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Labor, Crafts and Commerce in Ancient Israel

by Moshe Aberbach

Bibliographic information

TitleLabor, Crafts and Commerce in Ancient Israel
AuthorMoshe Aberbach
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2009


Having set for himself a futile goal of refuting anti-Semitic charges that Jews don't like to work (something that needs not be proven to only those who it can never be proven to), the author admirably succeeds in creating an extensive collection of great material for many not yet written books.
"... a vast compendium of anecdotal evidence relating to labor, crafts, and trade, much of it of great intrinsic interest."
Prof. John H. Corbett
University of Toronto at Scarborough

About the Author 

Moshe Aberbach ---


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CHAPTER I: Labor, Crafts and Trade in the Bible

    1. Sheep and Cattle Raising

    2. Agriculture

    3. Arts and Crafts

    4. The Medical Profession

    5. The Wailing Women

    6. Levites and Priests

    7. Traders and Peddlers

    8. Scribes

    9. Indolence Condemned


CHAPTER II: Industry and Trade in the Hellenistic Age

    1. Ecclesiastes on Labor

    2. Ben Sira's Views on Labor, Commerce and Crafts

    3. Economic Progress during the Hasmonean Age


CHAPTER III: Occupational Structure of the Rabbis

    1. General Characteristics of the Rabbinate

    2. Rabbis in Agriculture and Industry

    3. Viniculture

    4. Rabbinic Land Surveyor — Rab Adda

    5. Woodchopper and Shepherd — R. Akiba

    6. Animal Hire Service — R. Jose of Yodkart

    7. Rabbis and Agricultural Laborers

    8. Rabbis in Business — Silk Trade and Other Commercial Activities

    9. Rabbis as Schoolteachers and Educators

    10. Rabbis as Professional Preachers

    11. Rabbinic Scribes

    12. Rabbis as Physicians

    13. Rabbinic Craftsmen

    14. Miscellaneous Rabbinic Occupations

    15. Occupations of Early Christians


CHAPTER IV: Rabbinic Attitude to Physical Labor

    1. Moral Value of Work

    2. Divine Blessings depend on Human Efforts

    3. Work essential for Human Dignity

    4. Merit of Labor more potent than Fathers' Merit

    5. Miracles due to Work

    6. Labor as Part of Divine Plan since Adam

    7. Abraham and Isaac — Labor in the Promised Land

    8. Israel's Work on the Tabernacle — Condition of Divine Presence

    9. "Six Days you shall Labor"

    10. Tree-Planting in the Land of Israel

    11. The Divine Worker — The Craftsman's Pride in his Work

    12. Craftsmen, Scholars and Pilgrims

    13. Legal Privileges of Craftsmen and Laborers

    14. Work as a Social Necessity

    15. Torah and a Worldly Occupation

    16. Work Obligatory for Wives

    17. Work Essential for Prolonging Life

    18. "Love Work"

    19. He who will not work, neither shall he eat

    20. Monotonous and Uninteresting Work not to be shunned

    21. Indolence Condemned

    22. How to "find" Work

    23. Labor honors the worker

    24. Hard Work as a Cure for Colds

    25. Dissenting Views due to Hellenistic Influence

    26. Importance of Craft Skills

    27. Craft Skill as Social Security

    28. Craft Education

    29. Son should follow Father's trade

    30. Study and Work — Antidote to Sin

    31. Work in the Scheme of Life

    32. Maimonides and the Three-Hour Workday

    33. Equality of Laborer and Scholar

    34. Minimum of Study — Maximum of Work

    35. Abandonment of Studies for Vocational Career

    36. Torah Study as Exclusive or Principal Vocation

    37. Study and Work in Equal Proportions

    38. Torah and Commerce

    39. Higher Education for "Eaters of Manna"

    40. Torah for Israel, Labor for Gentiles

    41. No Blessing in Manual Work

    42. Dislike of Economic Activity due to Self-Sacrifice for Torah

    43. Prosperous and Poverty-stricken Students

    44. Want and Destitution for the Sake of Learning

    45. Martyrdom on the Altar of Torah


CHAPTER V: The Occupational Structure of the Jews in the Talmudic Age

    1. Agriculture

    2. Building

    3. Textile Industry

    4. Pottery

    5. Glass Industry

    6. Metal Industry and Arms Manufacture

    7. Marketing and Trading Activities

    8. Commercial Ethics — Price Control

    9. Private Enterprise — Legal Problems

    10. Jewish Occupations in the Roman-Hellenistic Dispora


CHAPTER VI: Recommended and Undesirable Trades

    1. "Clean and Easy" Crafts

    2. Commerce and Business Education

    3. Trading in Sacred Commodities

    4. Bookkeeping and Accountancy

    5. Agriculture

    6. Sheep and Goat Breeding

    7. Medicine

    8. Morally Undesirable Trades

    9. Bloodletting

    10. Prison Administration

    11. Peddlers

    12. Tanners

    13. Weavers

    14. Artistic Weavers

    15. Launderers

    16. Transport Workers — Ass-Drivers and Camel-Drivers

    17. Herdsmen and Shepherds

    18. Storekeepers

    19. Sailors

    20. Ritual Slaughterers and Butchers

    21. Hunters

    22. Fishermen


CHAPTER VII: Vocational Training — Masters and Apprentices

    1. Biblical and Hellenistic Periods

    2. Shepherd Apprentices

    3. Roman Age

    4. Apprenticeship Agreements

    5. Unsuitable Applicants for Apprenticeship

    6. Duration of Apprenticeship

    7. Relationship between Master and Apprentice

    8. Refusal to teach a Craft




List of Abbreviations


General Index



    Hebrew Bible

    Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

    New Testament

    Hellenistic-Jewish Literature

    Rabbinic Literature

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