A Category Struggle: Source Materials Update

This past Shabbat I included a passage from one of my favorite teachers, Alicia Ostriker, in a dvar Torah. I was asked to share the bibliographic information and maybe some other resources providing women’s commentary on Torah. As a result, I decided to update my source materials. And, in the spirit of my chosen NaBloPoMo topic, I am offering here 30 such resources, with annotations:

Female Scholarship (but not particularly “feminist” or focused on women)
Feminist Scholarship on Torah
Women’s Torah Commentary
Women’s Midrash and Creative Commentary
Miscellaneous Related Resources
My Writing (shameless plug)

Please note that categories here are somewhat arbitrary and do overlap. Nor was it clear to me whom and what to include. Nehama Leibowitz, for example, is a category in herself: She’s one of the few and probably the first female scholars universally cited and taught; her work, however, is not particularly focused on female characters or themes in the Torah, and I don’t think she considered herself a feminist.

Some of these resources are treasures for me, material I that has moved me, shifted my practice or perspective. Some are included because they’re often cited or because they’re part of the whole feminist Jewish history. The list is not even trying to be comprehensive. However, if you have a resource you treasure and want to share, please post it in the comments or contact me, songeveryday at gmail.com, to share a guest blog.

Female Scholarship

Greenberg, Pamela. The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation. Forward by Susannah Heschel. NY: Bloomsbury, 2010. These unusual translations read as direct address to God, thus avoiding the issue of God’s gender and simultaneously creating a more “pray-able” text. Greenberg writes: “I didn’t set out to translate the psalms because I thought other translations were lacking in some specific way. I set out to translate the psalms, as, well, as a kind of prayer.”

Also see Greenberg’s downloadable Notes on the Psalms.

Klitsner, Judy. Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other. Jerusalem: Maggid Books/Koren, 2011. Insightful juxtapositions of bible stories, with emphasis on her “guide word” method of reading text. If one of this author’s teaching sessions comes to your area, participate! See also “Crossers-Over” and “The Disaster of Babel.”

Leibowitz, Nehama. Studies in Breishit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim [7 volume set]. Translated and adapted from the Hebrew by Aryeh Newman. Jerusalem: Elinor Library, Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education (various years). These books are sometimes entitled “New Studies in…,” with “new” meaning later than 1955-1962, when the studies were shared in mimeograph and other formats. Biographical notes on commentators cited and an introduction by Aryeh Newman appear in the Breishit [Genesis] volume. See Shoftim: Great Sources for additional details and on-lines sources.

Pardes, Ilana. The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible. Part of the Contraversions series, 2000, it is published by Univ. of California Press and is now available in paperback. Rare combination of readable and scholarly. Can’t recommend enough: read this! (See post “Bamidbar: Great Source“)

Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb. (My note on these sources is too long for this file.)
The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis. NY: Doubleday, 1996.
The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus. NY: Doubleday, 2001.
The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious. NY: Schocken, 2009.
–“Cries and Whispers: The Death of Sarah” IN Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holidays. Gail Twersky Reimer and Judith A. Kates, editors. Simon and Schuster, 1997.

Feminist Scholarship on Torah

Bach, Alice. Women in the Hebrew Bible: A Reader. NY: 1999. Includes essays on ancient Israel and goddesses as well as material on specific biblical texts. Introduction includes sections on “Feminists Changing the Rules of the Game” and “A Subversive Companion for Reading ancient Texts.” Offers an extensive bibliography, and reference notes for each essay.

Lapidus Lerner, Anne. Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash and Modern Jewish Poetry. Brandeis University Press, 2007. Very interesting and thorough resource.

Trible, Phyllis. Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. This early, oft-cited source in feminist text analysis is easy to read, text-illuminating and historically useful. The author’s training and overall framework are Christian, but her biblical readings remain within the Hebrew text. Available through GoogleBooks See also Lekh Lekha: Great Source(s).

Trible, Phyllis. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978. I remain partial to Texts of Terror (above), but this is also an influential and early feminist source.

Women’s Torah Commentary

The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, eds. Women of Reform Judaism, 2008. The translation is that of the 2005 URJ volume with some additional modifications. Commentaries are strongly, although not entirely, focused on women and on gender issues in the text. Each portion closes with poetry on related themes, “another view” and a “contemporary reflection” on issues relating to women/gender. (No haftarah — prophetic readings.) See also Study Mechitza?

Antonelli, Judith. In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah . Jason Aronson, 1995.

Elper, Ora Wiskind and Susan Handelman. Torah of the Mothers. Urim, 2000.

Goldstein, Elyse. The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions. Jewish Lights, 2000.

