Journal Article

Let’s Cross that Body When We Get to It: Gender and Ethnicity in Rabbinic Literature

Gwynn Kessler

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 73, issue 2, pages 329-359
Published in print June 2005 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online June 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Let’s Cross that Body When We Get to It: Gender and Ethnicity in Rabbinic Literature

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This article explores rabbinic constructions of gender and ethnicity by reading two apparently disparate biblical characters together: Mordechai and Zipporah. Zipporah and Mordechai transgress gender boundaries both in the biblical text and subsequent rabbinic traditions. In the book of Exodus (4:25), Zipporah circumcises her son, and in rabbinic literature (Gen. Rab. 30:8) Mordechai nurses Esther—his adopted daughter. Yet in rabbinic literature, a father is obligated to circumcise his son, and a mother is obligated to nurse a child. I examine rabbinic traditions concerned not only with these gender transgressions but also with Mordechai and Zipporah’s ethnic ambiguities in order to ask what might these traditions teach us about the fluidity and/or fixedness of gender and ethnicity in rabbinic literature. Finally, I explore the ways in which their gender and ethnicity are connected. In other words, I ask what are some of the “interarticulations” of gender and ethnicity played out in rabbinic literature, specifically in the textual traditions surrounding Mordechai and Zipporah.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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