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Halakhah Vs. Kabbalah

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Chapter Summary

Halakhic literature - from the Babylonian Talmud, through Talmudic commentators and up to the Halakhic summae and the work of other Halakhists - are the obvious and unquestioned foundation of Tiferet Bahurim. Chapter 18 of Tiferet Bahurim deals with a highly complicated issue discussed at great length in Halakhic literature: abstention from sexual contact with women who have lost their ritual purity, during menstruation or after childbirth. The most significant justification of Halakhic instructions is meant to emerge from the encounter with kabbalistic tradition. The rhetoric of Tiferet Bahurim deliberately mixes "Halakhic" and "kabbalistic" aspects. The combination and juxtaposition of the various sources, however, emphasizes the significance of the masturbation issue, particularly through its very inclusion in a manual meant to prepare young men for marriage. In the marriage rituals of Italian Jews, weeks or months and sometimes more than a year might elapse between the betrothal and the wedding.

Keywords: Halakhic literature; Italian Jews; kabbalistic tradition; Tiferet Bahurim



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