Book of Job

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The Talmud occasionally discusses Job. Most traditional Torah scholarship has not doubted Job's existence. He was seen as a real and powerful figure. One Talmudic opinion has it that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying "Children of Israel" mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies, Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions.[3].

There is a minority view among the rabbis of the Talmud, that of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, that Job never existed (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII, Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 15a). In this view, Job was a literary creation by a prophet who used this form of writing to convey a divine message or parable. On the other hand, the Talmud (in Tractate Baba Batra 15a-16b) goes to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived, citing many opinions and interpretations by the leading sages. Job is further mentioned in the Talmud as follows [4]:

  • Job's resignation to his fate (in Tractate Pesachim 2b)
  • Anyone who associated with Job when he was prosperous, including to buy from him or sell to him, was blessed (in Tractate Pesachim 112a)
  • Job's reward for being generous (in Tractate Megillah 28a)
  • King David, Job, and Ezekiel described the Torah's length without putting a number to it (in Tractate Eruvin 21a)

Two further Talmudic traditions hold that Job either lived in the time of Abraham or of Jacob. Levi ben Laḥma held that Job lived in the time of Moses, by whom the Book of Job was written. Others argue that it was written by Job himself (see Job  19:23-24), or by Elihu, or Isaiah.

Source for Jewish Law

Some of the laws and customs of mourning in Judaism are derived from the Book of Job's depiction of Job's mourning and the behavior of his companions. For example, according to[specify], the behavior of Job's comforters, who kept silence until he spoke to them, is the source for a norm applicable to contemporary traditional Jewish practice, that visitors to a house of mourning should not speak to the mourner until they are spoken to.[21]

Liturgical use

In most traditions of Jewish liturgy, the Book of Job is not read publicly in the manner of the Pentateuch, Prophets, or megillot. However, there are some Jews, particularly the Spanish-Portuguese, who do hold public readings of the Book of Job on the Tisha B'Av fast (a day of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other tragedies).

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