The literary-legal evolution of the taxonomy of damages in the Talmud Yerushalmi

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


My paper attempts to demonstrate that not only the narrative passages of Talmudic aggadah, but also the highly technical legal discussions of Talmudic halakhah offer themselves to be read as literature. The combined strategy of form criticism and discourse analysis promises to unearth the literary patterns which, on the one hand, structure the flow of legal argumentation and, on the other hand, hint at a logical super-structure shared by the creators of the Talmudic text. With the point of departure being the Yerushalmi text, the paper’s case-study analyses the evolution of the taxonomy of damages (neziqin) in the opening passage of tractate Bava Qama in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Yerushalmi and Bavli. The initial Mishnaic list is deconstructed, radically segmented and reorganized in the Yerushalmi which creates a new literary text shape with an independent halakhic agenda. The paper subjects a technical halakhic passage to the critical reading techniques championed by Yonah Fraenkel (1991) and Arnold Goldberg (1999). Originally developed to aggadic texts, applying their techniques to Talmudic halakhah promises to shed light on the less emphasised literary aspects of recent developmental models of legal argumentation (Moscovitz 2002 and Reichman 2006). The combination of scholarly approaches seeks to show that legal and literary evolution are actually one. The laws of literary creation and the literary aspects of legal thinking are intertwined to such an extent that the characteristic literary and legal features can be explained as resulting from the same creative forces of the Yerushalmi’s literary-legal mind.
Period15 Jul 2014
Event titleThe Jewish Law Association 18th International Conference: Judaism, Law and Literature
Event typeConference
LocationAntwerp, BelgiumShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Rabbinic law
  • Legal reasoning
  • classification