Etiological Stories: Original Nightmares

Moshe Simon-Shoshan

in Stories of the Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199773732
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933129 | DOI:
Etiological Stories: Original Nightmares

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This chapter deals with the final genre of mishnaic story, the etiological story. These stories present rabbinic responses to historical crises and establish the rabbis’ right to adapt the law to changing circumstances. These stories also reflect the rabbis fundamentally pessimistic view of history as series of continuous crises and declines in spirituality that will be reversed only with the coming of the Messiah. The final section of the chapter treats a series of etiological stories that are set in the Temple. These stories challenge the idealized view of the Temple and its rituals found in the rest of the Mishnah. They also present a view of the relationship between law and narrative in which the forms are radically opposed.

Keywords: etiological story; temple; history; crisis

Chapter.  10497 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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