1 Reprinted, with kind permission, from Tikkun vol. 3, no. 6 (November-December 1988): pp. 28-31, 102-105.
2 Elie Wiesel, Legends of Our Time (New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1968): p. viii.
3 Stanley Hauerwas, “Story and Theology” Truthfulness and Tragedy (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977): p. 80.
4 I am indebted to Prof. Shoshana Gershenzen for this reminder.
5 b. Ned. 50a; b. Rosh Hashana 26b; b. Ketub. 104a.
6 b. Ketub. 30b-31a.
7b. Ketub. 80a.
8 b. Ber. 24a; b. Abod. Zar. 20b.
9 Lev. 12: 2-8; Lev. 15: 19-31; Mishnah Niddah.
10 B. Sabb. 62a.
11 t. Kelim B. Qam. 1:7. Professor Tzvee Zahavy has pointed out to me that in Mishnah Leim 11:4 where the woman's opinion is attributed to Rabbi Yehoshua, no one commends him for “saying well.” Because she lacks authority, R. Yehudah b. Baba must endorse her point. An analogous case is cited in t. Kelim B. Mez where a woman identified only as “Beruriah” gives a legal opinion on an analogous case where the ritual purity of a door bolt requires a distinction between natural and cultural objects. It is interesting that both Tosefta pericopae assimilated into the Beruriah legend hinge upon this theme: first, because in rabbinic tradition women are commonly objects of purity legislation, Beruriah is the only woman to be named as an adjudicator of such laws; and second, Beruriah's assumption of authority to distinguish the natural from the cultural challenges the patriarchal power to determine whether women are classified as part of nature or of culture - an underlying theme in the rabbinic world, as it is in other cultures. On this point, see Sherry B. Ortner, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” in Women, Culture and Society, ed. Michelle Z. Rosaldo and Louise Laphere (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1974): pp. 67-68. See also Susan Griffin, Women and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).
12 b. Pesah. 62b.
13 B. Erub. 53b.
14 Professor Lewis Barth has suggested to me that Beruriah may be matched with Meir because he has other marginal associations. He is depicted as a charismatic, and he is also the only rabbi to continue his relationship with the heretic Elisha b. Abuya (v. Hag. 15b).
15 b. Ber. 10a.
16 m. Abot 5:19).
17 This does not mean that rabbis were never fond of their wives but rather that whatever mutuality existed, the sexual act was not an expression of it. Hence rape is not principally defined as a sexual act lacking mutuality but rather the forcible misappropriation of a woman; it is most severely punished when she is proven to be in the domain of another man. See b. Ketubot Ch. 3.
18 Abot R. Nat. 8. The eroticisation of study partnership is further demonstrated by the fact that another meaning of the term derekh erez, translated here as “worldly things,” is the sexual act.
19 b. Ket. 17a.
20 b. Ber. 5b.
21 b. B. Mes. 84a.
22 Ekha R. 7:18.
23 Because a woman scholar is such an anomaly, it did not even occur to the rabbis that there might be more than one, so that they could be study partners with one another.
24 The most threatening feature of rampant sexuality is its violation of boundaries (i.e. of law, status or kinship). Since boundary demarcation defines the process of creation in Judaism, boundary violation would reduce the world to chaos. While men are also seen to possess this awesome ability, women are generally portrayed as instigators or catalysts of chaotic sex.
25 Abod. Zar. 17b.
26 See, for example, the anonymous romance, Apollonius of Tyre; Plautus, Mercator, Act 5; and Seneca, Controversiae I, 2.
27 For example, Leonard Swidler, Women in Judaism: The Status of Women in Formative Judaism (Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1980): p. 103.
28 To my knowledge, the first such protest has been that voiced by Henrietta Szold, “Beruriah” in The Jewish Encyclopedia 3 (New York and London, 1905): pp. 34-35.