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Women and Water: Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law
     

Women and Water: Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law

by Rahel Wasserfall (Editor)
 

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The term Niddah means separation. During her menstrual flow and for several days thereafter, a Jewish woman is considered Niddah — separate from her husband and unable to practice the sacred rituals of Judaism. Purification in a miqveh (a ritual bath) following her period restores full status as a wife and member of the Jewish community. In the contemporary

Overview

The term Niddah means separation. During her menstrual flow and for several days thereafter, a Jewish woman is considered Niddah — separate from her husband and unable to practice the sacred rituals of Judaism. Purification in a miqveh (a ritual bath) following her period restores full status as a wife and member of the Jewish community. In the contemporary world, debates about Niddah focus less on the literal exclusion of menstruating women from the synagogue, instead emphasizing relations between husband and wife and the general role of Jewish women in Judaism.

Although this has been the law since ancient times, the meaning and practice of Niddah has been widely contested. Women and Water explores how these purity rituals have affected Jewish women across time and place, and shows how their own interpretation of Niddah often conflicted with rabbinic views. These essays also speak to contemporary feminist issues such as shaping women's identity, power relations between women and men, and the role of women in the sacred.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Part of the publisher's new series on "Jewish Women," this interesting book traces Jewish law on the purifying effects of water on women. Addressing a basic tenet of religious Jewish family life, the book also describes ethnographic and anthropological variation in adherence to water purification traditions. The Middle Ages saw a rabbinical expansion upon the rationale of the purification process, detailed in the codification of Jewish law in the first century. With the spread of the Jewish Diaspora, the populations of different geographic areas added local custom to traditional rabbinical law. The shifts in these populations, due to the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel, make for interesting historical, ethnological, and anthropological studies. Each article is annotated and has a bibliography. Recommended for academic libraries and for larger public libraries where Judaic studies, women's studies, anthropology, and ethnography are collected.--Idelle Rudman, Touro Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“A wonderful point of entry into the laws and practices of Niddah, or Jewish family purity. What makes this collection both usable in the classroom and an interesting read is its clear focus as set out in its wonderful introduction . . . This is a wonderful text for courses on Jewish law, ritual practices, and gender.”—Religious Studies Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874519594
Publisher:
Brandeis University Press
Publication date:
11/01/1999
Series:
HBI Series on Jewish Women
Pages:
290
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

RAHEL R. WASSERFALL, a French-born Israeli anthropologist, is currently Resident Scholar in Women's Studies program at Brandeis University.

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