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Distributed for Brandeis University Press


Contemporary Women’s Midrash

With a Foreword by Tamar Kadari

Distributed for Brandeis University Press


Contemporary Women’s Midrash

With a Foreword by Tamar Kadari
A unique compilation of contemporary women’s midrashim.
Dirshuni: Contemporary Women’s Midrash, is the first-ever English edition of a historic collection of midrashim composed by Israeli women, which has been long-anticipated by multiple American audiences, including synagogues, rabbinical seminaries, adult learning programs, Jewish educators, and scholars of gender and religion. Using the classical forms developed by the ancient rabbis, the contributors express their religious and moral thought and experience through innovative interpretations of scripture. The women writers, from all denominations and beyond, of all political stripes and ethnic backgrounds, contribute their Torah to fill the missing half of the sacred Jewish bookshelf. This book reflects dramatic changes in the agency of women in the world of religious writings. The volume features a comprehensive introduction to Midrash for the uninitiated reader by the distinguished scholar Tamar Kadari and extensive annotation and commentary by Tamar Biala.

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"Dirshu­ni is a step for­ward; it carves out a place for con­tem­po­rary women to see them­selves in the sacred texts. It focus­es on the courage, the heart­break, and the fight of bib­li­cal women — and it brings them to life. ... What would Judaism look like if women had been read­ing, study­ing, inter­pret­ing, and com­ment­ing on our sacred texts all this time? Dirshu­ni gives us a glimpse of that, and the view is spectacular."

Jewish Book Council

"Biala’s anthology together puts the writers in conversation across time. “Dirshuni” (Amos 5: 4) means “seek me” and this book fulfills its title’s promise."

Association of Jewish Libraries

"Jerusalem-based author and teacher Tamar Biala birthed a contemporary oeuvre of midrashim that could legitimately stand alongside those of the ancient rabbis in their canon of Midrash. With a capital M. Biala... collected contemporary midrashim written by a group of exceptional Israeli women. Curated in anthology form, unadorned, these luminous pieces addressed the needs and truths of the female half of the world....Not only is the world of Dirshuni now available to English-language readers, but there is a new twist: Biala has added framing and commentaries to each piece."

Jerusalem Post

"Dirshuni is the long-anticipated English edition of a collection of midrash composed by Israeli women. Scholars will relish the book’s nuances, it is the less experienced Torah student who will learn most from this wealth of new insights into the tradition."

Moment Magazine

Dirshuni is powerful, playful, joyful and sometimes painful. Its words and insights will be making many ‘guest appearances’ in my sermons and teaching in the coming year. . . . Get a copy of Dirshuni. As we begin a new cycle of Torah for the year, it should be at your side—for your own learning and teaching. It will yield numerous insights. With a solemn caveat: Don’t lend it out. You might never see it again.”

Religion News Service

“I hope that the writings in this collection will be part of our conversation, and that we will be better able to ‘listen to her voice.’” 

The Jewish News of Northern California

“How thrilling to have this rich collection of women’s midrashim in our hands. The melding of scholarship, deep insight, and creativity in this brilliantly edited volume yields fresh new feminist perspectives on classical Jewish tradition. We are truly blessed to have this resource for understanding biblical texts and rabbinic commentaries.”

Marcia Falk, author of Night of Beginnings: A Passover Haggadah

“Opinions regarding the practical conclusions to be drawn from the innovative readings of sacred history offered here will no doubt differ widely, ranging from demand for inclusion in the canon to dismissal as heresy. Either way, the jolt that these feminist midrashim present to traditional sensibilities, highlighting and imaginatively amplifying upon the lacunae of distinctly male perspectives, will leave readers with much food for thought.”

Tamar Ross, author of Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism

“Those familiar with feminist midrash primarily in the U.S. context will be surprised and delighted with the richness, range, and erudition of this collection by Israeli women. The conversations with and reworkings of traditional texts are consistently thought-provoking, sometimes brilliant, and always carefully explained. This is an exciting addition to the body of feminist commentary available in English.”

Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective

“Part classical midrash, short story, poetry and social commentary, these midrashim are a new genre, a treasure to cherish. These voices and texts are bound to leave each student moved and changed.”

