The recent ‘spatial turn’ in Jewish Studies has inspired a broad range of inquiries into the built environment of late antique Palestine and its rabbinic perception. In these inquiries architecture frequently figures as either a framework of social relations, archaeological evidence, or a literary metaphor. By illuminating the merits of merging these different perspectives, this article suggests an integrative way to consider architecture in the context of rabbinic Judaism. Its direct object of investigation is the rabbinic banquet and the hall in which it often took place – the traqlin (from the Latin triclinium). The banqueting traditions of the Roman banquet – the convivium - and its elaborate space are clearly evident in the rabbis’ accounts of reclining in social and religious gatherings. Through the examination of convivial passages from the Mishnah, the Tosefta and Leviticus Rabbah in view of Graeco-Roman material, as well as through the analysis of two triclinia from Sepphoris and their iconography, this article seeks to demonstrate the significance of architecture in the development of rabbinic creativity and self-understanding. One of its central claims is that a space such as the banquet hall has much to teach us about the way in which art, dialogue and literature may inform each other in the dynamics of a rabbinic institution.


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pp. 325-370
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