Author Archives: Lawrence H. Schiffman

Lawrence H. Schiffman

About Lawrence H. Schiffman

Lawrence H. Schiffman is the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University.

The Bar Kochba Revolt

Reprinted with permission from
From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple & Rabbinic Judaism

The debacle of the first revolt against Rome was followed by a period of relative calm. Yet during the years of rule by the autonomous Hillelite patriarchs and the leaders of the tannaitic academies, problems were brewing, both inside and outside the Land of Israel. These developments took place despite the separation of Judea from the province of Syria and the appoint­ment of higher‑level Roman governors of senatorial rank. In particular, the need to pay a capitation tax to the Temple of Jupiter in Rome must have made the Jews very unhappy.Coins from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt, marking the events.

Messianic Yearnings

It was not until the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98-­117 C.E.) that the problems came to the surface. In 115‑117 C.E., while Trajan was occupied in Mesopotamia, Jews throughout the Diaspora rose up against their non‑Jewish neighbors in a violent confrontation. Before long pitched battles were being fought in Egypt. The Jews of Cyrene (in North Africa) were said to have massacred their neighbors. Similar disturbances fol­lowed in Cyprus and Mesopotamia. The Roman general Lucius Quietus, ferocious in putting down the Mesopotamian revolt, was rewarded with the governorship of Palestine. When Hadrian became emperor in 117 C.E. he had to spend his first year mopping up the last of the rebels. The Land of Israel seems to have been involved in these battles only to a limited extent.

What is especially significant in these disturbances is the evidence that they were fueled by the very same messianic yearnings that had helped to fan the flames of the Great Revolt, and would soon lead to the Bar Kokhba Revolt. To be sure, other social, economic, and political causes were at work, especially a general decline in relations between Jews and their neighbors in the Hellenistic world, but when these finally led to the of a rebellion, it was the belief in a messianic future that made possible the leap of faith to the belief that the revolt might succeed.

Philo Judaeus: Philosophical Pilgrim

Reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

Hellenistic Jewish literature is dominated by a unique and overarching figure, the Alexandrian Jew Philo Judaeus (ca. 20 B.C.E.‑ca. 50 C.E.). It was he who seized the opportunity to fuse Judaism systematically with the thought of the Hellenistic world in a corpus which today occupies some twenty‑five hundred printed pages. This contribution would be passed on by the church fathers and virtually ignored by the Jewish people, only to be rediscovered by them during the Italian Renaissance. 

Philo was born into a noble family in Alexandria and received an education both Jewish and Greek. In 38 or 39 C.E., when the Jewish community of Alexandria sent an embassy to the em­peror Caligula in Rome because of the anti‑Jewish riots that had taken place in the city, Philo was appointed the delegation’s leader. Although their mission was unsuccessful, this shows the high regard in which he was held by his compatriots and his willingness to stand up for his people. Thereafter he continued his literary work until his death in about 50 C.E.

philo judaeusPhilo wrote in an extremely discursive style, jumping back and forth between biblical exegesis, which endows most of his treatises with their form, and philosophical exposition, which provides the intellectual backdrop for his interpretations. His philosophy, much of it in the Platonic mold, is a blend of the personal God of the Hebrew Bible and the abstract, perfect deity required by Greek metaphysics. Both of these merge in the divine logos, the Word and Wisdom of the Supreme Being. The notion that the logos was the firstborn son of the deity led to the popularity of Philo among the early Christian fathers.

A number of Philo’s works concern biblical narratives and are a mixture of legal and philosophical expositions. His On the Creation argues that the laws of the Bible accord with those of nature. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Joseph, are the subject of special treatises in which Philo deals with them as embodiments of the law and archetypes of virtue. In the Life of Moses Philo casts Moses as the ideal lawgiver, priest, and prophet in Platonic terms. His On the Decalogue and Special Laws are expositions of Jewish law and practice inter­preted in Greek philosophical terms.

Sea of Talmud II

Reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

The Talmuds (Gemaras) [both Babylonian and Palestinian] are complicated texts, originally constructed orally as part of the study sessions of the amoraim. These study sessions were organized around the formal curriculum provided by the mishnaic tractates. Different tractates were selected for detailed study in Palestine and Babylonia, and there were different emphases even within the various Palestinian and Babylonian schools.

