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Eager Observance

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Chapter Summary

In the analysis of cautious figures, diligence or eagerness emerged as a close cousin of caution. This chapter directly addresses the representation of eagerness in observance of the law in tannaitic literature. The notion that God's commandments should be performed eagerly is a persistent motif in tannaitic literature, and finds its way into such various forms as exegesis, maxims, liturgy, and ritual accounts. Rather than bringing to bear an artificial or dictionary definition of eagerness, this chapter draws an organic conception of eagerness out of tannaitic sources by beginning with the biblical obedience formula. This formula constitutes a lemmatic space, as it were, in which tannaitic interpreters can elaborate their images of ideal obedience: speed, cheer, willingness, action for its own sake. Finally, the chapter traces the recurrence of these images elsewhere in tannaitic literature.

Keywords: biblical obedience formula; cautious figures; eagerness; tannaitic literature



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