PART A: TANAKH SOURCES
- What do you think the connection is between rules about the land and then ensuring no mistreatment of others?
- What kind of mistreatment do you think is being discussed here?
PART B: GEMARA SOURCES
- What do you think of this understanding of mistreatment?
Saying the Right Thing At the Right Time
Contextualizing Tanur Shel Akhnai:
- Have you heard this story before? And have you heard it in the context of this conversation about mistreatment?
THE TAKEAWAY: RE-THINKING THE TANUR SHEL AKHNAI STORY
Miriam Gedweiser, If Your Wife Is Short, Bend Down and Hear Her Whisper: Rereading Tanur shel Akhnai - https://thelehrhaus.com/scholarship/if-your-wife-is-short-bend-down-and-hear-her-whisper-rereading-tanur-shel-akhnai/
Sometimes, returning to a familiar text uncovers something new. In this essay, I hope to reexamine the story of the Oven of Akhnai (a.k.a., the “lo ba-shamayim hi” story) on Bava Metzia 59a-b, which has become a staple in many educational settings and is likely familiar to many readers, and uncover a layer that has not, to my knowledge, received much attention. Examining the larger surrounding sugya as a whole reveals a complex, multifaceted commentary on gender roles, interpersonal relationships, and the perils of sacrificing ethics for law.
More recently, it has also become increasingly popular to read the story in its larger literary context. The story appears in the middle of a longer sugya about ona’at devarim, verbal oppression, and continues past Rabbi Yehoshua’s declaration to describe the emotional devastation experienced by Rabbi Eliezer after he was rejected by his colleagues. In this context, the protagonist is Rabbi Eliezer himself, and the story, read to completion, focuses on his pain and its destructive consequences. (This approach is exemplified by, and generally traceable, to chapter two of Jeffrey Rubinstein’s Talmudic Stories.)