The Babylonian Talmud offers a very limited glimpse into women’s voices, words, and writings, and only seldom quotes them. In contrast, the woman Em is quoted by Abaye twenty-seven times, always in the context of medicine and always in an authoritative formula – “Em told me.” Abaye’s amra li Em (אמרה לי אם) opens a window into a unique healing tradition transmitted to the Talmud by a woman. This article will examine Em’s expertise through a gendered and cross-cultural prism. In addition, the article will explore Em’s substantial body of work in the medical field, and the similarities of some of her prescriptions to Greco-Roman healing techniques and to Mesopotamian magical practices.
The interaction between Saul and the woman of Endor is a minor episode, not only within the first book of Samuel, but in the Tanakh as a whole. The woman, whose actions drive the narrative, is not named nor is very much known about her. All that the text reveals are her gender, domicile location, familiarity with the law (Saul’s ban on ovot and yid’onim), and culinary possessions (flour and a calf). Through linguistic connotation her age range is surmisable: she is neither maiden nor elderly. Of her specific abilities, little is actually known as it is totally unclear what she did exactly that caused connection between the living Saul and deceased Samuel. Yet this woman, and the language used that describes her in a few verses without substantive information, have singularly driven wildly polarizing visual representations of the female thaumaturge for centuries. The artistically rendered visage of the Endoran ranges from the crone of gothic nightmares to hypersexual femme fatale, to gregarious earth mother, to occult adept perfecting her craft. Despite her shifting guise, one aspect remains consistent throughout the majority of images: the visual translation (or mistranslation) of ovot.
A deep look at the Book of Ruth reveals a two-dimensional model that reflects two alternative realities of gender. One perception strives to manage the world and resolve its problems. It is an orientation based on justice, rules, and individualistic logic, and even a certain degree of manipulation. The other exists within human reality and is based on concern for others, sensitivity, and mutual responsibility. Although these perceptions are obviously not necessarily representative of different genders, they are often associated as such and can be referred to as masculine and feminine, respectively. This paper demonstrates how the story of Ruth in its entirety revolves around the tension between these two perceptions, until they ultimately merge into one.
While the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements have made a concerted effort to welcome transgender Jews in the last twenty years, transgender congregants are often shunned by Orthodox rabbis and synagogues in the United States. Studies about Orthodox Judaism’s relationship with transgender identity often focus exclusively on Talmudic justifications for the acceptance or rejection of transgender Jews, ignoring the increasingly sizeable effect that secular politics has on the American Orthodox community. To address this gap in the academic understanding of transgender Jewish issues, this analysis takes a more holistic approach to the issue of transgender acceptance in Orthodox Judaism by (1) assessing the potential for the acceptance of transgender Jews in ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jewish communities in the United States using halakhic rulings on intersex and transgender issues and (2) tracing the potential effects of the American political landscape on the Orthodox community’s acceptance of transgender identity.
This paper presents an unusual Hasidic figure and sketches her compelling biography in broad outlines. Ḥannah Golda Hopstein (1886–1939), was a unique Hasidic woman, a Zionist pioneer and had a fascinating life story which ended in tragedy. She left Poland in 1924 for Mandatory Palestine, where she was one of the founders of the Hasidic-agricultural settlement Kefar Ḥasidim. She later returned to Europe to visit family and was killed by a German bomb during the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Hopstein’s fourteen-page, Hebrew handwritten diary lies lost in the archives of Kefar Hasidism, Israel. It is entirely translated and published here for the first time with a biographical introduction. This short memoir can be a base for future extensive research, since it teaches us much about several key issues, such as the role of women in Hasidism, Hasidic attitudes towards Zionism, and female leadership among Hasidim.