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Marriage

Keturah: Bible

The marriage of Abraham (the first major male figure in the ancestor narratives of Genesis) to Keturah represents a secondary union, one that separates the procreation of offspring from the inheritance of immovable property (land), which in this case goes only to Abraham’s primary heir, Isaac—not to Keturah’s six children.

Jochebed: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash portrays Jochebed as a wise woman who was righteous and God-fearing. By merit of her good deeds, she gave birth to the three leaders of the Exodus generation: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Holocaust Survivors: Rescue and Resettlement in the United States

They had made it through World War II and now they were coming to America, 140,000 strong. The women, along with the men, had survived the rigors of the ghettos, the horrors of the concentration camps, the final agony of the death marches. They had been in hiding, or fighting with the partisans. They had escaped to the Soviet Union, some to Shanghai. And even after the war, they had been penned into displaced persons camps, in a holding pattern, waiting for a place to live, determined to get out of Europe. Now America was finally opening its doors, the doors that had been so tightly guarded during the war and, before, in the 1930s. And the American Jewish community was about to shoulder a responsibility that would sorely test its resources, commitment, and understanding.

Hannah: Midrash and Aggadah

Hannah is depicted by the Rabbis as a righteous woman who was devout in her observance of the commandments, especially those of pilgrimage to the Tabernacle, [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:373]niddah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (the laws governing family purity), the taking of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:319]hallah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] from dough, and the kindling of the Sabbath lights.

Hannah: Bible

The narrative in 1 Samuel 1–2, in which Hannah is protagonist, is set in the late premonarchic period (eleventh century b.c.e.). It opens obliquely with the introduction of her husband, Elkanah, who is identified by name, location, and extensive genealogy. Elkanah’s two wives conclude the exposition, and they are presented without genealogy. The significance of the women lies in their relationship to Elkanah and in their childbearing capacity: “The name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (1:2).

Hagar: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis present Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaiden, as an Egyptian princess whom Pharaoh king of Egypt gave to Sarah as a gift. She grew up in the home of Abraham and Sarah, and converted. Sarah initially had to persuade Hagar to marry Abraham (to compensate for her own barrenness), but Hagar quickly became accustomed to her new status, taking advantage of it in order to vex Sarah and disparage her in the eyes of others. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] tells that Abraham grew close to Hagar and ceased viewing her as a handmaiden. He heeded his wife as regards Hagar, but he also took care not to harm the latter. Sarah, in contrast, treated her handmaiden harshly and abused her in various ways, causing her to flee to the wilderness. Hagar is depicted by the Rabbis as being strongly influenced by the atmosphere in the house of Abraham and Sarah. She became accustomed to seeing angels and therefore was not alarmed when an angel of the Lord was revealed to her at Beer-lahai-roi. The spiritual level of Sarah’s handmaiden was higher than that of people from later generations (see below, the comparison with Manoah).

Hagar: Bible

Hagar is Sarai’s Egyptian slave girl, whom Sarai (later Sarah) gives to Abram (later Abraham) as a wife who would bear a child that would be considered Sarai’s (Gen 16:3). Although it bears a resemblance to modern technological surrogate motherhood, this custom may seem bizarre. However, cuneiform texts of the second and first millennia b.c.e. attest to this custom in ancient Mesopotamia.

Eve: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis view Eve, the first woman, as embodying the qualities of all women, and of femininity in general. As God’s handiwork, she is portrayed as the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and there was no fairer creature but her husband Adam. The midrashim about her exude an air of primacy: the first mating between Adam and Eve is described as a magnificent wedding, and their first intercourse aroused the serpent’s jealousy. The primal sin is generally symbolic of man’s sins, and through it the Rabbis seek to clarify why men trespass. The depiction of the woman’s creation leads the Rabbis to inquire into gender differences and the nature of the female sex, all through the eyes of the male Rabbis. They discuss woman’s different temperament, her mental maturity, her habits, the physical shape of her body, her behavior, and other aspects of female existence. The Rabbis attempt to provide an explanation for gender differences by means of a portrayal of woman’s different creation, and also as being a result of the sin of the Garden of Eden. Eve’s punishment is examined at length in the dicta of the Rabbis, who exhibit a certain degree of empathy in their ability to describe women’s suffering during the first three months of pregnancy, during birth, in instances of miscarriage, the pain of raising children, that of menstrual periods and other afflictions.

Eve: Apocrypha

Eve, the first woman according to the Eden story (Genesis 2–3), is mentioned very rarely in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. One text mentions her by name (Tob 8:6), and four others allude to her (Sir 25:24; 40:1; 42:13; 4 Macc 18:7). Only Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira) presents the negative theological judgment that women are the source of sin.

Esther: Midrash and Aggadah

Queen Esther, the central character in the Biblical book named after her, is extensively and sympathetically portrayed in the Rabbinic sources. In their commentary on the Book of Esther, the Rabbis expand upon and add details to the Biblical narrative, relating to her lineage and history and to her relations with the other characters: Ahasuerus, Mordecai and Haman.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Marriage." (Viewed on July 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/marriage>.

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