Chapters 10-15 in Tosefta Soṭah contain the longest, most elaborated aggadic unit in the Tosefta. It comprises various units that seem to be connected only loosely: the biblical righteous figures who brought abundance to the world (chs. 10-12); various revelations and appearances of the holy spirit and divine echo (ch. 13); and the effects of the destruction and the calamities of the present (chs. 14-15). In this article I argue that it forms in fact a coherent unit. It combines apocalyptic, priestly, and wisdom themes in a manner that is unprecedented in rabbinic literature, but is similar to several Second Temple texts. It tells a tale of perpetual decline from the biblical golden age to the rabbis' own age of destruction, together with its eschatological remedy. It combines priestly and apocalyptic themes to form an alternative to the standard rabbinic meta-narrative of the transfer from prophecy to Torah. The first section of the article discusses chapters 10-13 and reconstructs their meticulous similarity with, and influence by, Ben Sira; the second section compares the complete composite unit (chs. 10-15) to the parallel Mishnah; and the third section examines the apocalyptic themes found in our text. I end with the need to reevaluate the relationship between rabbinic literature and apocalypticism.
- Ben Sira