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Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse

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image of The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

Rabbinic literature contains several examples of a manner of silencing impious arguments that is usually identified only with later forms of piety, namely, ascribing the arguments to the evil inclination (yetzerhara). Arguments attributed to the yetzer represent serious discursive threats against rabbinic doctrine, marking fundamental problems in both its legal and nonlegal (aggadic) parts. Identifying a question or refutation as belonging to the yetzer automatically invalidates it. By ascribing arguments to the yetzer, the rabbis prevent their audience from actually engaging them, thus marking the limits of rabbinic dialogism.

Affiliations: 1: Tel Aviv University


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