new interpretation of Rabbi Akiva’s famous consolation upon seeing a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies (Sifre Deuteronomy 43) suggests that this homily can actually be read as a call to arms against Rome.

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Bava Kamma: Between Strict Liability and Negligence

Dr. Shana Strauch-Schick

Abstract: Tractate Bava Kamma deals primarily with tort law – the area of law that determines liability and fault for damages caused to the person or property of others. The Mishnah and the Talmudim present a seemingly bewildering variety of perspectives in terms of how to make such determinations. Nevertheless, it is still possible to trace a chronological development of how the tannaim and amoraim dealt with these issues. This evolution conforms to theoretical models described by contemporary legalists and may fit its Sasanian context.

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Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice
Women of all cultures praying at the Western Wall. Meaghan O'Neill / flickr 2.0

Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice of ‘Arakhin

In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem, rabbinic literature’s presentation of mothers donating their children’s weight in gold to the Temple – following the rabbinic interpretation of ‘Arakhin – comes to exemplify both piety and tragedy. Continue reading Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice of ‘Arakhin

Gemara Megillah Purim

Purim: A Day Beyond Full Rabbinic Control 

Dr. Barry Wimpfheimer

Excessive drinking on Purim is recommended by the amora Rabbah, in a rare Aramaic ruling that is followed by a strange account of a drunk Rabbah slaughtering his colleague, R. Zeira, at a Purim feast. What are we to make of this shocking law and story, and what do can they teach us about the unique, carnivalesque quality of Purim?

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Aramaic Incantation Bowl
Incantation bowl with an Aramaic inscription around a demon. From Nippur, Mesopotamia 6th–7th ce. Photographer Marie-Lan Nguyen

Naming Demons: The Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Gittin

What the unique corpus of magical texts inscribed on bowls can teach us about the diffusion of the rabbinic laws of divorce in late antique Babylonia.

Avigail Manekin Bamberger Continue reading Naming Demons: The Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Gittin