Jewish women in europe in the middle ages

A quiet revolution

Author: Simha Goldin

The Jewish society that lived amongst the Christian population in medieval Europe presents a puzzle and a challenge to any historian. This book presents a study on the relationship between men and women within the Jewish society that lived among the Christian population for a period of some 350 years. The study concentrates on Germany, northern France and England from the middle of the tenth century until the middle of the second half of the fourteenth century - by which time the Christian population has had enough of the Jewish communities living among them and expels them from almost all the places they were living in. The picture portrayed by Mishnaic and talmudic literature was that basically women lived under the authority of someone else (their fathers or husbands), therefore, their status was different from that of men. Four paradigms were the outcome of research blending questions raised within the spheres of gender research and feminist theory with the research methodology of social history. These were Rashi and the 'family paradigm'; the negative male paradigm; the Hasidic paradigm; and the community paradigm. The highest level of Jewish religious expression is the performance of the mitzvot - the divine Commandments. Women were not required to perform all the Commandments, yet their desire to perform and fully experience the mitzvot extended to almost all areas of halakhah. The book also describes how the sages attempted to dictate to women the manner of their observance of mitzvot set aside for women alone.

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