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Imma Shalom

by Judy Hauptman

Imma Shalom (Mother of Peace) is identified in the Babylonian Talmud as the wife of R. Eliezer, a prominent sage who flourished circa 75 c.e., and the sister of Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh, the head of the Sanhedrin. She is mentioned only a few times in rabbinic literature. After R. Eliezer defied his colleagues in the story about the oven of Aknai, his wife tried to save him from the harm she predicted would befall him. However, she failed because she erred regarding the New Moon (BT Baba Mezia 59b). Upon hearing her husband predict that a student who treated him disrespectfully would not finish out his week, she asked him if he were a prophet (BT Eruvin 63a). When queried why her children were so physically attractive, she answered that when she and her husband engage in sexual intercourse he behaves as if “forced by a demon.” He does so, he told her, to avoid thinking about other women (BT Nedarim 20a–b). In a hypothetical dispute about whether or not daughters, like sons, inherit from their fathers, Imma Shalom came before a judge. He awarded her a share of her father’s estate. Her brother bribed the judge who then reversed himself. Note that it is a woman who challenged the law of disenfranchisement of daughters. The judge sided with her, as did the Sadducees (Tosefta Yadaim 2:20; BT Baba Batra 115b; JT Baba Batra 8:1; 16a). Although the judge was exposed as a fraud, his fair-minded decision struck a resonant chord with the rabbis. Maybe they placed this question in the mouth of a woman because they sympathized with the justice of her claim but could not bring themselves to rule in the same manner (BT Shabbat 116b).

How to cite this page

Hauptman, Judy. "Imma Shalom." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/imma-shalom>.

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