A Medieval Jewish Scholar’s “Feminist” Reading of a Talmudic Passage

Written in a mixture of Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic (a Jewish dialect of Arabic written in Hebrew characters), a fragment found in the Cairo Genizah and authored by an anonymous medieval scholar presents a decidedly modern reading of the decidedly un-feminist opening of the talmudic tractate Kiddushin, which begins “A woman is acquired in three ways.” Zvi Stampfer writes:

Why use the passive voice and not simply say “a man betroths a woman in three possible ways”? . . . . The Talmud states that the focus on the woman is to emphasize that the marriage cannot take place without her will. Our commentator takes this one step further and offers an interpretation that can be seen as a “feminist reading” of the Talmud.

According to this interpretation, the Jewish sages taught that in the marriage contract the groom seems active and the bride passive, while in fact the opposite is the case. The groom’s role in the ceremony is to satisfy the bride’s will and to act accordingly. This is why the groom gives his bride a ring (or equivalent). Perhaps our anonymous commentator sought to advise young couples in how they should interact and respect each other throughout their married life.

It is fascinating to see a medieval scholar espousing such an apparently “modern” approach to the relationship between husband and wife. The concept that women have their own will, separate from that of their husbands—a will that men should listen to and respect—is relatively uncommon in medieval literature. Furthermore, our medieval scholar undertook a creative re-reading of the traditional Jewish text. While maintaining a respect for its authority, he used it as a [basis] for reading his ideas on the relations between the sexes into the very texts that seem to posit the opposite.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Cambridge University Library

More about: Cairo Geniza, Feminism, Jewish marriage, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank