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6 A Tale of Two Sinais: On the Reception of the Torah according to bShab 88a

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Chapter Summary

A short but well-known talmudic discussion found on bShab 88a culminates in a shocking and radical derashah. In this concluding derashah, Rava makes the bewildering claim that the Torah only became legally binding in the time of Mordechai and Esther. In other words, this Talmudic exchange concludes that the true Sinaitic moment, that is, the authentic reception of the Torah's binding authority, occurred in the time of Mordechai and Esther, long after the reception of the Torah on Mount Sinai as narrated in the Pentateuch. This chapter is comprised of three segments. It opens innocently with an evocative derashah, follows with a legal query, and concludes with Rava's astonishing statement. Each segment of the discussion stems from elsewhere in rabbinic literature and through a comparison of each segment to its literary backdrop, the author hopes to reveal how the Bavli has interpreted its sources anew.

Keywords: bShab 88a; derashah; Esther; Mordechai; Mount Sinai; Rava; Torah



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