“Abba has begun to make money from the beer business”: Beer, Business, and Halakhah in Rabbinic Literature

In the midst of a talmudic debate about the appropriateness of beer for use in Sabbath ritual (instead of the usual beverage of wine), an incident is recounted: one disciple encounters his teacher using beer for a Sabbath meal ritual, and remarks: “Abba has begun to make money from the

Start

February 28, 2023 - 2:00 pm

End

February 28, 2023 - 3:00 pm

Address

314 Royce Hall   View map

In the midst of a talmudic debate about the appropriateness of beer for use in Sabbath ritual (instead of the usual beverage of wine), an incident is recounted: one disciple encounters his teacher using beer for a Sabbath meal ritual, and remarks: “Abba has begun to make money from the beer business!” (b. Pesahim 107a). At this moment, the material and spiritual world collide. A rabbinic authority is questioned by his disciple for what appears to be a lenient legal position influenced by his monetary capital. In this text, and a handful of other passages in the Babylonian Talmud, rabbinic authorities who have a financial stake in the beer industry either change rabbinic law to include beer or rule leniently in regard to beer. Such conversations provide an interesting lens through which to view “lived religion” in rabbinic communities in Late Antiquity. In this talk, beer functions as a test case for discussing intersections between rabbinic authority, religious tradition, regional variance, innovation, and financial gain. The case of beer suggests the need for a more complex model wherein ancient rabbinic figures are not just disinterested authorities, but embodied humans who can both take religious law seriously and have serious business interests.

Jordan D. Rosenblum is the Belzer Professor of Classical Judaism and the Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on the law, literature, and social history of the rabbinic movement in general and, in particular, on rabbinic food regulations. He is the author of Rabbinic Drinking: What Beverages Teach Us About Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2020); The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World (Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism (Cambridge University Press, 2010), as well as the co-editor of four volumes, including Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food (New York University Press, 2019); and Animals and the Law in Antiquity (Brown Judaic Studies, expected 2021). He is currently researching a new book, provisionally entitled Jews and The Pig: A History, which will explore the long association between Jews and the pig.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 • 314 Royce • 2 PM

Jordan D. Rosenblum (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

“Abba has begun to make money from the beer business”: Beer, Business, and Halakhah in Rabbinic Literature

The Bible and the Ancient World Seminar Series

Moderated by Cate Bonesho (UCLA)

Cosponsored by the:
UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion

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