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

Oct. 21 2022

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.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Bruriah, Talmud, Women in Judaism

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror