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Midrash and Aggadah

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Post-Biblical and Rabbinic Women

In post-biblical Jewish antiquity women were not viewed as equal to men or as full Jews. In this, Jews were no different from their various Greco-Roman, Semitic or Egyptian neighbors. The difference lies in the explanation Jews gave to their views.

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.

Orpah: Midrash and Aggadah

Orpah is one of the secondary characters of the Book of Ruth, which tells the reader only that she was Naomi’s second daughter-in-law. Like her sister-in-law Ruth, she initially wanted to accompany Naomi and return with her to her land; but, unlike Ruth, she finally accepted her mother-in-law’s arguments and went back to Moab. The Rabbinic expansion of this narrative, which relates both to Orpah’s actions and to her descendants, paints her in a generally unfavorable light.

Necromancer of Endor: Midrash and Aggadah

The Biblical narrative of the necromancer sheds light on Saul’s sorry state after the death of Samuel. This depiction of the king’s plight is amplified by the Rabbis, who determine that Saul’s consulting the necromancer was one of the reasons leading to his loss of the throne.

Naamah: Midrash and Aggadah

According to the Rabbis, Naamah was Noah’s wife; as her name indicates, her actions were pleasing (ne’imim—Gen. Rabbah 23:3). According to another view, however, she acted improperly, for she beat on a drum and drew people to engage in idolatry, and her musical activity increased corruption among people.

Mother of Micah: Midrash and Aggadah

An anonymous midrashic tradition mentioned by the medieval commentators posits that Micah’s mother was Delilah.

Modesty and Sexuality in Halakhic Literature

Modesty (zeni’ut), in its broad sense, represents a mode of moral conduct that is related to humility. A person who behaves modestly refrains from extroverted behavior that is supposed to speak of him- or herself. This expansive view also includes sexual modesty.

Midrash and Aggadah: Introduction and Sources

This Encyclopedia presents the portraits of seventy-five women in the Bible as they appear in the aggadic and midrashic expansions of the Biblical narrative that were composed by the Rabbis in the first centuries c.e., in Erez Israel and in Babylonia.

Midrash and Aggadah: Terminology

In current terminology the two terms, “midrash” and “aggadah,” refer to the two types of non-halakhic literary activity of the Rabbis.

Midwife: Midrash and Aggadah

Midwifery is regarded as a profession that entails a great deal of responsibility, along with numerous risks, both to the life of the mother and to that of the newborn.

Merab, daughter of Saul: Midrash and Aggadah

Merab was Saul’s eldest daughter. According to the Bible, she was meant to marry David, but she was given in matrimony to Adriel the Meholathite, while David married Merab’s younger sister Michal.

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

The regnal formula of Asa, king of Judah from 908 to 867 b.c.e., claims that his mother is Maacah the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kgs 15:10). This is problematic because the same woman is alleged to be the mother of Asa’s father, Abijah/Abijam (1 Kgs 15:2). An alternative tradition, calling Abijah’s mother Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, is most likely an attempted harmonization of this difficulty (2 Chr 13:2).

Maacah the wife of David: Midrash and Aggadah

Maacah, the daughter of King Talmi of Geshur, was married to King David and bore him his son Absalom. In the midrashic account, David saw Maacah when he went forth to war; he desired her and he took her as an eshet yefat to’ar (Tanhuma [ed. Buber], Ki Teze 1)—a non-Jewish woman taken captive during wartime and who is desired by her Israelite captor, who wants to marry her. He may do so under the conditions that are specified in Deut. 21:10–14. The woman must first shave her hair and pare her nails, then wear mourning clothing and lament for her parents’ home for a month. Only after all these steps is her captor permitted to take her as his wife. The Rabbis did not look favorably on the man who took an eshet yefat to’ar for himself; they say that the disfigurement of the shaving of her hair was meant to make her repulsive to her captor (BT Yevamot 48a).

Maacah 4: 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 hardly mentions Maacah daughter of Abishalom, nor does it seek to shed light on her lineage, which is unclear in the Bible. Maacah is mentioned by the Rabbis as the mother of Asa. Most of the midrashic attention is devoted to her singular pagan worship of Asherah, which the Bible (I Kings 15:13) calls a “miflezet [an abominable thing]”: “He also deposed his mother Maacah from the rank of queen mother, because she had made an abominable thing for [the goddess] Asherah. Asa cut down her abominable thing [miflaztah] and burned it in the Wadi Kidron.” The word miflezet is derived from the root plz, meaning trembling, fear. In the verse in Kings, this is a derogatory term for such an object of idolatrous worship. The associative meaning is that the God-fearing were overcome by trembling and disgust when they saw people engaging in the cult of Asherah.

