Jewish Scene  Dr. Ruchama Weiss
When sages are wrong: Misogyny in Talmud
Ruchama Weiss
Published: 03.03.14, 00:07
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18 Talkbacks for this article
1. Not in unsure political situations
Veronique ,   Rehovot, Israel   (03.03.14)
I think that trying to dictate and control the behavior of a "weaker" person is inherent to human behavior, and give the oppressor a "good" feeling of being powerful. This is specially true when the oppressor himself is "weaker" than someone else (Jews in goy societies, Hindus in Mughal societies, emigrants in the Deep South, and more throughout history). Primitive (and not so primitive) societies where people are poor and oppressed by tyrants, have pariahs, slaves, and of course women. And of course men dictate to women when they themselves are oppressed... It is a good governmental trick as it keeps the society focused on the downtrodden as the aim of all frustrations and not focused on the people in power - see the Jews under Hitler, see women in Moslem and other societies.
2. seek and ye shall find
shloime ,   toronto, canada   (03.03.14)
if you approach any material with a closed mind and a political agenda, you shall find evidence to support your thesis. i find it interesting the "aggressors" here are not advocating the removal of the source of the problem, by segregated sidewalks, or segregated buses, but by "running away" from temptation - a lesson for the pretend hareidim of today. it seems to me that the author needs to see mysogyny, to buttress her a priori conclusion and her feminist viewpoint.
3. Hate to disappoint you ;) ,...
split ,   US   (03.03.14)
Wasn't the Babylon Talmud written during Babylon captivity? ,... Babylon's currency was Sheqel not Denarii which was introduced in that part of M. East centuries later during Roman conquest ,... First Denarii were minted around 200 BC. - One more hint that your fairytales are just a fairy tales ,...
4. Same boat
Avinoam ,   USA   (03.03.14)
Haven't we - and by that I mean civilized societies - all advanced dramatically since the primitive, misogynistic days of yore? Why would the Talmudic Sages be any different? As brilliant and advanced as they were for their time, it was their time, not ours. Judging them by our (relatively) enlightened standards will always have them coming up short.
5. split: The Talmud is post-Temple
jdc   (03.03.14)
This passage is from Oral Law, codified in 200 CE, about 130 years after destruction of the Temple. "Babylonian" refers to where it was written, i.e. Babylon, where the Jewish community lasted from captivity (not everyone came back to the Second Commonwealth) to the last Iraq war.
6. How on earth did you translate?
Expert ,   USA   (03.04.14)
When the gemara said "hell" it was not referring to the woman, it was referring to the fate that would befall him if he sinned with the woman. And when gemara said ervah, it was referring to a person who is forbidden, not nudity. This is all over the gemara and Rambam. You know, you women want it both ways, actually 3 ways. You want men to be strongly attracted to you. You want men not to molest or rape you. But you also want men not to be able to take the precautions necessary for them not to molest you, such as not secluding themselves. How is this different than good medical practice, in which doctors are not supposed to examine members of opposite gender alone? Understanding women is the biggest mystery of all.
7. Perhaps a more rigorous analysis is required
Steven ,   Maryland USA   (03.04.14)
Your translations that engender the accusations of misogyny are a bit simplistic. "Gehinnom" means " hell," but it is also the outcome of a life of pure physicality. It is not the woman that is "gehinnom," but temptation. Rather than being misogynistic, the Sages's statement decries the objectification that is the lot of the married woman. This was not a comment on women but an admonition to Rav Yehuda. No one is above temptation. So too the second citation: nudity? Not at all. The word used here is ervah, here meaning "a forbidden relationship." Doesn't that make more sense? And there's nothing misogynystic about it. Talmud Torah is not like reading a novel. It requires rigorous, not superficial, study.
8. jdc @ 5 ,...
split ,   US   (03.04.14)
It's my understanding that at around 200 AD this part of Talmud was compiled from much older transcripts and oral stories not a product of that time ,... Have to check it but thanks for trying ;) ,...
