Midrash and Aggadah

Content type
Collection
Two women on the bima at synagogue

Learning to Find My Own Path, Like My Great-Grandfather and Avraham Before Me

Davi Cheng

When my great-grandfather embarked on his journey, he couldn’t have known he would one day inspire his great-granddaughter to become a Jew.

Lauren Tuchman

Lauren Tuchman, the first blind woman ordained as a rabbi, is best known for her championing inclusive Torah and disability justice. Though she is ordained in the Conservative movement, most of her work has been in community organizing and other non-congregational settings.

Women Warriors

In the Hebrew Bible and ancient Jewish literature, most warriors are men. However, a few women go to war or kill: Deborah, Jael, the unnamed woman of Thebez, and Judith.

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is a highly regarded Torah scholar and author. Her complex interpretive lens is both contemporary, in drawing from literary sources, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory, and very traditional, in reading the Bible through the lens of classic commentaries and rabbinic midrash.

Ministering Women and Their Mirrors

Women who ministered at the entrance of the Tabernacle gathered around to donate their copper mirrors (Exodus 38:8), which were then smelted down to make the basin where the priests would wash before entering the sanctuary. The women may have served as guards, warding off evil with their mirrors. Midrash, however, conjectures that the women used these mirrors to seduce their husbands in Egypt, raising up the hosts of Israelites.

Barren Women in the Bible

The Hebrew Bible tells six stories of barren women: three of the four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel); the unnamed wife of Manoah/mother of Samson; Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; and the Shunnamite woman, an acolyte of the prophet Elisha.  Each woman suffers a period of infertility, in some cases exacerbated by the presence of a fertile, though less beloved, rival wife. Eventually, God intervenes and the woman conceives, but the beloved son is then dedicated back to God, either in service or in sacrifice.

Louise Glück

Louise Glück, American poet, essayist, and educator, is the recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as numerous other awards for her writing; she also served as poet laureate of the United States from 2003 to 2004. One finds the personal, the mythological, and the Biblical woven intricately throughout Glück’s oeuvre.

Watercolor by Abigail Glickman

Ayin Tovah: Learning to See

Abigail Glickman

In a passage from Pirkei Avot, Eliezer ben Hurcanus recommended “ayin tovah,” a “good eye” in Hebrew, which, my teacher explained, meant judging people in a favorable light.

Serach bat Asher

How Serach bat Asher Became My Patron Saint

Rabbi Leah Berkowitz

My mother had learned a version of the St. Anthony prayer from her Catholic coworkers: St. Anthony, St. Anthony, won’t you look around? Something is lost and must be found. She proceeded to recite this prayer next to the dumpster.

Girls in Trouble: Women's Agency and Power in the Torah

Guest teacher Alicia Jo Rabins introduces two new study guides from her "Girls in Trouble" curriculum. By exploring the stories of the Sotah, and the daughters of Tzelofchad, participants consider women's agency and power in the Torah.

Composite Image of the Book of Miriam by Ellen Frankel

The Five Books of Miriam

Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler

At the root of The Five Books of Miriam is our great cultural urge as Jewish people—a desire to question, to be in a constant dialogue with God, with ourselves, and with each other.

Drop of Water Causing a Ripple Effect

The Magnitude of Miriam Through Midrash

Abigail Fisher

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to make the Torah meaningful to me.  In first grade, the boys in my class had already found strong and charismatic role models in Moses, Aaron, Abraham, and countless others. I, and the other girls in my class, were left to search for leaders in soft-spoken and often overlooked sisters and mothers. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Eden Olsberg at her Bat Mitzvah

Her mouth opens with wisdom, and words of loving kindness are on her lips

Eden Olsberg

Laws, tradition, and God are words that typically come to mind when you think of Judaism. In my Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah reading), Lech Lecha, these words are relevant, but not the ones that stuck out to me.

Timbrel

Leading with Timbrels: Another Side to the Passover Story

Molly Pifko

Every year, my temple holds a women’s seder on the second night of Passover. This ritual has always been important to me because throughout my Jewish education, I have clung to stories as the basis for my learning. 

Hannah Raises Her Voice

Learn how Hannah attempted to change her life by calling on God for help, and consider the power of asking for what you need or want in your own life.

Sarah's Sacrifice

One of the most famous stories in Genesis is the Binding of Isaac by his father Abraham (the Akeidah, in Hebrew). Sarah, Isaac’s mother, is noticeably absent from the text. Here we consider Sarah’s perspective, and how this foundational event in the Jewish origin story might have affected her.

Lilith Evolved: Writing Midrash

Interrogate the notion of midrash using "The Coming of Lilith" by theologian Judith Plaskow as an example of how contemporary Jewish feminists have created their own midrashim—retellings of biblical stories—to incorporate women's viewpoints into the traditional texts of Judaism.

Ruth's Journey

Learn how Ruth changed her life by making a series of bold choices, and examine how taking risks, small or large, might lead to positive transformations in your own life.

Miriam in the Desert

Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.

Sandy Sasso

The first woman rabbi ordained by the Reconstructionist movement, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has used her career as an award-winning author to change how children and adults think about women in Jewish tradition.

Judith Plaskow

Meet Me at Sinai: An Interview with Judith Plaskow

Judith Rosenbaum

JWA's Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum spoke to Judith Plaskow about her groundbreaking work as a Jewish feminist, the unfinished work of feminism, and what she would change about Standing Again at Sinai were it published in 2015.  

Sandy Sasso

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was the first woman rabbi ordained by the Reconstructionist movement, which was one of many firsts in her career.

Lynn Gottlieb

One of the first ten women rabbis, Lynn Gottlieb became a voice for peace between Jews and Muslims.
"The Songs of Joy," by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

The confrontational face of Miriam

Susan Reimer-Torn

When we are first introduced to Miriam in the Bible, the times are bleak. The Egyptian Pharaoh has decreed that all baby boys born to the Hebrew slaves be immediately put to death.

Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah

Vashti, the wife of Ahasuerus, was banished when her husband summoned her to appear before the men at their revelry. The Babylonian Rabbis tend to cast Vashti in an extremely negative light, as wicked, a Jew-hater, and wanton. In contrast, their counterparts in Erez Israel portrayed her in a positive manner.

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