Hiking in the Heat of the Summer So this section was going to have to be handled a little differently than the previous five. It was now the heat of…
The period of Roman rule of Eretz Yisrael is important in our consideration of “teaching Israel” for several reasons:
- Continuing the conversation that began with Shivat Tziyon, about the significance of land, autonomy, sovereignty, and exile: if we are living in our land but do not have sovereignty, are we in a kind of exile? Or does exile only refer to physical separation from the land? How important, in our relationship to the land, is political independence?
- Another conversation that continues and blossoms during this period is about Judaism’s relationship to foreign cultures. The Jewish-pagan polarity that is so evident in the Bible becomes much more complex and nuanced during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This brings us to down to the modern discussion of “what is Jewish culture?” and “What is Israeli culture?” Is any culture that is rooted in Israel ipso facto Israeli? Jewish?
- It is during this period that the basic documents of the Oral Law are codified; thus, the “Jewish Tradition” as we know it, both Halachah and Aggadah, is founded upon the records of the discussions of the rabbis of Eretz Yisrael under the Romans – and this includes, of course, the place of the land itself in that tradition (see lesson 22, The Mishnah).
A Jewish diaspora has existed since the times of the First Temple. The balance of power between Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora was in a constant flux, depending on the sizes of the communities, their economic and political wellbeing, and the existence of a temple which served as the religious center for the Jewish world. In this unit we’ll look at Eretz Yisrael-diaspora relations in the time of the second Temple and after its destruction, always keeping in mind the (somewhat striking) parallels with phenomena we observe today. As an example of a large and powerful community (somewhat like the North-American Jewish community today?) we will examine in more detail the Babylonian community. We’ll look at the two Talmuds, one from Babylonia and the other from Eretz Yisrael, to see the differences and why they emerged, and examine one particular story which appears in both Talmuds, with subtle but telling difference.