The Women of the Talmud / Edition 1

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In this unique volume Judith Abrams, author of the highly regarded series The Talmud for Beginners, examines the episodes recorded in rabbinic literature that suggest the actions of the women of those times. By overlooking what the sages thought about women, or what they believed women ought to do in theory, and by focusing upon the situational and behavioral patterns of these women, Abrams has constructed a credible and feasible account of what women belonging to the rabbinic era were actually like and the manner in which they conducted themselves on a daily basis. Upon looking at the materials presented, the reader will find that women were every bit as varied a group then as women are today; some were pious and respectful of the sages and some disregarded them; some were poor and others rich; some longed to be married while others yearned for divorce. Perhaps the greatest surprise to the reader will be discovering the large amount of power and control women had over their own lives. Far from passive, these women were not the powerless figures the reader may have thought them to be.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
The author uses the Talmudic sources to provide a sociological, cultural and legal picture of women in rabbinic society. By carefully grappling with the ancient Talmudic texts written by men, Abrams is able to provide contemporary readers with an image of how women of the Talmudic era conducted themselves on a daily basis. These women were far from passive or powerless. On the contrary, many had enormous control over their lives and were active participants in rabbinic life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568212838
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 9.52 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Z. Abrams is a woman with a mission: she wants to bring the beauty of Talmud to as many people, and with as much depth, as possible. To that end, she has published three books on the Talmud (The Talmud for Beginners, volumes I and II, and with her husband, Dr. Steven A. Abrams, Jewish Parenting: Rabbinic Insights), earned her Ph.D. in rabbinic literature from the Baltimore Hebrew University, and teaches across the country.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
The Task at Hand
The Nature of Our Sources
The Sages' Agenda and Our Own
The Five Major Works of Rabbinic Literature
These Five Works as "People"
Some Notes on Style and Translations
1 Torah Transcends Gender: Women and Sages' Learning 1
Beruriah's Law 2
Beruriah's Lore 6
A Woman Studies Weekly 8
Rabbi's Maid: An Unexpected Expert 11
Women Who Did Not Keep Kosher 13
Women Who Intermarried 14
2 The Matron: Jew or Non-Jew? 17
Her Background 17
A Role Model for Dealing with Rabbinic Rejection 19
Good Relations between a Sage and Matrons 22
Women's Study Groups Then and Now 29
The Non-Jewish (?) Matron 30
The Matron in the Bavli 33
Why Did Scholars "Erase" the Matron? 37
3 Entering and Exiting Relationships: Theory versus Practice 39
Dealing with Anger at the Sources 39
The Mishnah's Ideal 40
Ancient Sexual Harassment 42
Becoming Engaged 45
Irregular Betrothals 48
Irregular Betrothals Today 53
Martha's Marriage 54
An Ancient Prenuptial Agreement 57
Divorce 59
Chalitsah 61
4 Virtue as Power I: Husband-Wife Relationships 65
The Power of Virtue 65
Rachel and Rabbi Akiba 66
Beruriah and Rabbi Meir 68
Imma Shalom and Rabbi Eliezer 69
Other Wives and Husbands 73
Laypeople Have More Virtue than Sages ... 76
...Sometimes 78
5 Virtue as Power II: Women and Power in Society 85
Women, Virtue, and Power 85
Rabbi's Maid 86
Helene 88
A Woman in Court 96
A Woman and Her Bequest 98
Virtue and Political Power 100
Yalta and Rav Nachman 102
Women Who Insult Sages 104
6 The Truth Will Out: Women's Testimony 109
Truth Telling and Rule Following 109
Other Exclusions 110
The Exclusion of Women 111
A Woman Testifies 113
The Daughters of a Sage Testify 115
A Woman Testifies to Become Divorced 117
A Woman and Her Witnesses 119
7 Diffidence and Distance: The Sages and Childbirth, Nursing, and Motherhood 123
Women's "Gemara" 123
The Idealization of Motherhood: High Priests and Their Mothers 125
Sons Honoring Mothers and Vice Versa 127
The Sages in the Waiting Room: Childbirth, Nursing, and Women's Domain 129
Abaye's Nurse and Her Teachings 131
Pregnant Women and Fasting 133
Nursing 135
8 Judgment and Jealousy: The Sages, Sex, and Ritual Purity 139
Ritual Purity and Impurity: The Basics 139
The Sages and Women: Sharing Authority over Ritual Purity 142
Intention and Ritual Impurity 143
Ritual Purity and Jewish Diversity 145
Yalta Shares Authority with Sages 147
A Disabled Woman Acts as an Expert 149
The Sages Shared Their Authority with Women 151
Sexual Decorum 152
Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Jochanan Take on the Essence of Womanhood 154
9 Women and Loss: Role versus Reality 171
A Woman's Role in Mourning 171
Martha 172
Beruriah 176
Rabbi's Maid 183
Notes 185
Bibliography 187
Index 191
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