Religion: Midrash and Aggadah
The Rabbis depict Abigail as a wise and practical woman, capable of acting at the right moment and in the right way. She saves David from committing unnecessary bloodshed, while at the same time assuring her future.
The chief biblical source referring to abortion is Exodus 21:22–25 concerning the man who inadvertently strikes a pregnant woman, causing her to lose the pregnancy.
The Rabbis describe Achsah as being a beauty, finding an allusion to this in her name: “Whoever sees her is angry [koes] with his wife,” who is not as ravishing as she is (BT Temurah 16a).
According to the aggadic tradition, Lamech took two wives, one for sexual pleasure and the other for procreation. One wife would be in his company adorned like a harlot, and he plied her with a drug that induced barrenness, so that she would not give birth; the other sat alone, like a widow. Lamech’s behavior graphically attests to the process of spiritual decline from one generation to the next and the corruption of the Flood generation.
When she died in 1847 at the age of thirty-one, Grace Aguilar enjoyed a reputation as a poet, historical romance writer, domestic novelist, Jewish emancipator, religious reformer, educator, social historian, theologian, and liturgist.
In narratives or abridged cycles more or less faithful to the biblical text, art has portrayed biblical women as role models and reference, occasionally adding exegetical elements both Christian and Jewish. Although the text of the Bible became fixed at different dates and in various versions, these images are not fixed, but reflect the ebb and flow in society’s attitudes towards women and their role.
Asenath is mentioned in the Torah as “the daughter of Poti-phera” (Gen. 41:45), who was married to Joseph in Egypt. The Rabbis found it difficult to accept that Joseph, who withstood the wiles of Potiphar’s wife and proclaimed his loyalty to the Lord in the palace of Pharaoh, would marry a non-Israelite woman. The question of Asenath’s origins has significant consequences for the standing within the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons born to Asenath and Joseph.
The Rabbis state that Athaliah was one of the four women who wielded the scepter, two of whom ruled over Israel (Jezebel and Athaliah) and two over other peoples (the heathen Semiramis and Vashti) (Esther Rabbah 3:2).
Bathsheba is portrayed by the midrash as a modest woman who carefully observed the laws of family purity, but who found herself, without any conscious action on her part, in an adulterous affair with the king.
Born into a family of distinguished lineage, whose members were the intellectual and spiritual leaders of Lithuanian Jewry, Rayna Batya Berlin, like the men in her family, viewed Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah study as the loftiest means of worship of God.
Beruryah is the only woman mentioned in rabbinic literature who could be conceived of as a Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah scholar.
The Rabbis count Bilhah among the six Matriarchs (Cant. Rabbah 6:4:2). She was the handmaiden of Rachel, to whom she had been given by Rachel’s father Laban when she married Jacob.
The story of the concubine at Gibeah is one of the most shocking narratives in the Bible. The (Aramaic) A work containing a collection of tanna'itic beraitot, organized into a series of tractates each of which parallels a tractate of the Mishnah.Tosefta attests that these verses are read in public, along with their Aramaic Targum, that is, they are interpreted during the public reading of the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah (Tosefta 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 3:33). The Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud.Talmud explains that although a matter that publicly tarnishes the honor of the tribe of Benjamin should not properly be aired, the tribe’s reputation is not a consideration in this case (BT Megillah 25b). The Tosefta and the Talmud apparently find educational value in this narrative, and feel that something important is to be learned even from such a troubling occurrence.
The daughter of Pharaoh did not follow her father’s wicked ways, but rather converted and ceased worshiping idols. She was highly praised by the Rabbis, and 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 her among the devout women converts: Hagar, Asenath, Zipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, the daughter of Pharaoh, Rahab, Ruth and Jael wife of Heber the Kenite (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [ed. Eisenstein], p. 474). The midrash specifically praised the daughter of Pharaoh for her rescue of Moses, thereby aiding in the exodus of all the Israelites from Egypt. Moses was raised in her home, by a woman who believed in God. She radiated warmth and loved him as if he were her own son, and accordingly was richly rewarded: she married Caleb son of Jephunneh and joined the people of Israel. Some midrashim attest to her longevity and claim that she entered the Garden of Eden while still alive.
The Rabbis rain many praises on the daughters of Zelophehad: they are wise, exegetes and and virtuous (BT Bava Batra 119b); they are like the daughters of kings, fine and worthy (Sifrei Zuta 15:32). 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 declares that all five daughters possessed all these admirable qualities: none was better than the others, and all were equal (Sifrei on Numbers, para. 133).
Rebekah’s nurse Deborah died when Jacob was on his way to the Land of Canaan, close to Bethel. She is mentioned by name only once in the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah, in Gen. 35:8, in the description of her burial under an oak tree that was named “Allon-bacuth [the oak of the weeping].” Deborah is also mentioned, anonymously, in Gen. 24:59, when she accompanied Rebekah on the latter’s journey to the Land of Canaan to wed Isaac: “So they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse,” as was fitting for a wealthy and distinguished family that retained a nurse.
Deborah is presented in the Rabbinic sources as a very talented woman. She was an upright judge, with the same prophetic ability as Samuel; Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah scholars would come to learn from her. This ability was granted her as reward for her good deeds, namely, the preparation of wicks for the Tabernacle. She also encouraged her fellow Israelites to regularly attend the synagogue and Tabernacle, and thanks to her beneficial influence on her husband, he merited a portion in the World to Come. There is a tradition that presents Deborah as being guilty of the sin of pride, which led to her loss of the gift of prophecy, while the other traditions speak in her praise, and number her among the twenty-three Israelite women of outstanding righteousness (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 [ed. Eisenstein], 474).
The midrashim on Delilah attest to the negative attitude of the Rabbis toward non-Jewish women. The Biblical Delilah was not loyal to Samson and her relationship with him was for the sole purpose of delivering him to the Philistines. 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 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.
Many scholars in the area of Jewish marriage and divorce point proudly to the fact that Jewish marriage is a private ordering between individuals. Those scholars claim that Jewish marriage is a matter of contract between two willing parties, and therefore, unlike the custom in most liberal Western democratic countries, the parties, not the state, determine their personal status. The parties by agreement can decide to get divorced, in the same way that they decided to marry. No reason need be alleged for the divorce. No fault is relevant. No time need elapse between separation and divorce. In theory, parties can marry one day, divorce the next, and then remarry without delay or period of separation.
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).
Esau married his first two wives, who were from among the daughters of Heth, against his parents’ wishes. According to the Rabbis, these women spent all their days in adultery and idolatry. Adah adorned herself with jewelry for harlotry, from which her name Adah is derived, with the meaning of the wearing [adayat] of jewelry (Gen. Rabbati, Vayishlah, p. 160). Adah’s other name was Basemath (based on the exchange of names between Gen. 26:34 and 36:2). This name also attests to her deeds, for she would perfume herself (mevasemet) for harlotry. Esau’s second wife, Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, was an illegitimate child resulting from an adulterous union (Tanhuma, Vayeshev 1). Judith was also named Oholibamah, a name she was given because she built places for idolatry (bamot). She dwelled in Esau’s tent, but “performed her needs elsewhere” (that is, she engaged in extramarital relations). In taking two wives, Esau acted the same as the men of the Flood generation, who also took two spouses: one to provide them with offspring, and the other to provide them with sexual pleasure (see Adah, the wife of Lamech).
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.
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.