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Midrash and Aggadah

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Tannaitic Literature, Inclusion of Women

Midrashic reading of verses often involves the question of whether or not women were included in the verses. The language used (structure of verbs, prepositions, other parts of speech) often indicates the particular interpreter’s opinions concerning women.

Shunammite: Midrash and Aggadah

The Shunammite woman is celebrated by the Rabbis for her generosity and righteousness. The story of her hospitality towards Elisha portrays these traits, but the midrash also celebrates her for cautiousness, as shown by the narrative of her son.

Shua's daughter: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis do not give significant attention to Shua’s daughter, who is the wife of Judah; the midrash generally views their marriage as a step down for Judah. However, the narratives of their children are analyzed in the midrashim, and the Rabbis give special meaning to the names and birthplaces of the children.

Shelomith 1: Midrash and Aggadah

The narrative of Shelomith is used by the Rabbis as the exception that proves the rule of Israelite marital fidelity. One tradition relates that her son was born out of wedlock with an Egyptian man who deceived her, while another says that her son was born to an Egyptian man after the former murdered her Israelite husband.

Serah, daughter of Asher: Midrash and Aggadah

While Serah, daughter of Asher, is mentioned only very briefly in the Bible, a plethora of midrashic traditions exist about her, and thus the faceless Biblical character becomes a fascinating personality. Her history is intertwined with the story of the migration to Egypt and enslavement, and with redemption and the return to Erez Israel.

Norma Rosen

Born in Brooklyn in 1925 to secular and assimilated parents, Norma Rosen was an American-Jewish novelist, essayist, educator, editor, and professor. Rosen’s exploration of Jewish history and religion in her writings contributed to questions surrounding Jewish theology and Jewish feminism in the second half of the twentieth century.

Rizpah: Midrash and Aggadah

Rizpah features prominently in the narrative of Saul’s death at the hands of the Gibeonites, and her behavior in this episode is highly praised by the Rabbis. Her actions were considered worthy of emulation, and even King David learned from her. Rizpah’s deeds helped save all Israel from the famine.

Rahab: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis sing paeans of praise of Rahab for her beauty and wisdom. In many midrashim, Rahab comes to symbolize the positive influence Israel exerts on the surrounding Gentile nations, as well as successful conversion. Her ability to mend her ways was exemplary for ensuing generations, who used Rahab’s story to request divine mercy and pardon for their actions.

Post-Biblical and Rabbinic Women

IIn antiquity, the treatment of women drew from patriarchal biblical traditions. Despite a few notable exceptions, women had minimal legal rights but were active participants in alternative Jewish sects and could hold office. As rabbinic material was codified, control over women increased, although the literature was not exclusively restrictive towards women.

Poetry in the United States

The contributions of Jewish women poets to American literary history and political activism, as well as to the enrichment of Jewish culture and practice, are astounding. Many Jewish women poets write with a strong sense of social responsibility and a desire to create poetry that can shape reality, drawing on the Jewish teachings of  tikkun olam.

Orpah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbinic expansion of the story of Oprah paints her in a generally unfavorable light. This dislike is based on Orpah’s comparison to Ruth, in which Orpah is portrayed as the negative version of her sister-in-law. Orpah’s naming reflects the description that she is promiscuous and brazen.

Necromancer of Endor: Midrash and Aggadah

The necromancer of Endor appears in the narrative of Saul’s attempt to speak to the ghost of Samuel on the eve of war with the Philistines. The necromancer knows of Saul’s ban on the use of ghosts, but Saul swears that she will be protected. The Rabbis largely focus on their questions about the necromancer’s description of Samuel’s ghost.

Naamah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis have differing views on Noah’s wife Naamah, portraying her as both very beautiful and also as a malevolent seductress. The negative interpretation of Naamah is seen in the later midrash and the Zohar, which describe her as a seducer of men and even of demons.

Mother of Micah: Midrash and Aggadah

One midrash posits that Delilah was Micah’s mother, based on two stories in the Bible that mention Delilah and Micah immediately after one another. However, Rashi argued that the timelines of Delilah and Micah’s lives meant that they could not be related.

Modesty and Sexuality in Halakhic Literature

Though it is not mentioned in the Bible, modesty (zeni'ut) has become a significant part of modern halakhah, especially in the realm of sexuality. For women, sexual modesty means covering up their bodies. For both men and women, modesty also entails certain behavioral rules. These modesty rules ensure that sex happens in a way that is deemed proper, in the right time and place.

Midwife: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis assign significant value to the role of a midwife, especially in the stories of Shiphrah and Puah. The job of a midwife comes with much responsibility, as she not only helps with birth but also aids the process of labor and provides nutritional support to both new mothers and infants.

Midrash and Aggadah: Introduction and Sources

The writings of the Rabbis in the midrash offer detailed depictions and analyses of women who appear only briefly or not at all in the Bible. The 75 Encyclopedia articles about women in the midrash analyze the language of the Rabbis to compare their opinions to the full biblical text and to contextualize aggadic traditions.

Midrash and Aggadah: Terminology

The midrash and aggadah are the two collections of non-legal writing from the Rabbis. In modern times, the two terms are generally used interchangeably.

Merab, daughter of Saul: Midrash and Aggadah

Merab, daughter of Saul, was meant to marry David, but ended up being given in matrimony to Adriel the Metholathite. Rabbis in the Midrash and Aggadah discuss two different versions of events: one in which Merab marries David, and one where she marries Adriel.

Matriarchs: A Liturgical and Theological Category

Among egalitarian religious congregations throughout the world, the most popular addition to the traditional liturgy is the mention of the Matriarchs in birkat avot (the blessing of the ancestors), the opening blessing of the Amidah.

Maacah: Bible

It is claimed that Maacah is the mother of Asa, king of Judah from 908 to 867 B.C.E., which is problematic because the same woman is alleged to be the mother of Asa’s father. Maacah’s role appears most clearly as an official functionary in the Judean cult when Asa removes her from her position as gebirah (“great lady”) after she makes a cult object associated with the goddess Asherah.

Maacah the wife of David: Midrash and Aggadah

Macaah, the wife of David, is a name for a non-Jewish woman taken captive during wartime to be a wife to her Israelite captor. Absalom, the son of Maacah and King David, grows up to be defiant and self-indulgent and acts against his father; this is attributed to him being the son of Maacah.

Maacah 4: Midrash and Aggadah

The Midrash and Aggadah regarding Maacah, daughter of Abishalom, who worshiped an idol, focuses mostly on her pagan worship of Asherah.

Lot's Wife: Midrash and Aggadah

Lot’s wife was initially spared from the impending destruction of Sodom, but her unrighteous ways cause her to have an unhappy end. Midrash and Aggadah provide insight into her actions.

Lot's Daughters: Midrash and Aggadah

In opposition to the biblical portrayal, the Rabbis turn the blame on Lot for his impregnation of his daughters. They argue that Lot exhibits selfish and harmful behavior throughout his life, while presenting a sympathetic analysis of the daughters that seems to stem from their ancestral connection to Ruth.


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