“And I Find a Wife More Bitter Than Death” (Eccl 7:26): Feminist Hermeneutics, Women’s Midrashim, and the Boundaries of Acceptance in Modern Orthodox Judaism
This article joins the new interest in a feminist hermeneutics of scripture featured in this journal in 2014 and contributes new insights about the status of feminist hermeneutics in patriarchal traditions through the prism of Modern Orthodox Jewish feminism. Through analyzing contemporary Jewish Modern Orthodox feminist midrashim, Irshai seeks to understand why some contemporary Orthodox rabbis dismiss feminist interpretation as anomalous and illegitimate. Why are radical feminist midrashic interpretations judged inadmissible, even when they follow all the established hermeneutical rules of traditional rabbinic interpretation? Is it just the very fact of female authorship (in other words, a matter of power and hierarchy)? After all, the Jewish hermeneutical tradition is replete with deep controversies and conflicting stances, yet the prevailing rabbinic principle is that “both these and those are the words of the living God.” One of the answers the article suggests is that radical feminist midrash is problematic (for Orthodox establishment readers) because it does not try to link its critique to voices within the tradition that can support and sustain the values it speaks for.
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