Early Rabbinic Judaism: Historical Studies in Religion, by Jacob Neusner

By Jacob Neusner

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The Tent, therefore, takes the place of the body, makes a place for that which, in the body, leaves at the point or moment of death. The Tent is to be understood as a surrogate for the body, restoring the order which has broken with the exit, from the body, of that which exudes from it. Death has released this effusion. The Tent then contains it. " I see no point in calling 16 RELIGION it the soul and to allege that the "uncleanness" of the corpse is the "soul" which is the "spirit" surviving after death and requiring a new locale.

VI Implicit in the contents and concept of Oral Torah therefore is the notion of the independence and autonomy of that Oral Torah. If, as I have suggested, the Mishnaic law is separate and autonomous from Scripture, though in its unfolding it is made to interrelate, where it can, to Scripture, then we must wonder whether we have not simply stated in historical language what the ancient rabbis meant in speaking, to begin with, of two Torahs, one in writing, the other transmitted orally. It certainly is a drastic misstatement of the facts to see these two Torahs as interrelated in their beginnings, so far as the pertinent and reciprocally relevant segments of Leviticus and Numbers, Kelim and Ohalot, are concerned.

A further Ushan contribution is the set of distinctions so handsomely constructed in M. 18:2-4, the three kinds of grave-area, together with what one may and may not plant in them and do with their dirt. This construction is what one would expect from Ushans: architectonically brilliant, but in no way original or ground-breaking. The larger Ushan contribution is to introduce secondary issues about who owns a field, the owner's intention, the possibility of creating one grave-area out of another, and the like.

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