Browsing by Subject "Talmud"

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  • von Schöneman, Katja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    The formation and development of religious interpretive tradition can be characterized as transformation through transmission. Later annotations are always built upon earlier accounts and some details are lost whereas others may be altered – in addition, material can also be added. In Jewish interpretive tradition, this can particularly be seen within rabbinic literature, and rabbinic discourse on the creation of woman does not deviate from this fundamental assumption. The biblical passages discussing human creation have been interpreted accordingly, with context-dependent and ever-changing premises, enabling explications conniving asymmetry of genders and potentially affecting the legal status of woman who has often been seen as subordinate to man based on her derivative creation from man’s rib. The present study was designed to examine the diachronic development of rabbinic interpretations on the creation of woman. The timeframe of the study is from the 5th to the 9th century, concentrating on the era of most voluminous rabbinic activity. The theoretical framework of the study can be best described as feminist critical discourse analysis as the focus of the analyses is on gender-sensitive reading of the rabbinic texts, specifically addressing the accumulation of misogynous elements along the trajectory. The texts are analyzed paying attention to the all-encompassing patriarchal ethos, taking into account both contentual and linguistic features. Based on the material analyzed in the study, the evolution of rabbinic discourse concerning the creation of woman took place in three consecutive discursive stages. The writings of the first one of them (5th century) comprises Genesis Rabba and Leviticus Rabba, well-known pieces of early exegesis to the Hebrew Bible, establishing the corpus of rabbinic traditions as the basis of rabbinic interpretations on the creation of woman. In spite of the rabbis’ efforts to harmonize the two different biblical creation narratives, the creation of genders is understood as two consecutive events. Dubious characteristics and indigenous feebleness of women are, among others, related to the creation of Eve. Further-more, man has to subjugate his wife and confine her indoors, as her role is mainly domestic and ornamental.  The next discursive stage of rabbinic writings (6th century) was examined through an ample set of traditions collected into the gigantic compilation of Babylonian Talmud, reinforcing the previous traditions. Linguistic features of the biblical account on Eve’s creation – perhaps from a face or a tail of Adam – are used to explain her basic shape, ideal for bearing a child. Eve is needed to serve as a handmaid, but women are also acknowledged for their entertaining potential. Owning a wife is parallelized with possessing land. The third discursive stage, examined through four different kinds of rabbinic writings – Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, and Alphabet of Ben Sira – compiled during the 7th–9th centuries, is characterized as expanding the earlier interpretive tradition. According to these augmentations, Eve was made out of Adam’s thirteenth rib and flesh from his heart. The creation narrative is used to attest sexual exploitation of women, interpreted as bad-tempered and fast-aging, among other frailties. Adam, however, had two wives – and his first wife, Lilith, offers a distinctive solution to the classical exegetic problem caused by the two different biblical accounts on human creation. Furthermore, her story teaches women that demanding equality can have serious consequences as she, herself, became a devil who loses a hundred of her own children on a daily basis.