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The classic Jewish sources have traditionally been marked by a sharp distinction between narrative and legal discourse, between Midrash and Mishnah, between creative exegesis on the Hebrew Bible and the codification of law. Similarly, the Talmud is deemed to include two separate genres of discourse: Aggadah (story telling) and Halacha (legal discussion). However, these distinctions are not characteristic of the Hebrew Bible or the early medieval period. Why was the distinction so adamantly asserted by the sages of the classic rabbinic period (2nd-5th century C.E.) and why does it breakdown in the 8th century and onward? This presentation traces the midrashic antecedents to the blurring between halachic (legal) and aggadic (narrative) discourse in the medieval works of R. Elazar of Worms (1160-1230 C.E., known as the Rokeah), and Isaac ben Moses of Vienna (circa 1200-70 C.E., known for his legal work Or zaruʻa). Adelman claims that a movement existed to provide a biblical basis as mythic narrative to legal discourse particularly in the area of ritual and liturgy beginning with the 8th century.
Symposia (conferences); Video recordings
Adelman, Rachel, "When myth and nomos meet: The use of midrashic sources in halachic literature of the Middle Ages" (2008). Sacred Leaves Graduate Symposium Collection. 6.