Book: The Use and Dissemination of Religious Knowledge in Antiquity
Chapter: 6. Interaction between Rabbis and Other Jews in Private and Public Spaces in Late Roman Palestine
Palestinian rabbinic literature mostly transmits traditions about interactions among rabbis and rabbis and their students. Nevertheless, in some social contexts rabbis are said to have met laypeople: rabbis were invited by wealthy householders; they attended study houses; they gave speeches in study houses and synagogues. This paper examines the private and public contexts in which interaction between rabbinic Torah scholars and other Jews is imagined in Palestinian rabbinic sources of late antiquity. How are relations between rabbis and laypeople depicted in comparison to those amongst rabbinic scholars? Are rabbis and non-rabbinic Jews described as equals or do the texts contain implicit or explicit markers of status differences? Questions about spatial access to rabbis are closely linked to the issue of transfer of knowledge. It is argued that rabbis’ actual behaviour and practice in public spaces may have been more important than verbal instruction. Rabbis could serve as role models for those who observed them. Since Judaism focuses on practice rather than beliefs, rabbis’ conduct in everyday situations would have been the foremost way of disseminating rabbinic knowledge.