Jewish folk literature in late antiquity

Eli Yassif*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


FOLKLORE IN RABBINIC REALITY AND LITERATURE The main cultural activity during the rabbinic period took place in the academy (bet ha-midrash) and in the synagogue. Learned activity took place in the former, a kind of academy and legislature in one, wherein the principal compositions of the period were produced – the Talmud and the Midrash. The synagogue served as a spiritual center for the various strata of society, including women and children, and was by its very nature more “popular.” The Babylonian Talmud has preserved evidence of this: “R. Ishmael b. Eleazar said: On account of two sins amme ha-arez [“the simple, unlearned”] die: because they call the holy ark a chest, and because they call a synagogue bet am” (BT Shabb. 32a). That is, the synagogue was regarded, by the people if not by the Sages, as more than a house of ritual; it filled a clear social function as well, as the “house of the folk” (bet am); in addition to prayer and Torah reading, sermons were delivered there by community rabbis or itinerant preachers, and also in the framework of oral homily, translators rendered the Torah portion into Aramaic, the lingua franca of the time, almost verbatim, interspersed with exegesis, aggadic elaborations and homiletic interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Judaism
Subtitle of host publicationVolume IV the Late Roman-Rabbinic Period
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781139055130
ISBN (Print)0521772486, 9780521772488
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2006


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