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Midrash and Aggadah

Sarah: Midrash and Aggadah

Sarah, the first of the four Matriarchs, has come to symbolize motherhood for the entire world, and not only for the people of Israel. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] presents her as a prophet and a righteous woman whose actions are worthy of emulation; she converted Gentiles and drew them into the bosom of Judaism.

Ruth: Midrash and Aggadah

Ruth’s joining Naomi is seen by the Rabbis, in different texts, as the process of full conversion that Ruth underwent. Their very first walking together is understood as a discussion of the laws of conversion (Ruth Rabbah 2:12) and some of these very laws are even derived from the conversation of these two women (BT Yevamot 47b).

Rebekah: Midrash and Aggadah

Rebekah, one of the four Matriarchs, is characterized by the Rabbis as a prophet and a righteous woman.

Rachel: Midrash and Aggadah

Rachel is depicted in the Torah as Jacob’s beautiful and beloved wife. The midrash portrays Rachel as a prophetess, and her statements and the names she gave her sons contain allusions to the future. Rachel’s merit continued to aid Israel even many years after her demise.

Queen of Sheba: Midrash and Aggadah

In the midrashic account, the Queen of Sheba heard of King Solomon’s great wisdom and declared: “I will go and see whether he is wise or not, and I will come to test him with riddles.”

Puah: Midrash and Aggadah

Puah was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborn. Apart from this brave act, the midwives are not mentioned elsewhere in the Exodus narratives, nor in the entire Bible. The Rabbis identify the midwives with various Biblical heroines, thereby transforming them from secondary characters to central, fully developed figures whose annals spread over additional chapters of the Torah.

Judith Plaskow

Judith Plaskow is the first Jewish feminist to identify herself as a theologian. Deeply learned in classical and modern Christian theology yet profoundly committed to her own Judaism, Plaskow created a distinctively Jewish theology acutely conscious of its own structure and categories and in dialogue with the feminist theologies of other religions.

Peninnah: Midrash and Aggadah

In its depiction of Elkanah’s two wives, the Bible contrasts Peninnah, who had children, and Hannah, who was barren. The Rabbis state that Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife; after they had been married for ten years, and he saw that Hannah bore him no children, he also took Peninnah as a wife (Pesikta Rabbati 43). The midrash explains that Elkanah was compelled to marry Peninnah because of Hannah’s barrenness, which explains his preference for Hannah, his first wife.

Naomi: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash is generally quite positive in its appraisal of Naomi, who is called “a righteous woman” in various places, and is included among the upright women outstanding in their righteousness with whom Israel was blessed throughout the generations (Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).

Miriam: Midrash and Aggadah

Together with her brothers, Moses and Aaron, Miriam is described in the midrash as part of a family triumvirate of leaders. Although, unlike her brothers, she did not have any formal position, the Rabbis assert that she contributed greatly to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Midrash and Aggadah." (Viewed on September 2, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/midrash-and-aggadah>.

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