This book examines the emergence of self-knowledge as a determining legal consideration among the rabbis of Late Antiquity, from the third to the seventh centuries CE. Based on close readings of rabbinic texts from Palestine and Babylonia, Ayelet Hoffmann Libson highlights a unique and surprising developing in Talmudic jurisprudence, whereby legal decision-making incorporated personal and subjective information. She examines the central legal role accorded to individuals' knowledge of their bodies and mental states in areas of law as diverse as purity laws, family law and the laws of Sabbath. By focusing on subjectivity and self-reflection, the Babylonian rabbis transformed earlier legal practices in a way that cohered with the cultural concerns of other religious groups in Late Antiquity. They developed sophisticated ideas about the inner self and incorporated these notions into their distinctive discourse of law.
Ayelet Hoffmann Libson is an assistant professor at the Radzyner Law School at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and the Gruss Visiting Assistant Professor in Talmudic Civic Law at Harvard University, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of the Hebrew University (B.A.) and New York University (M.A., Ph.D.), and has held postdoctoral appointments at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. She is also a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and has won fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Lady Davis Foundation, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.
1. The inward turn in rabbinic literature; 2. Knowledge of the body: the case of sensation; 3. Asserting the needs of the body; 4. Between body and mind: the suffering self; 5. Self-knowledge and a wife's autonomy.