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The Dual Strategy of Rabbinic Purity Legislation

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An examination of Tannaic sources uncovers a dual strategy regarding the bounds of non-priestly purity. On the one hand, it was common during the period of the Second Temple and thereafter to exercise extreme caution in keeping impurity away even from the profane. On the other hand, however, the sages acted overtly to maintain a clear distinction between the theoretical-biblical concept of ritual impurity, which was steadily limited to the sacred, and the much more stringent customs they lived by. The article argues that, contrary to what has been accepted in the literature, there never existed any disagreement on this issue in the rabbinic world.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Hebrew Culture Studies, Tel Aviv University


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