While the complex process whereby the oral records (or better, fragments) of these discussions and debates have come down to us precludes making definitive judgments about the discussion, it is certain that the mishnaic tractates served as their basis. Only occasionally do the amoraim base their discussions on a baraita (tannaitic tradition outside the Mishnah) or on a mishnaic passage which has been quoted incidentally. For the most part, the Mishnah endows the Talmuds with their organizational framework.

The Mishnahwas studied orally in amoraic times. A memorizer (known in amoraic times as a tanna, a teacher of the Mishnah and baraitot) recited aloud the text to be studied. Discussion and analysis of the text to be studied then ensued, followed, by comparison and contrast with other tannaitic traditions, including theMishnah and baraita material.

This in turn led to variousdigressions, and to the comments and glosses of various amoraim to the tannaitic texts under discussion. Some digressions were rather extensive, and sometimes they included an aggadic [that is, a narrative, interpretive] analysis of related (or even unrelated) biblical material. The freewheeling character of many of the recorded discussions, which often range beyond the specific topic at hand, is one of the important indicators that they actually took place and were not invented by the compilers.

Typically, an amoraic discussion of a mishnah began by citing a contradiction from another mishnah or a baraita and then proceeded to resolve it. Indeed, in origin, the main activity of "Talmud" was the resolution of contradictions in tannaitic materials. It is in this sense that tannaitic sources (and one difficult passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls) can speak of "Talmud" even before the redaction of the Mishnah and its acceptance as the curriculum for the study of the rabbinic tradition. The resolution of a contradiction between the Mishnah and a baraita often serves as the jumping‑off point for more extensive discussion of the details of the law on the specific topic.

Inquiry into the scriptural source (or proof‑text) for a particular rule is another important aspect of amoraic analysis. The Mishnah, virtually devoid of biblical proof‑texts, had separated the law from its biblical origins. The amoraim and the later redactors of the halakhic [that is, legal] midrashim (the so‑called tannaitic midrashim) sought to reintegrate law and Scripture, so as to demonstrate that the written and oral laws constituted one unified revelation of God.

Had the process stopped there, the structure of the Talmuds would have been much simpler, but the process described here continued over generations, even centuries. This led to the gradual development of what are called sugyot, talmudic discussions, or essays, as it were, on specific topics. As discussions were passed down, generation after generation, from one circle of scholars to another, they were augmented with comments and glosses.

This process continued in both Babylonia and Palestine into the fifth century. At this point, the development of the Palestinian Talmud was virtually arrested by the anti‑Semitic legislation and the difficult economic and social situation faced by the Jews of Palestine underthe sway of the Byzantine Empire.

In Babylonia, however, the developing Talmud underwent an additional process. It was at this time that the anonymous discussions, the s’tam, which weave together and interrelate all the earlier material, were intertwined in the text. In this way a more prolix and more easily understandable Talmud was achieved.

This, indeed, was one of the several factors leading to the greater popularity and authority of the Babylonian Talmud in subsequent centuries. The redactors who inserted these anonymous links and glosses also added some of the more extensive digressions, and provided the formulary introductions which allow us to identify Mishnah, baraita, and the statements of individual amoraim.

In essence, up through the early fifth century, the vast majority of the statements preserved in the Talmuds have attributions, i.e., the statement is cited in the name of a particular rabbi. Thereafter, the bulk of the material is anonymous, serving to fill in gaps and make the whole a unified, sensible creation. There is only a limited amount of anonymous material in the Palestinian Talmud because its amoraim ceased to be active in the fifth century.

In Babylonia, however, where the activity of creating the Talmud was able to continue, the anonymous redactors did their work and then were followed by the savoraim, "interpreters", who added the final touches, including the occasional halakhic rulings ("the law is according to …") and certain philological explanations. Their work continued up to the seventh century.

