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“Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil”: The Physically Handicapped In The Mishnah

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how redactors of the Mishnah, in their utopian world, express and view the visibly physically handicapped. It first turns to the theoretical framework necessary for a proper understanding of the world of the Mishnah, and of the treatment of the physically handicapped within the texts. Edited in approximately 2 AD, the Mishnah, a document devoted primarily to topics related to the Jerusalem Temple destroyed in 70 CE, serves as the foundation of rabbinic literature. The primary issue for the Temple concerning handicapped persons is the Priests. The Mishnah classifies two categories of deformities or handicaps. The first is related to mental disorders. They are the "Heresh" - the deaf-mute person who is grouped with the fool and the minor [katan]. The second category is the visibly disabled Jews. These include such disabilities as those of the blind, lame, or dumb cheresh.

Keywords: Mishnah; physically handicapped; rabbinic literature

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