Rabbinic Rabies and Rabid Rabbis – the ‘Mad Dog’ in Talmudic Texts
Wed, 9 Feb 2022 18:00 - 19:00 Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0)
Ancient rabbinic advice about mad dogs
About this event
This lecture will discuss some significant passages from the early (Mishnah/Tosefta) and late (Palestinian/Babylonian Talmud) rabbinic traditions of late antiquity that deal with so-called “mad dogs” (kelev shote). The texts introduce different classifications or taxonomies of this condition and elaborate on theoretical and practical knowledge about appropriate cures and remedies. These therapeutic advices, embedded in a religious-normative discourse, contain unexpected and sometimes puzzling details and terminology. Moreover, they display conceptual structures and literary techniques that point to a certain familiarity with technical or epistemic genres (e.g., recipes, diagnosis, incantations), while deploying also traditional rabbinic discursive forms.
The regionally diverse Talmudic texts from Palestine and Babylonia seem to reflect different assumptions and medical approaches of their surrounding cultures. The analysis will shed some light on possible interactions with and transfers of medical and cultural concepts from ancient Graeco-Roman, Byzantine-Christian, Mesopotamian, and Persian-Zoroastrian traditions. Moreover, the discussion will provide some keys to the specific ways in which the rabbis adopted, integrated and authorized such knowledge.
The speaker is Lennart Lehmhaus (PhD), lecturer at the Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Before that he held positions as research fellow and lecturer at Martin-Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg (Germany), Freie Universität Berlin (as a member of the research center SFB 980 “Episteme in Motion”), The Katz Center for Judaic Studies- University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University. His research and teaching interests comprise ancient Jewish cultures and literatures, specifically rabbinic and Talmudic; premodern knowledge and sciences; trajectories of Jewish traditions, motifs and customs into contemporary Jewish and Israeli culture.
He has published widely on the so-called “late Midrash” texts in their early Islamicate contexts. His monograph on discursive features and cultural backgrounds of the ethical work Seder Eliyahu Zuta is currently in press and will be published in the Text and Studies in Ancient Judaism series with Mohr Siebeck.
In his current research, Lehmhaus works on Talmudic discourse on medical knowledge and practice in comparison to Graeco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern medical traditions. As publications from this project will emerge the Sourcebooks of Medical Knowledge in Talmudic Literature (Mohr Siebeck, 2022–25) and Talmudic Bodies of Knowledge – Jewish Discourse on Health, Illness, and Medicine in Late Antiquity (forthcoming 2023).
Besides several peer-reviewed articles, he has edited the volumes: Collecting Recipes. Byzantine and Jewish Pharmacology in Dialogue. De Gruyter, 2017 (with M. Martelli), Defining Jewish Medicine – Transfers of Medical Knowledge in Jewish Cultures and Traditions. (Harrassowitz, 2021), and Female Bodies and Female Practitioners in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures (Mohr Siebeck, 2022).
Lehmhaus is the founding editor of the series ASK —Ancient Cultures of Sciences and Knowledge (Mohr Siebeck, 2022-).