While we know that some of the amoraim kept written notes, the formal activity of the amoraim, like that of their tannaitic predecessors, was conducted orally. There is little information about the writing down of the two Talmuds‑-so little, in fact, that it is impossible to speculate confidently about the process. The best we can say is only that written manuscripts of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds are first mentioned after the Islamic conquest (634 C.E.), and that the dissemination of manuscriptscontinued through the Middle Ages until the invention of printing.

The Sea of Talmud I

During the fluctuations of Jewish fortunes in Palestine and Babylonia, a loosely organized group of scholars, known collectively as the amoraim ("explainers" of the Mishnah) continued to expound and develop the rabbinic tradition. From about 200 to 425 in Palestine and around 200 to 500 in Babylonia, they were busy discussing and analyzing the Mishnah, as well as baraitot (tannaitic traditions not included in the Mishnah) and midrashic (interpretive) traditions, in a process which ultimately led to a series of redacted documents: the Babylonian Talmud, the Palestinian (Jerusalem) Talmud, and the amoraic, exegetical midrashim. This two-part article recounts that process. It is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

The Work of the Amoraim

The two Talmuds, the Palestinian and the Babylonian, emerged after centuries of debate, study, and clarification. In each country, groups of amoraim labored to understand and develop the traditions they had received from tannaitic forebears. Even the most cursory examination will show that individual scholars did not work alone. Senior scholars taught more junior scholars who eventually became colleagues.

The senior colleagues usually possessed reshut, the authority to adjudicate legal cases, which was the equivalent of the Palestinian semikhah, rabbinic ordination. Indeed, amoraim served the Jewish community as teachers and judges and gave guidance on matters of Jewish practice and faith. Scholars were often connected by shared discipleship, but many of them studied with more than one master, beginning with one teacher and on his death becoming the student of another.

Circles of Learning

At a minimum, then, it is certain that circles of teacher and students, which, for convenience, we will call schools, existed among the amoraim. These schools met often, perhaps daily, and had an inner hierarchy. When the master died, they often dissolved, with the students going to other masters, unless a senior student had attained enough status and learning to carry on as the new master. In such cases, some disciples would remain with the new master.

Many halakhic [legal] and aggadic [narrative] interpretations found in the Talmuds stem from such circles or schools. These teachings sometimes gained prominence in both Babylonia and Palestine because they were carried from circle to circle as students moved and masters interacted. This interaction and communication was responsible for some of the many parallel passages in the Talmuds and other rabbinic texts, although in the greatest number of cases redactional activity was the cause.

Were There Actual Academies?

The existence of actual institutions, academies, in amoraic times is difficult to confirm. More than likely, there were no formal institutions in Babylonia, where central institutions of learning did not develop because the exilarch’s political authority was separate from the religious authority of the rabbis. On the other hand, in Palestine, the patriarchal academy, located for most of the amoraic period at Sepphoris or Tiberias, served as the center of much of the amoraic activity.

In Babylonia, individual teachers occasionally had enough authority for their schools to function as de facto central academies, but the circles around them appear to have made no attempt to so constitute themselves as to automatically continue into the next generation. This is what distinguishes these schools form full-fledged academies.

It must be stressed that the students of these masters were often quite mature in their own scholarship. Many of the face to‑face discussions recorded in the Talmudstook place in such circles before the scholars in question became independent masters. Some modern scholars have suggested that there were no face‑to‑face discussions, maintaining that the ones recorded in the Talmud were virtually all constructed by its editors. That such debates did really occur, however, can be demonstrated by comparing their form with that of other disputes in which the redactors of the Talmuds artificially constructed arguments out of independent statements by individual amoraim. The artificial debates can usually be detected by examining the literary style of the text.

In Palestine, however, much more of the activity can be safely assigned to the central academies at Tiberias, Sepphoris, and Caesarea and to other formalized institutions. It was only later, in the gaonic period, after the redaction of the Talmuds, that central institutions developed in Babylonia, to some extent under the influence of the Islamic academies located there.

Prophecy in Ancient Israel

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

Prophecy in the Biblical Sense

The authority of the traditions of the Bible in Judaism is founded upon the concept of prophecy. The Bible describes various people as having received direct revelations from God. The revelation to Moses is seen by later tradition as prophecy par excellence.

