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Midrash and Aggadah

Dinah: Midrash and Aggadah

Dinah was the only daughter of Jacob and Leah, and the Rabbis present her as possessing many positive qualities, as was fitting for the daughter of the progenitors of the Israelite nation.

Delilah: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrashim on Delilah attest to the negative attitude of the Rabbis toward non-Jewish women. The Biblical Delilah was not loyal to Samson and her relationship with him was for the sole purpose of delivering him to the Philistines. The Rabbis accentuated the negative aspects of the relations between Samson and Delilah in order to demonstrate the havoc that a foreign woman could wreak.

Deborah 2: Midrash and Aggadah

Deborah is presented in the Rabbinic sources as a very talented woman. She was an upright judge, with the same prophetic ability as Samuel; [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] scholars would come to learn from her. This ability was granted her as reward for her good deeds, namely, the preparation of wicks for the Tabernacle. She also encouraged her fellow Israelites to regularly attend the synagogue and Tabernacle, and thanks to her beneficial influence on her husband, he merited a portion in the World to Come. There is a tradition that presents Deborah as being guilty of the sin of pride, which led to her loss of the gift of prophecy, while the other traditions speak in her praise, and number her among the twenty-three Israelite women of outstanding righteousness ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]Midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [ed. Eisenstein], 474).

Deborah 1: Midrash and Aggadah

Rebekah’s nurse Deborah died when Jacob was on his way to the Land of Canaan, close to Bethel. She is mentioned by name only once in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], in Gen. 35:8, in the description of her burial under an oak tree that was named “Allon-bacuth [the oak of the weeping].” Deborah is also mentioned, anonymously, in Gen. 24:59, when she accompanied Rebekah on the latter’s journey to the Land of Canaan to wed Isaac: “So they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse,” as was fitting for a wealthy and distinguished family that retained a nurse.

Art: Representation of Biblical Women

In narratives or abridged cycles more or less faithful to the biblical text, art has portrayed biblical women as role models and reference, occasionally adding exegetical elements both Christian and Jewish. Although the text of the Bible became fixed at different dates and in various versions, these images are not fixed, but reflect the ebb and flow in society’s attitudes towards women and their role.

Zipporah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis ascribe many traits to Zipporah, whom they considered as differing from other women, in a positive sense, in both appearance and deed.

Zilpah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis count Zilpah among the six Matriarchs (Cant. Rabbah 6:4:2) and an aggadic tradition relates that she was the niece of Deborah, Rebekah’s wet nurse.

Zillah: Midrash and Aggadah

There are two contradictory traditions regarding the marriage of Zillah.

Zeresh: Midrash and Aggadah

The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] portrays Zeresh as being even more wicked than her husband Haman (Midrash le-Esther, Ozar ha-Midrashim [ed. Eisenstein], p. 51).

Women in Samson's Life: Midrash and Aggadah

The three women in Samson’s life were Gentiles. The first was the woman from Timnah whom he married, the second was the whore from Gaza, and the third was the only woman mentioned by name, Delilah, with whom Samson “fell in love.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Midrash and Aggadah." (Viewed on September 29, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/midrash-and-aggadah>.

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