Between Torah and Hellenism: Rabbinic contours of paternal duties vis-a-vis daughters in Late Antiquity

  • Veranstaltungsdetails
  • 29.04.2022, 18:15 Uhr - 19:45 Uhr 
  • Ort: Raum D 2006, Universitätsstraße 10, 86159 Augsburg
  • Veranstalter: Prof. Dr. Natascha Sojc (Klassische Archäologie), Prof. Dr. Gregor Weber (Alte Geschichte)
  • Themenbereiche: Politik und Gesellschaft, Sprache, Literatur und Geschichte, Geschichte
  • Veranstaltungsreihe: Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium
  • Vortragsreihe
  • Vortragende: Prof. em. Dr. Hagith Sivan (The University of Kansas)

The lecture series Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium starts with a talk by Prof. em. Dr. Hagith Sivan. She will focus on the concepts surrounding the education of girls and women in the rabbinic tradition.


Rabbinic writings are quite clear about transgenerational transmission of knowledge, in its broadest sense, from fathers to sons. Paternal responsibilities include teaching sons the Torah and an income-bearing profession, finding a match and even teaching boys how to swim. The centrality of the Torah in the Jewish lifecycle and transgenerational transmission of religious knowledge, so clearly outlined in an all-male framework, has proven a bone of rabbinic contention when dealing with male-female sharing of knowledge acquired solely through education. The rare glimpses into rabbinic discussions regarding the education and educability of girls outline two foundational contradictions: should fathers teach their daughters Greek, or not? How far does paternal responsibility extend to ensuring the familiarity of daughters with the Torah, particularly with the section dealing with suspected adultery? In fact, all corpuses of late ancient rabbinic writings, the Mishnah, Tosefta and the Talmuds, contain an entire order dedicated to matters bearing on a female Jew (Nashim). Its components range from rules relating to widowhood, marriage contracts, vows, asceticism, suspected adultery, divorce and betrothal. The tractate which relates most intimately to the female body, specifically to menstruation (Niddah), belongs to the order of Purities (Toharot). This curious binary of body/society reflects the ambiguity surrounding the education and educability of girls against the background of an overwhelming concern regarding purity in rabbinic ideology of girlhood. We may also ask to what extent were the subjects of these erudite rabbinic reflections, namely the girls/women themselves, familiar with the niceties of such legal webs. My talk focuses on the curious, perhaps even ironic, debates regarding two poles of rabbinic contours of transgenerational knowledge: Torah and Greek. Besides examining the rabbinic proponents of each side, those espousing and those opposing the acquisition of Greek, I analyze the familial and communal contexts in which contradictory opinions regarding the female mind were articulated. I am also asking how these discussions reflect rabbinic concepts of the manner of transmitting to girls a palate of traditional values so vital to female Jewish identity.

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