Charlotte E. Fonrobert
Sabbath in the Courtyards
The Rabbinic Theory and Practice of Jewish Neighbourhood
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From their earliest texts onwards, late antique rabbinic scholars demonstrate a prominent interest in the neighbourhood as one of the most, and perhaps the most meaningful, social formations of Jewish life. To the rabbinic scholars, the Jewish relationship to the polis is mediated through the cultivation of the neighbourhood. In their attention to the neighbourhood as a space of social intimacy, both in the courtyard (hatzer) and alleyway or street (mavo), they differ markedly from the biblical backdrop against which they constitute their vision of the social and ritual life of the Jewish community. The Sabbath in particular turns into an opportunity for the rabbis to reshape Jewish piety after the destruction of the Temple as a neighbourhood religion. In doing so, they carefully negotiate ethnic and religious differences, by r itualizing neighbourly relations. This article shows that the earliest rabbinic attention to neighbourhood as a meaningful religious space can be explained as a response to the social and political realities of the Romanisation of Palestine.