"I am the one": a monist looks at the double death and life of Rabba bar Naḥmani

Michael L Baris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The rabbis portray two arenas in which Torah is studied. Above the terrestrial academy of the sages, the Rabbis posit a transcendent, celestial yeshiva. This dual system seems central to the rabbinic doctrine of retribution in a sequential afterlife. In contrast to the standard dualist reading and accepted dogma, I propose a monist’s reading of these aggadic texts, which sees a single arena of human action and endeavor, with multivalent significance. My starting point is the dramatic narrative of the persecution, flight, and ultimate death of one of the leading Talmudic sages, Rabba bar Naḥmani. These esoteric stories go beyond familiar taxonomies as modes of concealment. Not cyphers to be cracked, they offer a nuanced way of thinking about the world, accessible through narrative as an adaptive mode of transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-50
Number of pages32
JournalReview of Rabbinic Judaism - Ancient, Medieval, and Modern
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

RAMBI Publications

  • RAMBI Publications
  • Rabbah bar Nahmani -- (amora)
  • Talmud Bavli -- Bava Mezia -- 86a -- Commentaries
  • Death in rabbinical literature
  • Heaven in rabbinical literature


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