Like many ancient Mediterranean groups, the ancient Rabbis (first through seventh centuries CE) believed that drinking played a central role in everyday life. From religious ritual to every day drinking, beverages appear constantly throughout rabbinic literature. In this talk, I focus on two particular beverages—beer and wine—and what these drinks teach us about key themes in rabbinic literature. In doing so, we will be introduced to the history of the rabbinic movement, and how rabbinic discussion about beverages fits into its wider Greek, Roman, and Zoroastrian context. Further, we will reflect on how exploration of beverages can serve as a pedagogical device to explore themes such as gender and ritual purity in rabbinic literature, in particular, and in ancient Mediterranean literature, more broadly. Topics will include: what wine teaches about rabbinic marriage and gender asymmetry; rules for straining wine and beer on Festival Days; and the ritual purity rules that arise when your drunk friend pushes you in a river.
Jordan Rosenblum is the Belzer Professor of Classical Judaism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His research focuses on the literature, culture, law, and social history of the rabbinic movement, and in particular, how rabbinic food regulations enact and maintain distinct identities.