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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

23 - Rabbinic views on marriage, sexuality, and the family

For Palestinian rabbis, as for their Greek and Roman neighbors, the primary characteristic of masculinity was self-control. The issue of self-control largely determined the Palestinian rabbinic approach toward specific sexual activities and partners. The Palestinian rabbinic understanding of marriage similarly resembled that of Greeks and Romans. Landowning Greeks, Romans, and Palestinian Jews all understood the basic unit of society to be the household, a social unit of consumption, production, and reproduction. Rabbinic sources suggest that the common marriagable age of Palestinian men was approximately thirty years old, probably to women in their teens. For Babylonian rabbis, sexuality was a distinct domain of discourse. Palestinian rabbis viewed sexuality as a sub-species or consequence of gender. Babylonian families, like Palestinian, would most likely have seen their Jewishness as obvious: the family was part of a legal and social ethnos and followed ancestral customs that they and others in their community thought were Jewish.
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The Cambridge History of Judaism
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