In the accounts of the patriarchs, we encounter God in relation to man, communicating directly with him. This is not prophecy in the strict sense, however, since the phenomenon of prophecy, in the biblical view, involves the prophet’s having been charged with a messageto communicate. It is only with Moses, in the Book of Exodus, that we encounter aprophet who is sent to the people to deliver the word of God.

In other words, prophecy has a social dimension. It is not simply a personal religious experience. God sends Moses to deliver His word to the people. Yet Moses’ prophecy differed from that of the other prophets. First, he is described by the Bible as communicating directly with God, whereas the other prophets see God in a dream or trance. Second, he combines in his person the roles of priest, king, and lawgiver (if we may adopt the Hellenistic characterization) alongside that of prophet.

The History of Prophecy in Ancient Israel

The Bible allows us to trace the history of prophecy in ancient Israel. Not counting Moses, the earliest prophets described in the Bible were seers, charismatic figures who prophesied in a trance, usually induced by the use of music and dance. Often they banded together in guilds and were called "the sons of the prophets."

The guilds were based on the master‑disciple relationship and were intended to pass on a tradition of prophecy. There is no definite evidence that prophets of this kind were in any way involved in the moral and religious ferment of the times. They may have been foretellers of the future.

By the time of the first monarchs, Saul, David, and Solomon, the role of the prophet had begun to change. It seems to have taken on some of the charismatic qualities associated with the judges in the period immediately after the conquest, and simultaneously the kings inherited the political and military aspects of the judge’s role. In the early days of the monarchy, the prophet appears as a religious model in the king’s entourage, deeply involved in the life of the royal court but able, at same time, to castigate the ruler by means of pointed parables.

Other prophets, of lesser importance, may have been attached to the major cultic sites, according to some scholars. By the time of Elijah and Elisha, prophets were found in both the northern and southern kingdoms and were often in conflict with the kings. They had clearly taken on their well‑known role as critics of the Israelite society of the day, but had not yet developed into literary figures.

By the ninth century B.C.E., in both Judah and Israel, the minor prophets (so‑called because of the size of their literary output) were delivering scathing attacks on the two major transgressions of the time, syncretistic worship and the social ills besetting the country. These two issues would occupy the prophets for years to come. They demanded the extirpation of even minimal participation in idolatrous worship, and called for the amelioration of the injustices being perpetrated against the poor, unlanded classes, insisting loudly and clearly that the discharge of cultic duties was of no significance if it was not accompanied by a life of true moral and ethical principles.

Prophetic Literature

The earliest of the twelve minor prophets, whose numbers included such men as Amos and Hosea (eighth century B.C.E.), were the first to leave us written documents of prophetic discourse. They delivered their words in public and apparently recorded them in writing either for their own use or to circulate them more widely.

As the end of the monarchy drew near, and a complex admixture of political and religious issues presented itself, new horizons loomed for the prophets. Isaiah (c. 740-c.700 B.C.E.), Jeremiah (c. 627-c.585), and Ezekiel (593-571) confronted new political realities as well as the growing Mesopotamian influence on Israelite worship. The prophecies of these men are infused with the history of the time in which they lived, for all three of them were intimately involved in the affairs of the day and determined to bring to the people of Israel the messages they believed they had received directly from the God of Israel.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel brought to culmination the literary development of prophecy. These three great prophets composed poetry and prose that rank among the most beautiful achievements of Hebrew literature. The profundity, beauty, and lengths of the prophecies attributed to them rendered these men major figures in the eyes of later tradition.

As Judaism developed, the books of the prophets shaped many other aspects of the tradition, most especially the concept of the messianic era, which was rooted in the world of the prophets. Later on, Jewish mysticism took its cue from the prophetic visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel. Prophetic morality and its intimate connections with the ritual life of Judaism also had an enduring effect.

Creating the Canon

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

The term “canon” refers to the closed corpus of biblical literature regarded as divinely inspired. The Hebrew biblical canon represents a long process of selection, as testified to by the Bible itself, which lists some 22 books that have been lost to us, no doubt, among other reasons, because they were not included in the canon. Books were only included if they were regarded as holy, that is, divinely inspired.

bible canonThe Hebrew Bible is divided into three parts, Torah (Penta­teuch), Prophets, and Writings. This division is not strictly one of content; it derives from the canonization process in that the three parts were closed at separate times.


