Taming Nature and Gaining Authority—Rabbinic Decrees Reconsidered

Avigail Manekin-Bamberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The root gzr, in nominal and verbal forms, is prominent in rabbinic literature and is usually translated ‘legislation’ or ‘decree’. However, attention to the numerous rabbinic accounts in which rabbis employ this root demonstrates that it was not merely a term used for human legislation. Rather, in rabbinic Amoraic narratives, the root gzr was often used by the rabbis to gain control over their surroundings and subdue the natural and supernatural, in both Palestine and Babylonia. Comparing these narratives to contemporary Jewish magical texts highlights the uniqueness of this rabbinic decree. Therefore, translating gzr in rabbinic literature strictly as a legal decree obscures important components of the self-presentation of the rabbis, especially the way they conceived of and represented the power of their rulings. Finally, I suggest that a careful reading of legal-magical decrees may teach us about the place of the rabbis in a world in which miracle workers, magical practitioners, and the rabbis themselves competed over the power to defeat demonic forces of evil.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)43-63
Number of pages21
JournalAramaic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Avigail Manekin-Bamberger, 2023.


  • Aramaic incantation bowls
  • Babylonian Talmud
  • Jewish magic
  • Palestinian Talmud
  • Rabbinics
  • decrees


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