Abstract

Long before Jewish political philosophers adopted mĕdînâ as their term for polis and state , this Hebrew word referred to an integrated district understood as the subject of social and economic welfare. Though the biblical meanings of mĕdînâ as city and as imperial province persisted in attenuated form, Rabbinic Hebrew mostly elided the perspective of the administrative centre. Instead, new usages emphasized the view ‘from below’ so that mĕdînâ referred to a locality identified by its agricultural products and geographic distinctiveness, by its local ‘form of life’ expressed in social and economic customs and by its common fate, for good and ill. The needs, development and welfare of this sort of mĕdînâ became a compelling concern of humanity and of God and point to a rabbinic understanding of our shared life and common good.

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