“The Torah of Moses” was already the name for the first part in the various postexilic books. We will not attempt here to deal with the complex questions regarding the history and authorship of the Torah. Suffice it to say that a unified, canonized Torah was available to Ezra for the public reading which took place in approximately 444 B.C.E. Further, the various legal interpretations (mid­rashim) found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are themselves a result of the issues raised by a Torah in which there are apparent contradictions and repetitions. It can therefore be stated unquestionably that the canonization of the Torah was completed by the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Prophets

Later rabbinic tradition asserts that prophecy ceased with the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. E. In effect, this meant that books composed thereafter were not to be included in the prophetic canon, the second of the Hebrew Bible’s three parts. This view can be substantiated by the absence of later debate about the canonicity of the prophets, the lack of Greek words in the prophetic books, and the inclusion of Daniel and Chronicles in the Writings rather than in the Prophets.It must be the case, therefore, that the Prophets were canonized late in the Persian period, probably by the start of the fourth century

How Jewish Christians Became Christians

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

The split between Judaism and Christianity did not come about simply or quickly. It was a complex process which took some one hundred years, starting from the crucifixion [of Jesus], and which had different causes and effects depending on whether it is looked at from the point of view of Judaism or Christianity. Further, the question of legal status as seen through Roman eyes also had some relationship to the issue.

The Christian View

From the standpoint of Christianity, the schism is not difficult to trace. In the earliest Gospel texts, which picture Jesus as debating issues of Jewish law with the Pharisees, no hostility is observed. The crucifixion is said to have been carried out by the Romans with the support of some (apparently Hellenized) priests. As we trace the history of the New Testament traditions, they move from disputes with Pharisees, scribes, and chief priests [all members of various Second Temple-era Jewish sects] to polemics against the Jews and Judaism, from the notion of some Jews as enemies of Jesus to the demonization of the Jewish people as a whole.

By sometime in the first century, the New Testament redactors had clearly decided that they were no longer part of the Jewish people. Therefore, they described Jesus as disputing with all the Jews, not just some, as would be appropriate to an internal Jewish dispute. Once Christians saw Jews as the “other,” it was but a short step to the notion that all Jews were responsible for the rejection of Jesus and, hence, for the failure of his messianic mission to be fulfilled.

The Jewish View

From the Jewish point of view, the matter is more complex. By this time, tannaitic Judaism [that of the early rabbinic sages, characterized by the emergence of the Oral Law] was already the dominant form of Judaism, for the Pharisees had emerged from the revolt against Rome as the main influence within the Jewish community. After the destruction, the tannaim immediately recognized the need to standardize and unify Judaism. One of the first steps was to standardize the Eighteen Benedictions, which, along with the Shema, constituted the core of the daily prayers.

The Rise of Christianity

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

Apocalypse Now

Christianity was firmly anchored in the heritage of Second Temple sectarianism. Various documents from the corpus of materials discovered in the Qumran caves tell us of the extreme apocalypticism of some groups of Jews in this period. These groups hoped for the immediate revelation of a messiah who would redeem them from their misfortunes and tribulations. [The Qumran caves, located near the Dead Sea, housed scrolls containing writings of the Dead Sea sect, an apocalyptic sect active during Second Temple times, as well as substantial fragments of Jewish literature from the period.]

As time went on, and political and economic conditions worsened, they became more and more convinced that the messianic delivery would be accompanied by a cataclysm. The forces of evil, usually identified both with Israelite transgressors and with the non-Jewish powers that dominated the Jewish people, would then be totally destroyed. This view took its cue from the prophetic idea of the Day of the Lord. The destruction would be accompanied by a utopian messianism wherein an ideal society would come into existence with the restoration of the Davidic monarchy.

Christians Identified Jesus as the Davidic Messiah

When Christianity came to the fore in the first century C.E., its adherents saw themselves as living in the period of the fulfillment of these visions. They identified Jesus as the Davidic messiah who would usher in the eventual destruction of all evil.