Lot's Wife: Midrash and Aggadah

The Bible does not mention Lot’s wife by name, but the Rabbis referred to her as “Idit” (Tanhuma [ed. Buber], Vayera 8). This woman’s sorry end teaches of her life: even though she was rescued from the upheaval of Sodom, she was stricken together with the other inhabitants of the city, from which the Rabbis conclude that her actions, as well, were no different from those of the rest of Sodom’s populace.

Lot's Daughters: Midrash and Aggadah

According to the Rabbis, Lot had four daughters, two of whom were married, and two betrothed. The two married daughters and their husbands, along with the two future bridegrooms, remained in Sodom and perished, leaving Lot with only two daughters after the destruction of the city (Gen. Rabbah 50:9; Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, ed. Higger chap. 25).

Leaders in Israel's Religious Communities

Since the late twentieth century women have begun to assume leadership positions that are undoubtedly “religious” in both content and form. Religious leaders, like any other leaders, guide their followers towards achieving goals and purposes, and can do so by influencing their followers’ motivation. Religious leaders guide their followers towards religious goals and derive their authority to do so from the strength of their own religious characteristics. What therefore distinguishes them from secular leaders is that even in democratic societies their authority does not emanate solely from the public, but also from a religious source—in the case of Judaism, the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah. Hence, a crucial criterion for religious leadership in the world of Jewry is “knowledge of the Torah,” by which is meant the ability to refer to the canonical texts in an unmediated manner.

Jael Wife of Heber The Kenite: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash praises Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, and includes her among the devout women converts, together with Hagar, Asenath, Zipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, the daughter of Pharaoh, Rahab and Ruth (Yalkut Shimoni on Joshua, para. 9, from Midrash Tadshe).

Infertile Wife in Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism constructed differing legal, religious, and social roles for men and women that were intended to foster women’s reproductive functions and nurturing qualities, even as it placed them under the control of a dominant husband.While childlessness was perceived as a grave misfortune for both men and women, a male’s failure to generate offspring violated a legal obligation, since men alone were obligated to have children. The prooftext frequently cited for this unilateral ruling was Genesis 35:11, where Jacob is commanded in the second person masculine singular to “Be fertile and increase.” According to BT Pesahim 113b, the childless man is reckoned as if menuddeh, “cut off” from all communion with God, like one who has deliberately disregarded divine commands. BT Nedarim 64b, among other texts, accounts him as already dead, together with the pauper, the leper, and the blind. BT Sanhedrin 36b ordains that the childless scholar may not sit on the Sanhedrin.

Huldah, the Prophet: Midrash and Aggadah

Huldah is one of the seven women prophets of Israel enumerated by the Rabbis: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther (BT Lit. "scroll." Designation of the five scrolls of the Bible (Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther). The Scroll of Esther is read on Purim from a parchment scroll.Megillah 14a); she is also mentioned among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel (A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).

Hebrew Women in the Wilderness: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis portray the women of the wilderness generation as righteous, not caught up in the sins that swept Israel. Moreover, the women sought to correct what the men had spoiled, repairing the breaches for which the men were responsible. The Rabbis cite a number of examples of sins committed by the Israelites during the period of their wanderings in the wilderness which the women attempted to prevent.

Hebrew Women in Egypt: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis famously maintain that the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt by merit of the righteous women of that generation, who strove mightily to continue to bring forth children, regardless of the grueling servitude and despite Pharaoh’s decree that the male children be killed. God aided them in realizing their wish by miraculous means.

Gomer, daughter of Diblaim: Midrash and Aggadah

According to the Rabbis, God commanded Hosea to marry Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, to teach him proper conduct for one who was to prophesy to Israel.

Feminist Theology

Jewish feminist theology focuses on central Jewish categories, themes, and modes of expression—for example, God, prayer, Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah, and halakhah—and asks who created them and whose interests they reflect. It raises meta-questions about Jewish tradition.

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