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Blood for Thought delves into a relatively unexplored area of rabbinic literature: the vast corpus of laws, regulations, and instructions pertaining to sacrificial rituals. Mira Balberg traces and analyzes the ways in which the early rabbis interpreted and conceived of biblical sacrifices, reinventing them as a site through which to negotiate intellectual, cultural, and religious trends and practices in their surrounding world. Rather than viewing the rabbinic project as an attempt to generate a nonsacrificial version of Judaism, she argues that the rabbis developed a new sacrificial Jewish tradition altogether, consisting of not merely substitutes to sacrifice but elaborate practical manuals that redefined the processes themselves, radically transforming the meanings of sacrifice, its efficacy, and its value.
Mira Balberg is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University. She is the author of Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature.
"Blood for Thought offers a groundbreaking way of thinking about the early rabbinic laws of sacrifice as a significant and substantive expression of rabbinic ideology. Highly original in her text readings, Balberg shows the various innovations that the rabbinic laws made to the biblical laws on which they are based: a shift from burning to blood, from high priest to multiple priests, and from individual offering to collective offering. This book promises to become the new touchstone for not only how scholars think about rabbinic sacrifice laws but how they contextualize the rabbis within the larger worlds of antiquity and how they view the Temple and its operations within the schemes of Jewish history."—Beth A. Berkowitz, Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College.
"An ambitious work that offers for the first time a description of rabbinic discourse on sacrifice and posits the idea of sacrifice at the heart of that worldview. This worthy study presents new questions and fresh insights, as it sets the highly detailed rabbinic ritual discussions within their Greco-Roman cultural and political framework."—Yair Furstenberg, Senior Lecturer of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem