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Jewish Law

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First Torah commissioned to be scribed entirely by women is read in Seattle

October 16, 2010

On October 16, 2010, the Kadima Reconstructionist Jewish Community in Seattle read from the first Torah ever commissioned to be written by a group of women.

Unit 3, Lesson 4 - Moving Inward: bringing liberation movements into the Jewish community

Act out, through tableaux vivants, the ways Jews took what they had learned from the Civil Rights Movement and other liberation movements and used these insights to change the Jewish community.

Torah Study

The commandment of Torah study is a positive Biblical precept.

Tamar: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis spare no criticism of Judah and his sons, pointing out the sins that were responsible for their bitter fate, but they display a different attitude toward Tamar. Although her behavior could be interpreted as an act of sexual licentiousness and wantonness, the midrashim defend Tamar and praise her.

Spain

Written histories of the Jews in Spain have rarely included women. When dealing with Jewish women in Spain, the available sources range from poems, letters, and rabbinic literature to Latinate wills, court records and Inquisition documents.

Sex

The rabbinic discourse of sex has been at one and the same time both empowering and sharply disabling for women. In constraining all women to be wives and mothers, the possibilities for women’s lives have been severely constrained and to a great extent women’s roles have been denigrated as well.

Orthodox Judaism in the United States

Orthodox views on the role women may play in their community’s religious, educational, and social life have reflected the range of attitudes that religious group has harbored toward American society and culture.

Observance of Mitzvot: Custom and Halakhah

Numerous accounts scattered throughout early halakhic literature indicate that women had many traditions and customs of their own. Their religious life was characterized by a degree of independence and was not exclusively dependent on external halakhic norms. The manner in which women observed mitzvot was extremely influential in the formative stage of halakhah, before it was crystallized, recorded and sealed in the Shulhan Arukh.

Mikveh

The mikveh is a ritual bath designed for the Jewish rite of purification. The mikveh is not merely a pool of water; it must be composed of stationary, not flowing, waters and must contain a certain percentage of water derived from a natural source, such as a lake, an ocean, or rain.

Marriage

The concepts explicated in this entry constitute the various stages in the Jewish marriage process. These stages have various The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic and legal implications. The beginning of the marriage process is the stage of The first stage in the marriage process, in which the man and woman commit to marry each other in the future.shiddukhin, in which the man and woman promise to marry each other in the future. Kiddushin and nissu’in create the legal bond of marriage between husband and wife, the beginning of the bond being established by kiddushin and its completion being accomplished through nissu’in.

Maimonides

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Moses ben Maimon (Rambam), b. Spain, 1138Rambam) was born in Cordova, Spain in 1138 and died in Fostat (old Cairo), Egypt in 1204. During his lifetime he traveled with his family from Spain to Fez, Morocco, where he studied medicine and practiced as a physician, and from there to The Land of IsraelErez Israel, finally settling in Egypt, where he became the leader of the community. Maimonides’s vast legal and philosophical writings touch on many topics related to women and their status. Some of his restrictive and negative attitudes seem deeply influenced by the surrounding Muslim culture and women’s socio-economic status within that society. However, his strong philosophical rationalist belief system enabled him also to see women as beings with spiritual potential and at times motivated him to defend and improve their legal rights.

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.

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; Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah 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 (A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [ed. Eisenstein], 474).

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef

Of his numerous works the major one is Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.Responsa: Yabbia Omer (YO), the ten volumes of which contain his responsa on many subjects of Jewish law.

Wifebeating in Jewish Tradition

Wifebeating is found in all cultures, because women’s status is usually lower than men’s and wives are expected to perform specific tasks to serve their husbands.

Turkey: Ottoman and Post Ottoman

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, far-reaching changes took place in the Ottoman Empire in the political, social and geopolitical spheres.

Tannaitic Literature, Inclusion of Women

Generally speaking, the more regular the mechanism of inclusive interpretation, the clearer it is that woman remains outside as the “other” because she requires a special reason to be included. In other words, rather than rendering women an integral part of the population, inclusion renders them as adjuncts, unique unto themselves.

Benjamin Aron Slonik

Benjamin Aron Slonik (c. 1550–c. 1619) was a Polish rabbi of the early modern period whose independent style of textual and halakhic analysis produced important works of responsa and other Jewish legalistic and moralistic tracts. Of particular note are Slonik’s attitudes toward certain women-related issues that placed him in a class of his own within the prevailing Ashkenazic rabbinic culture.

Samaritan Sect

The status of Samaritan women today seems to be dominated by four factors: the dearth of women in the community, the desire of the community to avoid diluting its traditions, genetic problems deriving from inbreeding, and the rules pertaining to ritual purity.

Ritual: A Feminist Approach

Because religious praxis involving material objects plays so major a role in Jewish religion, one of the most significant expressions of the creation of feminist Judaism and its influence on the Jewish people is women’s wide-ranging involvement in the full range of ceremonies that exist both within and beyond halakhah.

Ritual in the United States

Ritual is an act or a set of actions that employs symbols meaningful to the participants in a formal, repetitive, and stylized fashion. Ritual behavior is one of the fundamental pillars of Judaism, and of all religions, whose concern is precisely with ultimate meaning and purpose.

Reproductive Technology, New (NRT)

New reproductive technology has provided the solution for problems of infertility for hundreds of thousands of couples. For halakhically observant Jews, especially in the pro-natal state of Israel, and in general in the post-Holocaust era, new reproductive technology has been a blessing but has also created a multitude of halakhic problems.

Rashi

Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, 1040–1105) is considered the greatest Jewish scholar of medieval times in Ashkenaz (Germany, France and England). It is doubtful whether we can find another Jewish scholar active at the time who was willing to make changes for the benefit of women’s rights even where halakhic and aggadic sources were not kindly disposed towards them. True, he sometimes accepted prejudicial opinions about women in the sources, but his relatively tolerant and considerate attitude towards women is worthy of note.

Qumran

Any discussion of women in Qumran must needs open with the question of whether there were any. A significant trend in research claims that there were none.

Post-Biblical and Rabbinic Women

In post-biblical Jewish antiquity women were not viewed as equal to men or as full Jews. In this, Jews were no different from their various Greco-Roman, Semitic or Egyptian neighbors. The difference lies in the explanation Jews gave to their views.

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