Biblical Women Speak: Hearing Their Voices through New and Ancient Midrash (Paperback)

Biblical Women Speak: Hearing Their Voices through New and Ancient Midrash By Rabbi Marla J. Feldman Cover Image
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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.

About the Author

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is executive director emerita 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 For…

"Women in the Bible are often unnamed, defined sole­ly by their rela­tion­ships with oth­ers. Take Judah’s wife, for exam­ple. She is known as Bat Shua, or 'daugh­ter of Shua.' This label­ing, or lack there­of, makes it easy for sto­ries like hers to be sub­sumed by those of men. Feld­man, by con­trast, dives into these women’s sto­ries, bring­ing them to life with depth and insight. Feldman’s analy­sis of Miriam’s sto­ry is a stand­out of the book."—Jewish Book Council

"Few things are more powerful than bringing a voice to the voiceless. Biblical Women Speak is an excellent model for what bringing a voice to the voiceless can look like in the twenty-first century. Our rabbinic community will benefit from the masterful work."—CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly

"Like the traditional rabbis and commentators, [Rabbi] Feldman tells biblical verses, and midrashic commentaries, and lifts them out of their context, refashions them, and creates new understandings which can speak to us in our day."—Women in Judaism e-journal

"An inspirational book, which speaks to us of the issues of our times . . . through Jewish classical, modern and feminist lenses. . . . A masterpiece of scholarship, creativity and exquisite writing."—Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, Jerusalem Report

"A good choice for a synagogue library or a reader interested in a feminist viewpoint. The book can be used in a variety of ways. It could be a reference source for Rabbis and educators. The author's own modern midrashim can be read as short stories and used by discussion groups or book clubs to spark questioning and further delve into these biblical women's lives."—Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

"Readers looking to better understand midrash will particularly enjoy the sections on classic commentary, while those interested in new ways of understanding the text will find the contemporary midrash of interest. Biblical Women Speak would also make an excellent text for Torah discussion groups."—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Reporter

"For the most part the sages neglected these minor [female] characters or viewed them negatively. . . . Feldman brings this conversation into the modern era: She composes midrashim that turn these biblical characters into real human beings, facing problems familiar to those of women (and men) today. . . . Who deserve our attention and our respect, and who should never be cast out of our community."—Moment Magazine

"I am very impressed by the author’s creativity and in-depth understanding of her characters. . . . There are ten retellings (or stories) in this stunning collection. . . . Most of the stories focus on characters that we don’t usually think about. . . . What is most interesting to me is how she enables us to empathize with these marginal biblical women. The book is arranged meticulously and is clearly well-researched. . . . I plan to use Feldman's fascinating midrashim . . . in my future classes."—Naomi Graetz, Times of Israel blog

“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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780827615144
ISBN-10: 0827615140
Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society
Publication Date: July 1st, 2023
Pages: 242
Language: English