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Marriage

Maimonides

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:383]Rambam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) 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 [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], 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.

Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis identify Mahalath with Basemath (based on the exchange of names between Gen. 28:9 and 36:3; cf. “Esau’s Wives”). Some of the Rabbis maintain Esau’s marriage to Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael reflected his desire to repent of his evil deeds and act in accordance with the wishes of his parents Isaac and Rebekah for a proper mate (JT Bikkurim 3:3, 65c–d). Mahalath’s name indicates that the Holy One, blessed be He, pardoned (mahal) Esau for all his wickedness. Her other name, Basemath, also teaches that by this marriage Esau’s character improved (nitbasmah; Gen. Rabbah 67:13).

Leah: Midrash and Aggadah

Leah is depicted in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] as the woman who was married to Jacob against his will, and as the sister of the beloved and beautiful Rachel. The Rabbis compare Leah and Rachel: both were equivalent in beauty and in their erect stature. However, Leah’s eyes were weak from crying, for she feared that she would have to be married to the wicked Esau. The Rabbis found this weeping to be praiseworthy and declared that by merit of her prayers this fate was set aside and she was married to Jacob.

Leah: Bible

Leah is the elder daughter of Laban and the wife of Jacob, father of twelve sons who will become the twelve tribes of Israel. Leah and her sister Rachel, whose names mean “cow” and “ewe,” give Jacob many sons; and their father gives him actual live-stock Leah is described as having “soft (lovely) eyes” (Gen 29:7). Some translations (such as NJPS, RSV, NEB, and REB), perhaps influenced by Jacob’s preference for Rachel, render this as “dull-eyed” or “weak eyes,” but the more appropriate translation is “soft eyes” (as in NRSV and NAB)—what we might call “cow eyes.” She has six sons, who become six of the Israelite tribes (Gen 35:23; 46:5, 14).

Keturah: Midrash and Aggadah

Keturah was one of Abraham’s wives. The Rabbis describe her as a woman of virtue and for that she was worthy of being joined to that righteous one [Abraham].

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).

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Marriage." (Viewed on November 19, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/marriage>.

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