The Temptation in the Garden of R. Hiyya bar Ashi and His Wife

in European Judaism

The narrative in BT Kiddushin 81b about R. Hiyya bar Ashi tells of a sage who waged a battle with his Urge after he refrained from engaging in sexual relations with his wife. He, however, did not reveal to her the battle being waged within him, but rather pretended to be an ‘angel’. When his wife incidentally found it, she disguised herself as a harlot and set out to seduce him. After they had engaged in sexual relations, the rabbi wanted to commit suicide. The traditional readings view R. Hiyya as the hero of the tale. This article claims that the aim of the narrative is to present the rabbi as being carried away by dualistic-Christian conceptions. The article further argues that the topic of the narrative is not sexual relations, but dialogue.