9. Not really (refutations below)
AD ,   LA   (03.04.14)
Refutations to article. 1. The situation with Dumah was really to illustrate the glory of respecting one's parent. A rule of the Talmud is that we dont always pasken (rule) straight from it. Jewish law evolved over time and was really only cemented more than 800 years after the Talmud was written. Therefore to find out the halacha (how we are supposed to act today) one should consult the Shulchan Aruch or other forms of halachic works. There one would find that such a situation, such as the one Dumah was presented with, isnt so clear cut. A sort of knock to Dr. Weiss's assertion that this was given to strike a certain fear or obedience into the people. However that seems to be counter intuitive actually, why would the Rabbis give such an obligation of honor to one's parents if they would presumably, want to control the people like some sort of minions. Wouldnt they want all the power for themselves? Thats of course if you look at Jews as many anti-semitic cartoonists did back in the day, as money-loving power hungry hippos. Which of course is wrong. Thats because this episode wasnt given to brainwash the masses. Rather, I feel that it was given to show an illustration an ideal form of respect that one should give to one's parents. Not just giving precedence for a law but illustrating the responsibility of being a child. 2. The whole situation about "ervah" or "nudity," in the episode given, when studied superficially would lend to such a conclusion as Dr. Weiss has concocted. Remember the Talmud is a book of Jewish law not a novel. For what I know, this episode was given to exemplify the idea of yichud and how dangerous temptation can be. Not an abhorrence of the opposite gender. The reason for yichud is that one should not become secluded with a women for a man nor women are to be trusted to handle temptation.Both men and women are treated equal here. 3. In regards to the Sotah episode, we do everything to make sure not to go through with the process. Also there are other prerequisites that must be met before the process begins, ie the husband has to warn her and it has to be a certain amount of time etc. Now while there is a lot of pressure placed on the woman and not the man, we do see that this episode also ends with a celebration of the virtues of a modest woman. If she goes through with the process and passes, she becomes blessed and celebrated. Such an event would be known all over town. Now if you want to say Judaism is a misogynistic religion then I suggest one look at those aspects of Torah that honor woman, like the song Eishes Chayil, or "B'Zchus Nashim Tzidkaniyos Nigalu MiMitzrayim...U'Bizchusam Asid l' the merit of the righteous women we were redeemed from Egypt, and in their merit we will be redeemed from this Galus.: (Talmud Sotah 11b and Zohar) May that happen now. Thank you.
10. misogyny
bklynsoft ,   Spring Valley, NY   (03.04.14)
How come it's the ugly dogs that criticize the Talmud. For once I'd like to see someone hot write an article that denegrates the Sages. For that matter I pray for some more photogenic specimans to show up at a WOW protest at the Kotel. Presently all we get is a coupla girls showing some skin when they put tfilin on over their tank tops.
11. These are your examples?
Elon   (03.04.14)
Out of all the uncomfortable passages in the Talmud, you base your entire essay on two words in a fairly innocuous one, all things considered. Really now? Is that the best you got?
12. split #8, you are simply wrong
Jake   (03.04.14)
The first part of the Talmud, the Mishnah, was compiled in 200 CE, and was a written account of Judaism's Oral Law. The second part is the Gemara, written down around 500 CE. The parts which comprised the Babylonian Talmud (referred to in the quote mentioned here)comprise documents that were compiled between the the 3rd and 5th centuries CE. Oral traditions were adpated to realities and facts on the ground at that time. That is logical, clear, and normal.
13. Bad Article
Sammy ,   Jerusalem   (03.04.14)
Its a shame that what seems like a highly intelligent author can fail to understand the most basic interpretations of "hell" and "nudity". I suppose she is the perfect example of why the Talmud actually forbids woman from learning it!
14. Torah was written
Shmuel. L. Jackson ,   Bnei Blak   (03.04.14)
If you actually study the TenaCh, you will see that the idea of oral law is false. It is a written law that israel was committed to. On the contrary, the Torah forbids adding. This is what the Rabbis did, adding what they wanted, and destroying much of what is written in the Torah. Proof Deut 30:10 - we are only required to keep written Law. Next, the rabbis claim their alleged authority is in the Torah, but this is about the Kohen Priests, and only when you cannot resolve a local dispute. The rabbis did not accept the Sadducees who were Kohens - so they murdered them all.
15. MISOGYNY--#9
ABE ,   JERUSALEM   (03.05.14)
Kol Hakavod AD! I agree with every word u wrote!!! Dr. Ruchama Weiss is one in a long list of "scholars" who misinterpret and seek to trash the Babylonian Talmud and the great sages who composed it. The moral lessons taught in the Talmud are eternal and transcend time and the march of generations. Would that we all would adhere 2 the precepts that our 4fathers adhered 2. There will always be those who seek 2 detract from the sanctity of our ancient and holy heritage and quite often, they use "enlightened" arguments like the ones in this article.
16. Females
Disgruntled One ,   Podunk Iowa   (03.05.14)
The inanity of the general female mind-set makes them conducive to being considered as property. However, as property to be treasured and treated very well. It is for the females own good and for society in general that she be restricted to life areas conducive to her natural essence.
17. 12 - Jake ,...
split ,   US   (03.05.14)
Definition of compilation ,... 'a thing, that is put together by assembling existing previously separate items' - Now it's up to you to prove that the existing transcripts and oral stories compiled in Babylonian Talmud are not a product created during Babylonian captivity.
18. the stupid is you not the story
dvdsilva ,   berkeley. ca   (03.06.14)
just because you can't understand the meaning of something that doesn't make it stupid. There are many factors to have in mind than just the plain text, and going out of your way to find mysoginy in old text makes you the stupid.
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