Article

Jewish Traditions About Women and Gender Roles: From Rabbinic Teachings to Medieval Practice

Judith Baskin

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online January 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199582174.013.019

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Jewish Traditions About Women and Gender Roles: From Rabbinic Teachings to Medieval Practice

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Medieval Jewish attitudes about women's capacities, appropriate activities, and legal relationships with men emerged from the androcentric literature of the rabbinic movement (first seven centuries CE). While differences in customs developed in Spain (Sepharad), Western and Central Europe (Ashkenaz), and the Muslim Middle East and North Africa, rabbinic legislation ensured similar gender expectations and female exclusion from central roles in public worship and study and communal leadership in each milieu. Marriage contracts provided women with financial support following divorce or a husband's death. Prohibited from initiating divorce, some women found legal ways to leave untenable marriages. Economically successful women supported their households and sometimes used their wealth to enhance their communal roles and religious status. Many authors followed rabbinic precedent in defining women as sources of sexual temptation and ritual pollution. Mystics elevated marital sexuality as a model of divine communion, but demonization of the menstruant effectively excluded women from mystical circles.

Keywords: rabbinic movement; Talmud; Cairo Genizah; ritual bath (mikveh); Sepharad; Ashkenaz; menstruant (niddah); marriage contract (ketubbah); mysticism; Shekhinah

Article.  8269 words. 

Subjects: History ; Gender and Sexuality ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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