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Socrates & the Fat Rabbis$
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Daniel Boyarin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226069166

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226069180.001.0001

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Icaromeʾir: Rabbi Meʾir's Babylonian “Life” as Menippean Satire

Icaromeʾir: Rabbi Meʾir's Babylonian “Life” as Menippean Satire

(p.243) 6 Icaromeʾir: Rabbi Meʾir's Babylonian “Life” as Menippean Satire
Socrates & the Fat Rabbis
University of Chicago Press

The study of Torah is in the imaginaire of the rabbis the functional equivalent of the life of the philosopher in other Hellenistic culture. This has been demonstrated by Michael Satlow, who compares the actual practices of living prescribed for Hellenistic philosophers and talmudic rabbis. For the rabbis, talmud torah was the means by which the soul was made pure or whole, thus bringing the individual closer to the divine, or into the “spiritual condition.” Talmud torah required the same mental and physical discipline demanded by the non-Jewish study of philosophy. Talmud Torah, the study of “oral Torah,” which issues in the rabbinic literature, is thus conceived within this literature as an ascetic practice for the molding of the male Jewish soul to its highest possible state, very much analogous, in this sense, to the life of the philosopher as Plato and his successors envisioned it. The Bavli thus views the Talmud Torah “care of the self” as the most serious and praiseworthy way of living and presents Rabbi Me'ir as a singular exemplum of such a life.

Keywords:   Torah, rabbis, Rabbi Me'ir, Bavli, Talmud, Talmud Torah, Michael Satlow, oral Torah, rabbinic literature, Plato

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