Reimer, Gail Twersky and Judith A. Kates, eds. Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holidays. Simon and Schuster, 1997. Some pieces focus on liturgy, some on Torah readings for the holidays. An interesting range of discussions, with lots of insights for the high holidays and year-round.

Women’s Midrash and Creative Commentary

Feigenson, Emily H., Susan Marks and Andrea L. Weiss, eds. Beginning the Journey: A Women’s Commentary on Torah. Women of Reform Judaism, 1998. [Can be obtained new from WRJ or used through ABE or Alibris, etal.] I enjoy this slim and readable volume more than the tome that succeeded it, the 2008 The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (see above). Sadly, some of the more revolutionary and useful pieces — like the ceremony for moving beyond distrust in a relationship (a creative response to parashat Naso) — did not make it into the more polished, final version.

Frankel, Ellen. The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah.. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996. (paperback: HarperCollins). A variety of “voices” — our daughters, our mothers, our bubbes, Lilith the Rebel, Beruriah the Scholar, Huldah the Preacher, and many others — create a dialogue of traditional and contemporary commentaries across the centuries. Endnotes and a bibliography encourage further study.

Orenstein, Debra and Jane Litman, eds. Lifecycles Volume 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life. Jewish Lights, 1998. An interesting mix of perspectives, creative and scholarly, with one introduction to each of the five books.

Ostriker, Alicia. The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions Rutgers Univ. Pres, 1994. Presented as a unique weave of essay and poetry, personal reflection and bible commentary — never about (simply) “giving voice to women.” When Ostriker’s women and men speak, they have something to say that profoundly alters the reader’s perspective on the text. A great book to read and re-read with Torah and later books of the bible. See also Noach: Great Sources and Korach: Great Sources, and note on ICM below.

Shunfenthal, Sheri Waas. Judybeth Greene, illustrator. Sacred Voices: Women of Genesis Speak. Pocol Press, 2000. Select pages from this book, including the illustration, “Adam and His Remote,” by Judybeth Greene, are available through Amazon.com; other illustrations are here.

A Few Miscellaneous, Somewhat Related Resources

Adler, Rachel. Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1998. (paperback, Beacon Press, 1999). This text is full of remarkable insights on Judaism, Torah, etc. — not exclusively on topics relevant to gender. It’s sometimes a slog to read (it began as a dissertation), and some of her arguments are more detailed than might interest a casual reader. But her discussion of the concept of “story,” and its importance in Judaism, e.g., is very worthwhile. Preview available at Google Books.

Hoffman, Lawrence A. Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996. Much of this book is available through Google Book preview. Very important for understanding a lot of things in Judaism, I think. Not necessarily much help on Torah commentary. See also Tazria: A Path to Follow and Metzora: Great Source

Hoshen, Dalia. Beruria the Tannait: A Theological Reading of a Female Mishnaic Scholar. University Press of America, 2007. An important resource on Beruria, as well as Rabbi Meir (husband) and Rabbi Eliezer (mentor). Not “anti-feminist” in any way, but argues that feminist readings hijacked Beruria, thus missing her real teachings. A dense, but illuminating, short book with lots of references.

Umansky, Ellen and Diane Ashton. Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook. Beacon, 1992.

My Midrashic Writing

Living Text: The Journal of the Institute for Contemporary Midrash. The sadly under-funded Institute for Contemporary Midrash served as an incubator for important explorations in Torah. I believe workshops can still be arranged (see website). I was fortunate enough to be part of a summer training program in 1998, taught by the amazing Alicia Ostriker. As a result of that program, two of my poems appeared in Living Text Volume 6. Among other fine resources in that volume are excerpts from the newly translated (winter 1999) work, Open Closed Open, by Yehuda Amichai (a bit of wonderful serendipity for me).

Schwartz, Rebecca A. All the Women Followed Her: A Collection of Writings on Miriam the Prophet & The Women of Exodus. Rikudei Miriam Press, 2001. Poetry, fiction, and essays about Miriam, Zipporah, Batya, Yocheved and Elisheva. Out-of-print but available used. See Drawing Back: Zipporah’s View for my contribution to that volume.

OpenSiddur.org — a very useful resource, BTW — includes a few of my pieces:
Occupy the Lulav
On Standing Before God-Who-Sees-Me

See also my midrash published on “A Song Every Day”.

As part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), a cousin of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), “A Song Every Day” plans thirty daily posts with some connection to the number 30.NaBloPoMo_November_blogroll_large

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages WeLuvBooks.org, blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at songeveryday.org and Rereading4Liberation.com

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