Biblical Women Speak

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Biblical Women Speak

Hearing Their Voices through New and Ancient Midrash

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

264 pages
1 appendix, 1 glossary

Paperback

July 2023

978-0-8276-1514-4

$26.95 Pre-order

About the Book

What were biblical women thinking and doing when the men around them received all the attention and glory? How did Leah, Rachel, and their handmaids negotiate the complicated family dynamics of four women vying for Jacob’s affections? What compelled Potiphar’s wife to risk her high station to seduce Joseph, an enslaved foreigner? How did the midwives and Pharoah’s daughter conspire to rescue baby Moses, right under Pharoah’s nose?

Biblical Women Speak employs midrash (interpretative techniques) to discover ten biblical women’s stories from a female point of view and provide insights beyond how ancient male scholars viewed them. Each chapter brings alive a different biblical woman, including non-Israelite characters and others who are neglected in classical rabbinic texts, such as Keturah (Abraham’s last wife), Bat Shuah (Judah’s wife), Shelomith (the infamous blasphemer’s mother), and Noah (one of Zelophehad’s brave daughters who demanded inheritance rights). After each featured text we hear a creative retelling of the woman’s story in her own voice, followed by traditional midrash and medieval commentaries and the author’s reflections on how these tales and interpretations are relevant for today.

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman’s book is an engaging invitation to enter biblical narratives, challenge conventional wisdom, and recalibrate the stories and lessons through the lens of our own lives.

Author Bio

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is the executive director of Women of Reform Judaism. She has published numerous articles about the role of women in Jewish life and social justice issues, and her modern midrashim have appeared in several collections. She is the author of Reform Movement action manuals, including Speak Truth to Power.

Praise

“Meeting these new role models of Jewish womanhood—some famous, others voiceless or infamous and nameless in the Torah—left me both enlightened and delighted. Reading the biblical text, rabbinic commentary, modern midrash, and Rabbi Feldman’s contemporary commentary illuminated four dimensions of these remarkable women.”—Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters

“Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is a marvelous teacher, and in Biblical Women Speak she proves to also be a weaver of ancient, modern, and original texts that give voice to women of the Bible who were often ignored or nameless, filling a void that has existed for centuries. Accessible for both beginner and advanced students, Biblical Women Speak should be required in any class of midrash.”—Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, executive director, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

“Rabbi Marla Feldman has created a dynamic and compelling conversation among the generations. Both individuals and groups will admire her captivating modern midrashic interpretations and her expert navigation of traditional texts. Feldman shows us how fresh and relevant our sacred tradition can be!”—Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, executive director, Women’s Rabbinic Network

“Rabbi Marla Feldman has added an imaginative, insightful contribution to our collective Jewish library. As she creatively gives voice to both familiar and lesser-known female biblical characters, she shows why their stories matter for us as contemporary readers.”—Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
 
1. Keturah: Abraham’s Last Wife
            Biblical Text: Genesis 25:1–6
            Modern Midrash: Keturah, The Great Mother of Many Generations
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Devoted Wife or Concubine?
            Author’s Commentary: Keturah’s Missing Story—Filling in the Blanks
 
2. Leah and Rachel: Devoted Sisters and Bitter Rivals
            Biblical Text: Genesis 35:16–21
            Modern Midrash: Leah’s Eulogy
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Sisters, Wives, Rivals, and Matriarchs
            Author’s Commentary: A Tale of Two Sisters
 
3.  Bat Shua: Judah’s Unnamed Wife
            Biblical Text: Genesis 38:1–12
            Modern Midrash: The Woman Who Mourns
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Judah’s Family Misfortune
            Author’s Commentary: Bat Shua’s Tragic Tale of Lust and Loss
 
4. Bilhah: The Loving Handmaid
            Biblical Text: Genesis 50:15–17
            Modern Midrash: A Letter to My Beloved Son Joseph
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Bilhah the Servant, Sister, Surrogate, Spouse
            Author’s Commentary: Emissary of Forgiveness
 
5. Pharaoh’s Daughters, Part 1: Potiphar’s Unnamed Wife
            Biblical Text: Genesis 39:1–19
            Modern Midrash: Zuleikha, the Prison Mistress
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Potiphar’s Wife in the Joseph Narrative
            Author’s Commentary: A Name and Narrative for Potiphar’s Wife
 
6. Pharaoh’s Daughters, Part 2: Puah, Shiphrah, and the Sacred Sisterhood
            Biblical Text: Exodus 1:8–22
            Modern Midrash: The Sacred Sisterhood
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: The Subversive Midwives
            Author’s Commentary: The Midwives’ Tale
 
7. Pharaoh’s Daughters, Part 3: The Princess and the Slave Girl Who Rescue Moses
            Biblical Text: Exodus 2:1–9
            Modern Midrash: Amat-Bat-Ra, the Servant Savior
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Princess, Protector, Prophet
            Author’s Commentary: A Conspiracy of Women
 
8. Shelomith Bat Dibri: The Blasphemer’s Mother
            Biblical Text: Leviticus 24:10–14
            Modern Midrash: Testament of Shelomith
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: The Biblical Tale of the Blasphemer
            Author’s Commentary: A Mother’s Anguish
 
9. Miriam: Exiled by God, Dwelling beyond the Camp
            Biblical Text: Numbers 12:1–16
            Modern Midrash: Miriam’s Fringes
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Crime and Punishment
            Author’s Commentary: Outcasts and Angels
 
10. Noah: Daughter of Zelophehad
            Biblical Text: Numbers 27:1–8, 36:1–12
            Modern Midrash: Noah and Elishama—A Love Story
            Classical Commentary and Midrash: Five Righteous Women
            Author’s Commentary: Rights Given and Taken Away
 
Appendix: Overview of Midrash
Glossary of Classical Sources
Notes
Bibliography
 

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