Rabbinic Drinking with Jordan Rosenblum

Jordan Rosenblum joins us to talk about his book Rabbinic Drinking: What Beverages Teach Us About Rabbinic Literature—how drinks and drinking provide an avenue for understanding the Talmud in its context, and illuminates big issues about the nature of rabbinic literature, the world of late antiquity, and also about how issues of food and drink in Judaism, stemming from the Talmud, reverberate through the centuries.

Jordan Rosenblum is the Belzer Professor of Classical Judaism, and the Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and he’s also the Chair of the Department of Art History there. His research focuses on the literature, law, and social history of the rabbinic movement in general and, in particular, on rabbinic food regulations. Rabbinic Drinking is his latest book, and he’s also published titles including: Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism and The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World.

Rabbinic Drinking is a great book because it’s both a useful introduction to the Talmud and rabbinic literature more broadly, and it also uses drinks and drinking to open a range of issues that normally people don’t think about. And it’s not just about alcohol: in the Talmud, discussions of drinks and drinking of course begins with beer and wine, but also include water, mythical drinks, and the rabbis even discuss breastfeeding. As such, the issues of drinks and drinking raise important and complex questions about how we understand the Talmud as a historical text within its own context, The complex gender dynamics—especially with regards to the male rabbis speaking about women’s bodies—is just one of these issues. Altogether, it uses drinks and drinking to provide an avenue to open up the Talmud, and its complex historical and textual meaning, and make an often-dense corpus accessible.

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