Rabbi Avi Killip, Hadar

"A long-overdue expansion of the sacred Jewish library following centuries of patriarchal hegemony, exclusion and injustice. The texts’ profound insights result from the encounter between the authors' lived experience, their creativity, and Torah study. This volume belongs in every Jewish library, in our homes, our schools, and our synagogues."

Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, NYC

"In its 2 slim Hebrew volumes, Dirshuni changed the study of Rabbinic midrash for those fortunate enough to grasp the brilliance, expert knowledge and exquisite language that pays homage to while shattering traditional midrash. Now the English reader has the opportunity to study these masterpieces and to find their own voice in our tradition."

Rabbanit Devorah Zlochower, Yeshivat Maharat

Table of Contents

The Enchanted World of Midrash and its Unexpected Return in Recent Generations – Tamar Kadari

The Road to Women’s Midrash – Tamar Biala

Translators’ Notes

Part I: Creation of the World
Miscarriage and Creation – Tamar Biala
This One Will Be Called Woman – Miri Westreich
And Your Desire Will Be for Your Man – Rivkah Lubitch
And He Will Rule Over You – Dana Pulver
Why Was it Given to Her – Tamar Bitton
The Ever-Turning Sword – Tamar Biala

Part II: Matriarchs and Patriarchs
The Tears of Salt – Ruti Timor
Sarah’s Trials – Naama Eldar
Sarah and the Sacrifice of Isaac – Rivkah Lubitch
Stirrings – Bilha Kritzer Ariha
And Where Was Sarah? – Tamar Biala
In the Presence of His Wife – Hagit Rappel
And Dinah Went Out – Rivkah Lubitch
The Daughter of Dinah – Ayala Tzruya
Let Your House Be Open Wide – Hagit Bartov

Part III: Exodus
The Midwives Saw and Feared – Orna Pilz
Bitya, The Daughter of God – Gili Zivan
The Giving of the Ten Commandments – Tamar Biala

Part IV: Israel in the Desert
Daughters of Tzelophchad – Rivkah Lubitch
Death by a Kiss: Miriam’s Passing – Tamar Biala

Part V: Prophets and Writings
Tanot, Jephthah’s Daughter – Rivkah Lubitch
I Will Build You Up Again – Yael Levin
A Woman of Valor – Adi Blut

Part VI: Sexuality, Love, and Marriage
More Bitter than Death – Rivkah Lubitch
After Twenty-Four Years – Rivkah Lubitch
For Love is as Fierce as Death – Tamar Biala
The Ways of Marriage – Avital Hochstein
One Who Did Not Find a Wife – Yael Unterman
And Eve Knew – Efrat Garber-Aran

Part VII: Fertility and Parenthood
Seven Clean Days – Etti Romm
He Supports the Fallen – Nehama Weingarten-Mintz
The Blessing for Breastfeeding – Efrat Garber-Aran
All the Mitzvot for the Son and the Daughter – Naama Shaked
Daughters of The Place – Hila Unna

Part VIII: Rape and Incest
And Now be Silent – Tirza Barmatz-Stein
The Father’s Scream: Concealing and Revealing – Oshrat Shoham
The Mother’s Scream: Uncovering and Expulsion – Oshrat Shoham
The Woman’s Scream: Cover-Up and Tikkun – Oshrat Shoham

Part IX: Inequality in Jewish Law and in the Rabbinic Court
The Assembly of God – Rivka Lubitch
Rachel, A Mother of Mamzerim – Rivka Lubitch
Moses Visits Beruriah’s Beit Midrash – Rivka Lubitch
The Refused Woman – Rivkah Lubitch
Jamila the Objector – Rivka Lubitch
Vows – Rivkah Lubitch

Part XI: Post-Holocaust Theology
A Raven and a Dove – Tamar Biala
The Shepherd in the Lilies – Dini Deutsch Frankel

Part XII: Holidays
Prayer for Rain (Tefillat HaGeshem) – Ruth Gan Kagan
The Four Daughters – Einat Ramon
The Love of Ruth and Naomi – Yael Oryan and Ziva Ofek
Ruth, Who Interpreted – Yael Unterman


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