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Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature$
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Mira Balberg

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520280632

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520280632.001.0001

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On Corpses and Persons

On Corpses and Persons

(p.96) 4 On Corpses and Persons
Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature

Mira Balberg

University of California Press

The fourth chapter focuses on the rabbinic reconstruction of corpse impurity in tractate Oholot and on the critical role of personhood in this reconstruction. At the center of this chapter stands the unprecedented rabbinic ruling that fragments of corpses must be either significant enough in size or of a form that is distinctly and recognizably human in order fully to convey impurity. The chapter argues that the rabbis construct the ability of corpse fragments to convey impurity as dependent upon their ability to invoke the mental picture of a person, and it further argues that, for the rabbis, the point of reference against which all dead bodies are assessed and measured is—distinctly and paradoxically—a living body.

Keywords:   corpse, dead, death, human, personhood, Oholot

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