UBC Theses and Dissertations
Divorce and exile in Aggadic literature Ames, Tracy
Since the early Middle Ages, the development of Jewish law has relied almost exclusively on the legal, halakhic1 statements contained in classic Rabbinic literature found primarily in the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbinic literature also consists of narrative material known as Aggadah. The term Aggadah refers to the range of genres that includes stories, philosophy, wisdom, folklore, rabbinic biographies, history, moral exhortation, theological speculation and anything not strictly speaking legal in nature. This does not mean that Aggadah lacks legal significance. The precise nature of Aggadah and its authority within the Jewish legal framework has been debated by Rabbinic scholars for centuries. This thesis is about the relationship between literary discourse, intertextuality and Aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud. I will concentrate on an analysis of the aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Gittin 6b. Tractate Gittin is the tractate in the Mishnah and the Talmud devoted to the laws of divorce. I will engage the material both within the aggadah and with its intertextual linkages. This study will focus on the ways that the literary rhetoric of the aggadic narrative in B. Gittin 6b conflates the themes of marriage and divorce with the covenantal relationship of God and the Jewish people. The intertextual analysis will disclose the characteristics and traditions of the emerging Babylonian Rabbinic culture that are portrayed within the aggadic discourse, and will reveal that the concepts of divorce, violence and exile are thematically intertwined in the aggadah. Halakhah is often contextualized in opposition to Aggadah. The findings of this study will unsettle this opposition and reveal that halakhic passages are found within the aggadic discourse and that there is no distinct demarcation separating the halakhic material from the aggadic discourse. The modern and contemporary periods have witnessed an increased academic interest in the Talmud and in the role and nature of Aggadah as a distinct type of literary discourse. The goal of the first part of this thesis is to review the position of Aggadah within classic Rabbinic discourse. I will also identify contemporary Talmudic scholarship and evaluate and critique the methodological approaches applied in the pursuit of understanding the discourse of Aggadah. I will discuss the impact of source and form criticism, literary analysis and intertextuality on Talmudic studies in general and the usefulness of these methodologies for informing meaning in the Aggadah. In the second chapter of this thesis I will provide a background to the laws of divorce which are contained in tractate Gittin and I will explain the methodology that I will employ in my analysis. I will then engage in a close linear reading of the narrative in B. Gittin 6b. In the last chapter an intertextual reading will uncover latent rhetorical and historical layers and reveal a structure to the narrative that is independent of its linear flow. The conclusion will summarize the findings of this study.