Frac­tured Tablets: For­get­ful­ness and Fal­li­bil­i­ty in Late Ancient Rab­binic Culture

  • From the Publisher
January 8, 2023

A free ebook ver­sion of this title is avail­able through Lumi­nos, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press’s Open Access pub­lish­ing pro­gram. Vis­it www​.lumi​nosoa​.org to learn more.

This book exam­ines the sig­nif­i­cant role that mem­o­ry fail­ures play in ear­ly rab­binic lit­er­a­ture. The rab­bis who shaped Judaism in late antiq­ui­ty envi­sioned the com­mit­ment to the Torah and its com­mand­ments as gov­ern­ing every aspect of a per­son­’s life. Their vision of a Jew­ish sub­ject who must keep con­stant men­tal track of mul­ti­ple oblig­a­tions and teach­ings led them to be pre­oc­cu­pied with for­get­ting: for­get­ting tasks, for­get­ting facts, for­get­ting texts, and — most broad­ly — for­get­ting the Torah alto­geth­er. In Frac­tured Tablets, Mira Bal­berg exam­ines the ways in which the ear­ly rab­bis approached and delin­eat­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of for­get­ful­ness in prac­tice and study and the solu­tions and respons­es they con­jured for for­get­ful­ness, along with the ways in which they used human fal­li­bil­i­ty to bol­ster their vision of Jew­ish obser­vance and their own roles as reli­gious experts. In the process, Bal­berg shows that the rab­bis’ intense pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the prospect of for­get­ful­ness was a mean­ing­ful ide­o­log­i­cal choice, with pro­found impli­ca­tions for our under­stand­ing of Judaism in late antiquity.

Discussion Questions