A new page: 3,000 women celebrate the end of 7.5 years reading Talmud – Israel News – magviral

Posted By on January 9, 2020


The Jerusalem Convention Center lobby on Sunday looked like a strange combination of excursion and high school reunion. The room was filled with high school and religious college girls wearing hoodies and padded backpacks next to older women who looked excited. The age range was wide, as was the choice of headgear, skirt lengths and pants.

But they had all come to celebrate an event: the end of the cycle in which women read a page of Talmud every day. The end of the cycle is considered the culmination of the lives of hundreds of thousands of Talmud students around the world. There are 2,711 pages in the 37 volumes of the Talmud, and over the past century Jews have read it on a daily basis. So the cycle spans seven and a half years. The cycle starts again immediately afterwards.


Last week, around 10,000 people gathered in the arena in Jerusalem to celebrate the completion of the cycle sponsored by the Shas Partys El Hamaayan movement. A similar celebration was held by the Hasidic community at the Jerusalem Convention Center. Other Jewish communities celebrated with a common denominator only men.

But on Sunday, 3,000 women came to celebrate the revolution in womens Torah, along with a few men like Rabbi Benny Lau, among the prominent liberal voices in Orthodox Judaism, and the husbands of some female students.

The audience at an event in Jerusalem celebrates the end of the cycle of women reading a page of Talmud every day on January 5, 2020.Ohad Zwigenberg

According to the Hadran group organizers, only a few hundreds of thousands of women who attended the celebration had completed the cycle. But from their perspective, the fact that the event was held was confirmation that the students are not temporary curiosity.

These women belonged to a steadily growing circle of women who took an active part in the world of the Beit Midrash, the study room: Gemara teachers at girls schools or womens colleges, students in these institutions and women studying in their schools for leisure.

Women stayed away

For generations, the Talmud was out of reach of women, even if they could be trained and immersed in other Jewish books. Men didnt want to share their sole authority with women, said Prof. Rachel Elior to Haaretz in the past. Studying Gemara grants power, it allows you to gain the authority of a rabbi and a judge.

Michelle Cohen-Farber at the event at the Jerusalem Convention Center on January 5, 2020.Ohad Zwigenberg

An examination of the answers to questions of Jewish law in recent years shows that this is still a common attitude. In 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Ariel said: Studying Gemara with all its difficulties is not necessarily an adequate diet for her [women] and the harm can be greater than the benefit.

In the nineties Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote: The study of Gemara is not part of a womans soul, and the sages very much reject a man who teaches his daughter Torah, that is, the Gemara hair splitting.

Nobody can deny that the Gemara is full of difficulties. First, because of its language mostly Aramaic, without vowel points or punctuation. This is an associative text with its own language that can hardly be read and understood without help. Studying Gemara was a duty for men for years, and women were kept away from it. Girls learned the Mishna, a simpler text written in Hebrew, or they learned Jewish law without the trifles of the Gemara.

The seeds of the revolution began in the 1970s when Midreshet Bruria named after a Talmud woman who is famous for her scholarship began the first female counterpart to a high-ranking yeshiva in a small apartment in Jerusalem. The first students were young women from the United States who had come to Israel for their year abroad.

From then on, the trend prevailed. Such framework conditions were created for women before or after military or civilian service. The religious girls school in Pelech was the first at which girls could take an enrollment exam in this subject. According to the Ministry of Education, around 1,000 girls are taking the matriculation exam in Gemara today.

But even today the Orthodox believe that studying Gemara is only for men. The administration of religious education at the Ministry of Education, now led by a woman, held a ceremony at the end of the reading cycle in the presence of rabbis and students all men.

Feminism was not mentioned at Sundays convention center event. Instead, the organizers emphasized that this was the natural result of the chain of Torah studies in Jewish history. The audience got up and applauded the main organizer, Michelle Cohen-Farber.

In my house, she said, there are three sentences of the Talmud. One was my grandfathers when it was clear that only the man was studying. The second time my husband and I received a wedding gift, and the third time is the Talmud the future that we gave our daughter last year.


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A new page: 3,000 women celebrate the end of 7.5 years reading Talmud - Israel News - magviral

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