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Torah

Legal-Religious Status of the Jewish Female

Hebrew is a gendered language in which women are or may be included in masculine plural address and masculine plural verbs. When the address in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] is “man or woman” (ish o isha) or “a person” (adam or nefesh), and sometimes in the plural, inclusion of women (sg. isha) can be assumed. When the Torah addresses in unspecified masculine singular language it is assumed that women are included unless they are exempted on grounds of physiology or by particular hermeneutic methods which depend chiefly upon the gendered aspects of the language, such as singular and plural masculine pronominal suffixes which are the norm, and word choice in address such as ish. These include but are not limited tothe sons of Israel but not the daughters of Israel” (for benei Yisrael); “the sons of Aaron but not the daughters of Aaron” (for benei aharon); “your son/s but not your daughter/s” (for banekha or beneikhem); “you [masculine]” (ata or atem) and the like.

Hannah Mother of Seven

In the Second Book of Maccabees (II Maccabees, Chapter 7) a story is told of a (nameless) mother of seven who was arrested with her sons for defying the decree of the Seleucid monarch to transgress the commandments of the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]. Refusing to capitulate to the king’s demands, the sons were tortured to death one by one. Instead of persuading them to desist, their mother encouraged them to die for their belief. The story ends with a short note to the effect that after the death of her sons, she too died. In contrast to the elaborate description of their death, hers is merely mentioned, not described.

Evelyn Garfiel

A successful psychologist who also devoted her life to religious education and leadership, Evelyn Garfiel offered generations of women a model for balancing academic pursuits and religious commitment.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Torah." (Viewed on October 23, 2018) <https://jwa.org/tags/torah>.

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