Sorrow and Distress in the Talmud

Sorrow and Distress in the Talmud


Shulamit Valler

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781936235360 (hardcover)
Pages: 318 pp.
Publication Date: September 2011

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Both the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud depict a wide range of sorrowful situations tied to every level of society and to the complexities of human behavior and the human condition. The causes and expressions of sorrow amongst the Sages, however, are different from their counterparts amongst common people or women, with descriptions varying between the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud. In Sorrow and Distress in the Talmud, Valler explores more than 50 stories from both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds, focusing on these issues.

Shulamit Valler (PhD Jewish Theological Seminary) is a professor of Talmud and Chair of the Jewish History department at the University of Haifa. Her numerous publications include Women and Womanhood in the Babylonian Talmud (1999) and Massekhet Sukkah – a Feminist Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud (2009).

In a work that collects and categorizes narratives on the basis of the use of a particular term it is surprising to find such a high degree of continuity in the way Valler links nearly every story she analyzes to the one that follows in what becomes a set of flowing discussions that make up each of the chapters. Valler’s study of stories of sorrow in Talmudic literature exhibits an all too rare combination of scholarly erudition and didactic practicality. This book will fuel further scholarship and also be useful in teaching. It will make a valuable addition to wide variety of Jewish studies collections.
— Marc Bregman, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
An important contribution not only to Talmudic studies but also to the general understanding of the human and emotional world of the Talmudic sages . . . From the academic standpoint Shulamit Valler’s Sorrow and Distress in the Talmud is written with great profundity, and the reader can without doubt feel the knowledge and the erudition of the author.
— Shalom Ratzabi, Professor of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University
In this book Shulamit Valler gives the reader a glimpse into the emotional world of the Talmudic sages. She presents them, through unique and meticulous work, as sensitive, fragile, and very emotional people—at the end of the day, as human as the rest of us. That lesson alone is a great achievement, adding texture to the thick mythic cover Jewish tradition has put on this group of rabbis, who were responsible more than anyone else for directing Judaism toward the path it is on today.
— Admiel Kosman, professor of Religious and Jewish studies, Potsdam University

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Sorrow (Mitzta’er) 
Chapter Two: Extreme Sorrow (Hulshat da’at) 
Chapter Three: Weeping (Bechi) 
Chapter Four: Grief over the Death of Children
Chapter Five: The Encounter between the Sages and the Women Accompanying Them in Times of Distress
Appendix: Hulshat da’at and Self-Psychology (by Alex Aviv) 
Glossary of Terms Used

Index Index of Biblical and Talmudic Figures
Index of Biblical and Talmudic References
Index of Topics