Outside the Text
This introductory chapter explains how in the study of language and culture, scholars may be interested in the significance of meaning for reasons other than the pursuit of meaning for its own sake. Analyzing how societies speak about rituals and interpret them indicates a larger interest about the nature of ritual action, hermeneutics, and historiography. The study presents myths and methods that may turn out to represent social or cultural circles lying at the skirts of rabbinic authority. But, at the same time, it derives from bodies of ancient Jewish literature, such as magical and divination texts and liturgical poetry or piyyut, that are not included in the rabbinic canon. While there is still debate about whether these forms of expression should be included in the category of “rabbinic” Judaism, it is clear that these literatures were not produced by the central shapers of the Talmuds.
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