Jun 18, 2008

A tiny kvetch.

I just found out there's another Rashi's daughter book coming out, this time it's for children ages 9-12. It's just perpetuating this unproven myth of Rashi's daughters. I mean, sure it's empowering, but it's also falsely used all the time as a reason for various things.

Why does it rub me the wrong way so much? No clue. I mean, shouldn't I be all about woman empowerment and women studying Talmud and donning tefillin? I suppose I should. I just wish people would stop using Rashi's daughters as the almighty truth and proof of such things when there isn't a single shred of evidence that they did any of those things.

Legends and myths are powerful things. Word of mouth has given us some of the most beautiful pieces of literature and history and religion that we know. But meh. This one just irks me since no one seems to know that it's all legend and no fact.


Christopher said...

I mean, shouldn't I be all about woman empowerment and women studying Talmud and donning tefillin?

I don't know. Should you? Why?

I just wish people would stop using Rashi's daughters as the almighty truth...

Intellectual honesty here; even if it's a goal you laud, half-truths to get there means the whole thing comes unravelled if anybody discovers a half-truth.

still: that dichotomy between something you feel like you "should" be all over and how you actually feel about it, often tells you something...

peace, my friend,


maggie anton said...

While Rashi's daughters wearing tefillin is clearly a legend, one that only dates to the 18th century, there is no doubt that some women in his time did wear tefillin (see Avram Grossman's 'Pious and Rebellious' and Elisheva Baumgarten's 'Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe'), so it's possible that his daughter's actually did so. Certainly they were learned enough that they answered legal questions, particularly on women's issues (see Shoshana Zolty's 'All Your Children Shall be Learned').

chaviva said...

Maggie, I'm really glad you came to comment. I agree that there are plenty of historic documentations of women in that period donning tefillin and/or studying Talmud. However, there is a big difference between these women (even those of stature) and Rashi's daughters.

Since Rashi is one of the greatest sages in Jewish history, his life, experiences and words hold much more power than just any old Talmud/Torah scholar, wouldn't you agree? I can guarantee you that in any argument someone brings for why a woman should don tefillin, the first thing that will be mentioned is Rashi's daughters, not any other historic figures, and this is because of the reputation of Rashi and his esteem. If any Jewish woman partook, it wouldn't have the same weight or authority.

I'll be sure to explore the texts you've suggested. For quite some time I had intended on exploring Rashi's daughters, until I had really looked into it and discovered that there are scholars who have devoted their lives to uncovering some type of historical accuracy or truth to the legend without luck. You probably do not remember, but I met you when you were visiting Chicago and read at the home of a congregant of Temple Sholom, which also encouraged me to look further into the topic because as I listened to you talk, it appeared as if there was very little historical accuracy to what the book displayed (yes, I know it is a fiction, but fiction-based-on-fact does have limits with truth, I think).

Again, thank you for your comments and I will continue to write about Rashi, his daughters, and the legend for some time to come!

Mottel said...

there was the Maiden of Ludmir

Adamgv said...

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