Any study of the career of Jesus and the rise of the Christian church must acknowledge that Palestine in this period gave rise to occasional messianic and prophetic figures. Among these was John the Baptist, who, according to the New Testament, was the teacher and inspiration of Jesus. John preached repentance as well as the need for baptism (immersion) in the Jordan River as a one‑time experience designed to bring about repentance. (John was put to death around 29 C.E. by Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who ruled Galilee and Peraea in Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.) […]

Jewish-Christian Relations in the Early Centuries

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).

How did Jews and Christians relate once the final break [of Christianity from Judaism] had come about? There are several kinds of evidence for an answer to this question, all of which point to a deterioration of relations and a rise of hostility.

The early days of the schism were marked by questioning and debate. This is clear from accounts in both rabbinic literature and the writings of the church fathers. Jews and Christians discussed such matters as the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and the authority of their respective traditions. Even in this literature, however, one can trace the rising tensions that would ultimately prevail between the two groups.

At some point, probably connected with the Christianization of the empire in the fourth century, the Christians began to approach their Jewish neighbors with a much greater degree of antagonism, especially in Byzantine Palestine. Physical attacks against Jews and their houses of worship were not unknown in this period. Whereas in earlier times, there had been coexistence and harmony, by the fifth century much anti-Semitic legislation had been enacted. [Following the language of contemporary scholarship, “anti-Jewish” might be a more accurate term here. Anti-Semitism, a modern term, suggests a racial aspect to the hostility which was not present in the ancient world. The hostile feelings were religiously, not racially, motivated.] Jews were forbidden to build synagogues and to study the oral law. The Jews were said to be Christ‑killers, and anti‑Judaism was the norm in preaching.

In the very same period groups within the Christian church were persecuted for being “Jewish‑Christians.” In fact they were Judaizing Christians, gentiles who sought to observe Judaism as part of their Christianity because they believed in the continued authority of what they called the Old Testament. This position, declared heretical by the church, ought not to be seen as a direct continuation of the early Jewish‑Christian church of Jerusalem. These were new groups seeking to imitate what they thought the early church had been. They were not Jews by the standards of Jewish law. The old form of Jewish Christianity had disappeared.

By the end of the talmudic period, Christianity had taken up the classical anti‑Semitic views that were to inform its relations with the Jews in the Middle Ages. Jews were able to resist only by comforting themselves with the belief that they were correct and that their suffering would end with the messianic redemption. It was not until the Middle Ages, however, that the violence we have come to associate with anti‑Judaism became a significant factor.

Jewish Marriage and Family in the Ancient World

The following article is reprinted with permission from From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav).


The Book of Genesis taught the rabbis the ideals of family life. It began by introducing monogamy as the ideal of the Garden of Eden and then accepted polygamy as a compromise, illustrating the difficulties entailed with examples from the lives of the patriarchs.


The legal codes of the Torah provided for marriage and divorce and required the marriage bond as a prerequisite for sexual relations. The ancient customs of dowry and bride‑price, as well as the procedures for entering into the marital union, were already changing in the fifth century B.C.E., as is known from the documents of the Jewish military colony at Elephantine. By the time of the tannaim [rabbinic sages of the first two centuries CE] they had been turned into a set of provisions, contractual and financial, for securing the welfare of the wife and children in the event of the death of the husband or a divorce.

These developments went hand in hand with other evidence of the rising status of women, an amelioration that clearly resulted from the influence of the biblical tradition, as can be seen when biblical laws regarding women and marriage are compared to their ancient Near-Eastern counterparts.

By tannaitic times, marriage was entered into by a procedure which had to be formally witnessed. Women had to be provided with marriage contracts for their protection, and some tannaim regarded the provisions of such contracts as binding even when the document could not be produced or had not been executed. Marriage could be entered into either by the giving of a sum of money (usually in the form of a ring), the giving of a written declaration (distinct from the marriagecontract), or consum­mating the marriage forthe purpose of entering into a permanent bond.


Marriage was dissolved either by the death of one spouse or by divorce. Although the Torah specified that a divorce was to be initiated by the husband, the amoraim [rabbinic sages in the third through fifth centuries] developed methods for bringing about a divorce at the wife’s request under certain circumstances.

1 2