Introduction to Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli continued . . .

Table 1 summarizes the names, dates, and abbreviations of the documents we will study.

Table 1. Primary Sources
Document Date of Composition Abbreviation
Jahwist10th c. B.C.E.J
Elohist9th c. B.C.E.E
Deuteronomist621 B.C.E.D
Priestly school586 B.C.E.P
Holiness school 586 B.C.E.H or HS
Prophets 4th c. B.C.E.
Writings 2nd c. C.E.
Pseudepigrapha 586 B.C.E.-70 C.E.
Mishnah 200 C.E. M. + tractate name
Tosefta 220 C.E. T. + tractate name
Halakhic midrashim ca. 300 C.E.
Mechilta d'Rabbi Yishmael Mechilta
Sifra Sifre
Sifre Numbers Sifre N.
Sifre Deuteronomy Sifre D.
Aggadic midrashim ca. 400 C.E.
Genesis Rabbah
Leviticus Rabbah
Peskta d'Rav Kahana
Lamentations Rabbah
Talmud Yerushalmi ca. 400 C.E. Y. + tractate name
Talmud Bavli 427-650 C.E. B. + tractate name

A Preview

In this study of persons with disabilities in Jewish sources from the Tanach through the Bavli, we will focus on five main areas of inquiry: (1) the way disabilities affected priests and their functioning in the Temple and the way the priestly concept of physical perfection was adapted to the sages' system of observance once the Second Temple was destroyed, (2) how persons with disabilities were used as symbols of collective Israel, (3) how the life stories of individuals with disabilities often became literally object lessons in theology and God's justice, (4) the comparisons of how persons with disabilities were seen in Judaism and the cultures that surrounded it, and (5) the way persons with disabilities were grouped into categories and the significance of those designations. In general, to be able to act fully in the sages' system, a person must (1) have da'at ("cognition" or "consciousness"), (2) have the ability to act on that da'at, and (3) be entitled to put his or her da'at into action in the society the sages constructed.

In our study of these documents, we must remember whose vision of society and faith we are reading. The sages, intent on their vision of society and its members, were not concerned with an inclusive account of everyone's experiences. The actual lives of persons with disabilities remain largely hidden from us, as they were not generally described in the sources.

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