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Mental And Bodily Malfunctioning In Marriage: Evidence From Sixteenth- And Early Seventeenth-Century Responsa From The Ottoman Empire And Poland

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores how bodily or mental states caused by illness could render a person unfit for the socioreligious role Jewish society saw as normative for every Jewish human being: that of a partner in marriage. It also asks how people were viewed and treated who fell below the minimal standards of health required for a spouse, and what this tells us about mental models of marriage and of the Jewish body in the Early Modern Period. To find people who were judged too ill to be a spouse, the author turns to one of the best sources for the history of Jewish marriage as lived in real life: responsa, or legal opinions from the Ottoman Empire and Poland. It also discusses the differences and similarities between the two major legal traditions of Judaism, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi.

Keywords: Ashkenazi; bodily; illness; Jewish marriage; Judaism; mental state; Ottoman Empire; Poland; responsa; Sephardi



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