Dr Lutz Doering, Durham University

 

The Tosefta tractate Shabbat is an important though underresearched early rabbinic text. Scholarship has long neglected it in favour of its ‘older sibling’, the Mishnah tractate Shabbat. But this neglect is unjustified: Tosefta Shabbat features a number of significant distinctive concepts within Sabbath law, such as a different conceptualisation of the ‘domains’ between which carrying is forbidden, or a more developed discourse on the permissibility of ‘life saving’ on the Sabbath. In addition, the tractate contains a sizable section on certain types of magic (the so-called ‘Ways of the Amorites’, chs. 6-7), which needs to be studied both in its own right and in relation to the composition as a whole. The tractate shows the rabbis’ unfolding engagement with Sabbath law, and while some passages seem to presuppose the parallel in the Mishnah, there may be others in which the Tosefta has preserved older material: a detailed comparison is called for. In addition, the manuscript situation needs to be revisited, as recent finds of Tosefta fragments in Italy suggest that one of the two main textual witnesses for the Tosefta (Codex Erfurt) has been underrated in its value by scholars who have worked on the Tosefta. The only comprehensive analysis of Tosefta Shabbat so far is contained in Saul Lieberman’s Tosefta Ki-Fshutah, a work written in dense Hebrew that is accessible only to a fairly small circle of experts. The aim of the present research is to produce the first comprehensive study ever of Tosefta Shabbat in a Western modern language, thereby contributing to making rabbinic discourse on the Sabbath available to a wider audience. The study will provide an introduction to the tractate and a detailed commentary on its structure, its concepts, and its language in general, as well as on individual phrases in particular. It will be based on a new translation of the tractate that takes full account of the manuscript evidence. The resulting volume will appear in the established Tosefta series published by Kohlhammer(Stuttgart).

 

Dr Lutz Doering

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