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Marriage

Eve: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis view Eve, the first woman, as embodying the qualities of all women, and of femininity in general. As God’s handiwork, she is portrayed as the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and there was no fairer creature but her husband Adam. The midrashim about her exude an air of primacy: the first mating between Adam and Eve is described as a magnificent wedding, and their first intercourse aroused the serpent’s jealousy. The primal sin is generally symbolic of man’s sins, and through it the Rabbis seek to clarify why men trespass. The depiction of the woman’s creation leads the Rabbis to inquire into gender differences and the nature of the female sex, all through the eyes of the male Rabbis. They discuss woman’s different temperament, her mental maturity, her habits, the physical shape of her body, her behavior, and other aspects of female existence. The Rabbis attempt to provide an explanation for gender differences by means of a portrayal of woman’s different creation, and also as being a result of the sin of the Garden of Eden. Eve’s punishment is examined at length in the dicta of the Rabbis, who exhibit a certain degree of empathy in their ability to describe women’s suffering during the first three months of pregnancy, during birth, in instances of miscarriage, the pain of raising children, that of menstrual periods and other afflictions.

Eve: Apocrypha

Eve, the first woman according to the Eden story (Genesis 2–3), is mentioned very rarely in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. One text mentions her by name (Tob 8:6), and four others allude to her (Sir 25:24; 40:1; 42:13; 4 Macc 18:7). Only Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira) presents the negative theological judgment that women are the source of sin.

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.

Esther: Bible

The heroine of the book named for her, Esther is a young Jewish woman living in exile in the Persian [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:308]diaspora[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], who through her youth and beauty becomes queen of the Persian Empire, and then by her wits and courage saves the Jewish people from destruction. The message of the Book of Esther, a work of historical fiction written in the diaspora in the late Persian—early Hellenistic period (fourth century b.c.e.), gives encouragement to the exiled Jews that they, although powerless in the Persian Empire, can, by their resourcefulness and talents, not only survive but prosper, as does Esther.

Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab: Midrash and Aggadah

Elisheba is mentioned only a single time in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Ex. 6:23), as the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon and the wife of Aaron the High Priest. The Rabbis speak at large concerning her. They note her importance, since her life was bound up with the most distinguished families in Israel: her husband was appointed High Priest, her children were deputy high priests, her brother was nasi (chieftain) of the tribe of Judah and her brother-in-law Moses led the Israelites. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] accordingly applies to Elisheba the verse “And may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12), which was meant to signify that Elisheba, too, was descended from the royal line since she was from the tribe of Judah (Ruth Zuta 4:12). Commenting on Jacob’s blessing to Judah, “You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise” (Gen. 49:8), the Rabbis list Elisheba daughter of Amminadab among the important people and officials that were born to this tribe and call her “the mother of the priesthood” (Gen. Rabbah 97:8).

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.

Dinah: Bible

Dinah is the daughter of Jacob, the father of twelve sons (and thus the twelve tribes) in the ancestor narratives of Genesis. She is born to Leah after Leah has given birth to six sons. Leah names her (Gen 34:21), as biblical women often did as part of the maternal role. Of Jacob’s daughters (others are noted in Gen 46:15), only Dinah is mentioned by name.

Zilpah: Bible

Through the initiative of Leah, Zilpah became a secondary wife to Jacob and bore him two sons, Gad and Asher.

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.

Union of Hebrew Women for Equal Rights in Erez Israel

The Union of Hebrew Women for Equal Rights in Erez Israel which led the fight for women’s suffrage until 1926, continued to work for full and equal political, legal and economic rights for women until the establishment of the State in 1948, when it merged with the WIZO organization.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Marriage." (Viewed on December 18, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/marriage>.

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