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Teleological Mitzvah

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the teleological usage of מצוה in tannaitic literature. This usage occurs in the legislative rhetoric of the Mishnah and the Tosefta. In Akivan midrash, too, teleological מצוה is common, in this case in contrast with כשר. The contrast between מצוה and כשר resembles and is undoubtedly related to a similar contrast in Ishmaelian sources, where, however, מצוה does not carry a teleological sense. Often, teleological מצוה simply describes an ideal process, without specifying whether the process can effect its end in the absence of a given step. The chapter suggests that this particular rhetoric of מצוה expresses a normativity of submission, not to the personal authority backing the process, but to the process itself. In other cases, teleological מצוה moves toward specifying an action that belongs to the ideal process but is not essential for its fulfillment.

Keywords: tannaitic literature; teleological mitzvah; teleological normativity



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