Jews and Gender: The Challenge to Hierarchy

By Jonathan Frankel | Go to book overview

The Impact of Feminism on Rabbinic
Studies: The Impossible Paradox of
Reading Women into Rabbinic Literature Elizabeth Shanks Alexander
(UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA)

The rabbinic corpus that was written and compiled between 70 and 600 c.e., consisting of the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the two Talmuds, and the collections of midrash, forms the cornerstone of postbiblical Judaism. While scholars are increasingly coming to the consensus that in its historical context the rabbinic movement held minimal sway over the Jewish populations in Palestine and Babylonia 1 (and even less in the Greco-Roman diaspora), the literature produced by the rabbinic movement has had enduring influence. These documents not only set the norms for Jewish behaviors and rituals, but they also convey the primary myths that form the basis for postbiblical theology and belief systems. How are we to explain the paradox of a canon that holds so much power in the imagination of later generations, yet was not definitive in its own day? The key lies in the ability of these texts to project a vision into the future, and in the willingness of future generations of Jews to accept this program as inevitable. A unique feature of rabbinic literature, then, is the dialectic it proposes between itself and future generations: its influential power lies somewhere between past, present, and future.

Jewish feminists in the past 25 years have identified what they see as a tragic flaw in the world and identity promulgated by this body of literature: it denies women a voice in its creation. The role imagined for women in rabbinic literature is riddled with serious legal limitations and debilitating, negative stereotypes. Jewish feminist readers of rabbinic literature face an irreconcilable paradox: they, like other Jews, turn toward this corpus as a wellspring for identity and yet find it incapable of reflecting back a vision of who they would like to be. This essay will explore various possibilities for mediating between the two contradictory impulses that this body of literature inspires: embrace of its compelling authority and rejection of its deprecating exclusion.

I begin with a short analysis of a group of rabbinic texts on the topic of Torah study as a form of oral transmission. These texts display two features relevant to this essay. First, they demonstrate the rabbinic capacity to project into the future a world that does not yet exist, but which is an authentic amplification of who the rabbis are. This

-101-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Jews and Gender: The Challenge to Hierarchy
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 397

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.