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Cover for the book The Aroma of Righteousness

The Aroma of Righteousness

Scent and Seduction in Rabbinic Life and Literature Deborah A. Green
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Illustrations: 11 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03767-7
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05066-9
The Aroma of Righteousness makes highly original and important contributions to two subject areas that do not normally meet—rabbinic scriptural interpretation, particularly of the Song of Songs, and the religious employment of physical senses, herein scent—especially by locating both in their broader Jewish and general cultural settings. It is a richly rewarding book to read and savor.”
“Deborah Green’s new book is an excellent and original contribution to religious studies in general, and to rabbinic thought and religion in late antiquity in particular. It is brimming with creative, interdisciplinary approaches, using concrete artifacts and their cultural transformations with many unexpected results. It will be welcomed by and of great interest to all students of religion in the Roman and Byzantine periods.”
“This is a delicious book—accomplished, original, and encyclopedic—on a topic that has hardly been treated in modern scholarship. Deborah Green’s analyses of the rabbinic texts are lucid and graceful, and they open a window onto rabbinic culture and its sensory side that will surprise even the most seasoned scholars in the field, not to mention anyone interested in the history of scent, perfume, and smell.”
The Aroma of Righteousness is a deeply perceptive study of the role of fragrances and aromatic images in rabbinic literature—a literature notoriously disconnected from other surviving evidence from the late antique period. Deborah Green shows us how the rabbis’ richly layered use of olfactory imagery draws as much from their own experiences of mundane late antique habits as from the Bible itself, yielding ever fresh patterns of biblical interpretation and moral instruction.”
“This book opens up a new avenue for understanding how the rabbis used everyday experiences in constructing their distinctive worldview. It will interest students of Judaism and those studying religion and culture in the first centuries CE.”
The Aroma of Righteousness . . . offers a thorough analysis of the role of aroma and scent in the Bible and in rabbinic thought.”
“Green excels at navigating various authorship and dating issues, explaining that many midrashim depict logical cultural and physiological characteristics of perfume. She handles archaeological sources with ease, expertly incorporating their findings into her textual analysis.”
“Green’s book shows us how the rabbinic authors of the midrashim she discusses, as well as texts of the Bible itself, used aromas in their imagery to think with, and not (merely) because they smell nice.”

In The Aroma of Righteousness, Deborah Green explores images of perfume and incense in late Roman and early Byzantine Jewish literature. Using literary methods to illuminate the rabbinic literature, Green demonstrates the ways in which the rabbis’ reading of biblical texts and their intimate experience with aromatics build and deepen their interpretations. The study uncovers the cultural associations that are evoked by perfume and incense in both the Hebrew Bible and midrashic texts and seeks to understand the cultural, theological, and experiential motivations and impulses that lie behind these interpretations. Green accomplishes this by examining the relationship between the textual traditions of the Hebrew Bible and Midrash, the surviving evidence from the material culture of Palestine in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods, and cultural evidence as described by the rabbis and other Roman authors.

Deborah A. Green is Greenberg Associate Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Oregon.


List of Illustrations


Note on Style

1. Tracking the Trail of Scent: An Introduction

2 . The Aroma of Daily Life: Aromatics in Roman and Rabbinic Culture

3. Election and the Erotic: Biblical Portrayals of Perfume and Incense

4 . Spicy Ideologies: Fragrance and Rabbinic Beliefs

5. Soothing Odors: Death, Suffering, and Sacrifice

6. Ephemerality and Fragrance: Desire for Divine Immanence




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