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The Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies

Nov 3, 2011

Speaker: Dr. Judith Hauptman, The E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary

Location: Temple Shalom; Chevy Chase, MD

For years, scholars and laypeople alike have asserted that women in the talmudic period were relegated to housework and did not study Torah. New research about the study house (bet midrash) argues that it was not a free-standing building. Instead, a rabbi and a circle of students would discuss Torah in the rabbi’s home, courtyard, and at his table. It follows that women would overhear Torah talk. Small anecdotes appearing in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds show that occasionally women actually participated in Torah discussions, contributing comments that reflected deep knowledge of the subject at hand. Other anecdotes show that some rabbis taught Torah to their wives and daughters. In short, as patriarchal as ancient rabbinic society surely was, women were not excluded from Torah study. They learned far more than we have generally thought possible, although not as much as men.

Also co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization