Sexualising the evil inclination: Rabbinic 'yetzer' and modern scholarship

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Abstract

The increasing interest in Jewish carnality and sexuality in recent years has influenced many areas of research, one of which is the rabbinic 'evil yetzer' (inclination). More and more studies discuss the rabbinic yetzer in sexual terms, and yetzer has become almost synonymous with 'sexuality'. In this paper I wish to show that this perception lacks textual justification. Most rabbinic sources present the yetzer as the enemy of men, constantly dragging them to sin, and accounting for their difficulty to become and remain servants of God. The yetzer drags one to sexual sins just as it drags to any other sinful acts, as it is an antinomian entity, the enemy of Torah and its commandments. The sexualisation of the yetzer appear only in Babylonian sources, and for the main part is a post Amoraic development. The paper ends with an attempt to locate this phenomenon in a broader Babylonian context: a process of hyper-sexualisation which takes place in the Bavli alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-281
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Volume60
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

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