Midrash and Aggadah

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Hannah: Midrash and Aggadah

Hannah is depicted by the Rabbis as a righteous woman who was devout in her observance of the commandments and tested by God through her infertility. Her story is the basis for much of the rabbinic conception and rules of prayer.

Hagar: Bible

Hagar is Sarah’s Egyptian slave woman, whom Sarah gives to Abraham as secondary wife and who would bear a child for him. After Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarah treats her harshly. Eventually Hagar flees from her mistress into the wilderness, where God’s messenger speaks to her. Hagar has long represented the plight of the foreigner, the slave, and the sexually abused woman.

Hagar: Midrash and Aggadah

Hagar is the subject of much interpretation by the rabbis, who portray her as a spiritual and even righteous woman. The rabbis often depict her relationship with Sarah as harmful and fractious, though some traditions identify her with Keturah, taken as a wife by Abraham in Gen. 25:1; in this interpretation, after their divorce she remarried Abraham after Sarah’s death.

Eve: Midrash and Aggadah

Eve’s character is posited to be that of the original and quintessential woman. The Midrash interprets her traits as representative of the negative aspects of femininity. Eve’s punishment for her sin is also tied to the traditional ideas of the fundamentals of womanhood – childbirth, pregnancy, and male spousal domination.

Deborah 1: Midrash and Aggadah

Rebekah’s nurse Deborah died when Jacob was on his way to the Land of Canaan, close to Bethel, where she was buried under a tree. The rabbis describe her as having a close relationship to Jacob.

Deborah 2: Midrash and Aggadah

Deborah, one of the most extraordinary women in the Bible, is presented as an extremely righteous and praiseworthy woman in rabbinic literature. Though some traditions criticize her pride, perhaps wary of how she transgressed gender norms, most of the rabbinic texts about Deborah are filled with praise.

Delilah: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrashim on Delilah attest to the negative attitude of the Rabbis toward non-Jewish women. The Rabbis accentuated the negative aspects of the relations between Samson and Delilah in order to demonstrate the havoc that a foreign woman could wreak.

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. The rabbis also offer many different explanations for the rape of Dinah, trying to understand the troubling story.

Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab: Midrash and Aggadah

Elisheba is mentioned only a single time in the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah (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 A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).midrash 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).

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.

Art: Representation of Biblical Women

For centuries, art has portrayed biblical women in ways that reflect society’s attitudes towards women and their role. Depictions of female biblical figures fluctuate according to historical and social perceptions. Jewish art often features heroic and worthy women who, through their courageous deeds, helped to triumph over Israel’s enemies.

Zillah: Midrash and Aggadah

Zillah was a wife of Lamech. According to one tradition, Zillah was designated to bear children, but in another tradition she was said to solely provide intercourse for Lamech. Nonetheless, she bore two children.

Zilpah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis count Zilpah among the six Matriarchs. She was Leah’s handmaiden and she and Leah were originally intended to marry Esau; when Leah married Jacob instead, he was also given Zilpah. Midrashic accounts place Zilpah in different, minor roles.

Zipporah: Midrash and Aggadah

Zipporah was the wife of Moses. The Rabbis ascribe many traits to her; they considered her different than other women, in a positive sense, in both appearance and deed.

Zeresh: Midrash and Aggadah

Zeresh was the wife of Haman, portrayed by the midrash as even more wicked than her husband. Of all of Haman's advisors, she was his best counsel.

Women in Samson's Life: Midrash and Aggadah

The three women in Samson’s life were Gentiles: the woman from Timnah, the woman from Gaza, and Delilah. In the midrash, rabbis used Samson’s situation to denounce involvement with foreign women.

Wise Woman of Tekoa: Midrash and Aggadah

The A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).midrash includes the wise woman from Tekoa among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came out of Israel (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], 474).

Wise Woman of Abel-beth-maacah: Midrash and Aggadah

The wise woman from Abel-Beth-Maacah is identified in midrashim as Serah, daughter of Asher. The rabbis attribute great wisdom to her. She instituted a negotiation with Joab, then spoke to the people, who behead Sheba son of Bichri in order to induce Joab to leave.

Wife of Job: Midrash and Aggadah

Job’s wife is the subject of a moral critique by the midrash for advising her husband to commit blasphemy. Different midrashim account for the possible outcomes and motives of her actions.

Wife of Korah: Midrash and Aggadah

The wife of Korah, in the midrash, is responsible for causing her husband to rebel against Moses and Aaron. She is characterized as a scheming woman, driven by her desire for honor and status and wielding great influence over her husband.

Wife of Manoach; Samson's Mother: Midrash and Aggadah

Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson, is identified by the Babylonian Rabbis as “Zlelponi” or “Zlelponith.” She was a barren woman until an angel of the Lord appeared to her and told her she would conceive a child. She is included among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel.

Wife of On Ben Pelet: Midrash and Aggadah

The wife of On Son of Pelet is not mentioned in the Bible. However, the midrash credits her for saving her husband’s life. Her strong character allowed her to perform an “unbecoming” act to achieve a higher goal: rescuing her home and family.

Widow of Zarephath: Midrash and Aggadah

The widow of Zarephath plays a small but important role in Elijah’s story. She feeds Elijah in her home. Her son soon dies, and Elijah pleads to God for the power to resurrect him.

Two Prostitutes as Mothers: Midrash and Aggadah

The two prostitutes appear in the narrative about Solomon’s judgement concerning the parentage of a baby boy. The Rabbis debate the identity of the women; some argue that they truly were prostitutes and were therefore not present at the time of the judgment, while others assert that they were yevamot (widows whose husbands had died childless).

Timna, concubine of Eliphaz: Midrash and Aggadah

After being denied conversion by the men of Abraham’s household, Timna becomes the concubine of Eliphaz. The Rabbis portray this action as proof of her genuine desire to convert, and Israel is punished for the Patriarch’s actions. Another midrash uses Timna to clarify an issue of lineage, ultimately showing that Esau’s descendants were born of adultery.


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