Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender
Perhaps more than any other aspect of rabbinic literature, the laws about and discussions of menstruation have polarized current discussions of gender relations in Jewish culture. Is the designated impurity of menstruation sexist? Or does ritual absence from sex during menstruation encourage a rhythmic reaffirmation of conjugal intimacy?
This book offers a new perspective on the extensive rabbinic discussions of menstrual impurity, female physiology, and anatomy, and on the social and religious institutions those discussions engendered. It analyzes the functions of these discussions within the larger textual world of rabbinic literature and in the context of Jewish and Christian culture in late antiquity.
How did gender work how was it made to work in rabbinic literature? How did that literature dictate the place of women in Jewish culture? In search of answers to these questions, the author analyzes the architectural metaphors deployed to describe female anatomy, arguing that this discursive construction operated culturally to associate women with the home and exclude them from rabbinic study halls.
The author shows that rabbinic discourse is not completely controlled by rabbinic ideology, however. She analyzes talmudic discussions that allow alternative gender perspectives to emerge, indicating that women and their bodies were not completely objectified. This suggests that the Babylonian Talmud does not present a completely homogeneous gender structure, but contains a number of different, sometimes contradictory, possibilities.
The book concludes with a study of early Christian texts that relate to the same biblical laws on menstrual impurity as rabbinic texts, focusing in particular on a Jewish-Christian text in which the anonymous author polemicizes against Jewish women converts who remain attached to the biblical laws. This text allows us to reconstruct women s perspectives on the inscription of religious meaning onto their bodies and physiological processes.
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Abaye Abaye's mother according androcentric Aqiva argues argument authority Babylonian Talmud baptism baraita baraitot biblical text bleeding blood-flow bloodstain bNid Boyarin century chapter circumcision cited claim conceptual concerning considered context Didascalia discharge discourse examination female body feminist gemara gender genital girl Greco-Roman Greek gynecological literature halakhic hermeneutic Hippocratic historical Holy Spirit husband interpretation Jesus Jewish culture Jews Judaism late antiquity Leviticus male meaning menarche menstrual blood menstrual impurity menstrual period menstrual separation metaphor miqveh Mishnah mishnaic mNid narrative Nega'im observance Palestinian Talmud practice principle prohibition question rabbinic culture rabbinic discussions rabbinic literature rabbinic texts Rashi Rav Ashi reading reference retroactive rhetorical ritual sexual relations Shabbat Shammai Shmu'el's midrash status of impurity status of purity story sugyah talmudic discussions talmudic literature tannaitic Temple term textual tion tNid Torah Tosafot Tosefta touch Tractate Niddah tradition verse virginity Voobus woman women women's bodies writes Yalta
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