Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism

Food often defines societies and even civilizations. Through particular commensality restrictions, groups form distinct identities: Those with whom “we” eat (“Us”) and those with whom “we” cannot eat (“Them”). This identity is enacted daily, turning the biological need to eat into a culturally significant activity. In this paper, I bring together the scholarship of rabbinics with that of food studies in order to explore how early rabbinic (tannaitic) food regulations created a distinct Jewish, male, and rabbinic identity.