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The Normative Realm As Mitzvah

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins with the opposition between #1502;צוה and #1506;בירה . In this categorical opposition, מצוה is associated with reward. After exploring other manifestations of this association, the chapter turns to alternative, non-deontological conceptualizations of מצוה in tannaitic literature, including ones that connect it with positive action and with holiness. Tannaitic sources often give voice to the concern that the notion of the מצוהas an opportunity for reward threatens to undermine the normative force of the מצוה , and to recast it as merely optional. As מצוה is affiliated with reward, it naturally comes, too, to be associated with positive acts, for the active fulfillment of positive commandments more naturally correlates with reward than does passive fulfillment of negative ones. It is difficult to draw definitive distinctions between the schools of R. Akiva and R. Ishmael with respect to the above conceptualizations of מצוה .

Keywords: normative force; R. Akiva; R. Ishmael; tannaitic literature



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