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A Traveling Homeland

A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora

Daniel Boyarin
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    A Traveling Homeland
    Book Description:

    A word conventionally imbued with melancholy meanings, "diaspora" has been used variously to describe the cataclysmic historical event of displacement, the subsequent geographical scattering of peoples, or the conditions of alienation abroad and yearning for an ancestral home. But as Daniel Boyarin writes, diaspora may be more constructively construed as a form of cultural hybridity or a mode of analysis. InA Traveling Homeland,he makes the case that a shared homeland or past and traumatic dissociation are not necessary conditions for diaspora and that Jews carry their homeland with them in diaspora, in the form of textual, interpretive communities built around talmudic study.

    For Boyarin, the Babylonian Talmud is a diasporist manifesto, a text that produces and defines the practices that constitute Jewish diasporic identity. Boyarin examines the ways the Babylonian Talmud imagines its own community and sense of homeland, and he shows how talmudic commentaries from the medieval and early modern periods also produce a doubled cultural identity. He links the ongoing productivity of this bifocal cultural vision to the nature of the book: as the physical text moved between different times and places, the methods of its study developed through contact with surrounding cultures. Ultimately,A Traveling Homelandenvisions talmudic study as the center of a shared Jewish identity and a distinctive feature of the Jewish diaspora that defines it as a thing apart from other cultural migrations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9139-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Prelude. A Different Diaspora
    (pp. 1-8)

    Despite the correct observation just cited from Tölölyan, redefining things can sometimes be the beginning of a new political vision, so let us begin. Generally, the term “diaspora” with respect to Jews is used in one of three acceptations, which are not mutually exclusive.

    It can appear in a kind of timeless geographical sense: the Jews who do not dwell in Palestine, whatever their historical conditions. So, for instance, all the thriving communities of Jews throughout the Ottoman Empire and beyond would be called the Diaspora, in contrast to a small, if vital, community of refugee Jews from Spain who...

  4. Chapter 1 Diaspora and the Jewish Diasporas
    (pp. 9-32)

    A famous² story preserved in a medieval chronicle,The Book of Tradition, by Abraham Ibn Daud (1110– c. 1180), narrates the origins of a Jewish diaspora in the western Muslim world via the pirate capture of a ship bearing four great Talmud scholars. Since its most recent editor and scholarly commentator, the late Gerson D. Cohen, has demonstrated almost beyond a shadow of a doubt that the story is entirely fictive, we can learn from it a great deal of truth.³ Regarding the expansion of the number of castaways from three found in Ibn Daud’s apparent sources to four,⁴ Cohen...

  5. Chapter 2 At Home in Babylonia: The Talmud as Diasporist Manifesto
    (pp. 33-53)

    The Babylonian Talmud is, I propose, the diasporist text of the Rabbis, par excellence. The Babylonian Talmud produces thematically the image of diaspora that would ultimately project it as the text of diaspora throughout later Jewish history. Moulie Vidas has pointed out how the Talmud theorizes the Diaspora: “Immigration to Palestine becomes unnecessary as the Talmud legitimizes exile; the hegemony of the Land of Israel as the ultimate destination for Jews becomes irrelevant. The action the Bavli takes with respect to geographical matters is similar to the one it took with respect to ethnic matters: it decentralizes the Jewish world...

  6. Chapter 3 In the Land of Talmud: The Textual Making of a Diasporic Folk
    (pp. 54-96)

    In accordance with the definition of diaspora offered in Chapter 1, a diaspora is formed when two or more collectives have a doubled cultural location at home, as it were, and abroad.

    Thinking about the Babylonian Talmud, we find a mixture of genres and a mixture of languages (early Hebrew, later Hebrew, Palestinian Aramaic, Babylonian Aramaic, Greek, and Persian), as well as a mixture of representations of speakers of those languages. The writers of the two Talmuds were doubly oriented, to the place where they were and to the other place where their fellow Rabbis were—in Palestine or Iranian...

  7. Chapter 4 Looking for Our Routes; or, the Talmud and the Making of Diasporas: Sefarad and Ashkenaz
    (pp. 97-124)

    This little book began with a story of a ship that was sailing from Bari,² carrying, at least metaphorically, the Talmud in the form of four scholars who would found four new—three of them real and one of them “unknown” and thus totally imaginary—and ultimately great centers of talmudic learning at the four corners of the known Mediterranean, producing a new diaspora: “From Bari the Torah will go out, and the word of the Lord from Otranto.” As I noted in Chapter 1, the author of this account, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Daud, the great defender of the talmudic...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 125-154)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 155-162)
  10. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 163-174)
  11. Index of Ancient Texts
    (pp. 175-176)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 177-178)