While some philosophers have posited Judaism and Hellenism as opposites, interesting collaboration has always taken place in the liminal spaces between the two poles. In this article, I explore one such space: the bathhouse. I draw on two stories from different epochs and places: Rabban Gamliel's interlocution with Proclus ben Philosophus in second-century Akko; and Rabbi Lionel Blue's experience with Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl in twentieth-century Amsterdam. Based on these two stories, I argue that certain spaces allow for collaboration, wherein seemingly contrasting cultures can be reconciled. I focus particularly on how attitudes to minds and bodies are articulated through the prism of bathhouses.
Lev Taylor is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College in Finchley. This article was produced under supervision by Professor Victor Seidler, with support from Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet and Dr Jeremy Schonfield.