It’s Unlikely That the Rabbis Tried to Undermine the Story of a Talmudic Heroine

Bruriah, the wife of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Meir, is one of the Talmud’s most compelling female characters, and perhaps one its most compelling characters altogether. Praised repeatedly for her wisdom, erudition, and piety, she is depicted as contributing to the sages’ legal debates and conveying various teachings to her husband’s disciples. Yet according to the commentary of Rashi (France, 1040-1105), her life ended with adultery, suicide, and the flight of her disgraced husband to Babylonia, casting a pall on her legacy.

In a scholarly investigation of this last biographic item, the late Eitam Henkin—who was murdered by Hamas terrorist along with his wife in 2015—argues that it was added to Rashi’s commentary by an erring scribe, and is without basis:

Rashi’s words received little attention over the course of successive generations, and when they did, they were referenced for their halakhic implications. However, in our time, this has changed, with the Bruriah episode receiving much attention in both the Torah and academic worlds. In light of the shift in the status of women in Jewish society and, more broadly, in the modern world at large, the rare figure of Bruriah—the lone woman to attain a status parallel to the [rabbis of the 1st and 2nd centuries]—has received much attention, and even served as an educational model in the revolution in women’s Torah study of the past several decades.

It is widely claimed that the sages used this story to delegitimize women’s Torah study and Bruriah’s exceptional accomplishments in this area. Were this true, we would have found the Bruriah episode in the Talmud itself or in [the other anthologies of the teachings of the talmudic-era sages], and not in Rashi’s commentary alone. Not merely is this not the case, but precisely the reverse is true: the sages often praise Bruriah and learn from her behavior.

Another claim is that Rashi himself invented the Bruriah Episode, constructing a hybrid of motifs in talmudic literature, in order to establish that Bruriah’s end bears out the ruinous path on which she set out. It goes without saying that anyone versed in Rashi’s methodology and commentaries knows that this cannot be true.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Bruriah, Talmud, Women in Judaism


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy