Women And Mitzvot: Menstruation And The Education Of Women

1476 words - 6 pages

The realities about menstrual or sexual prohibitions and education are issues that are very gendered. The lives of all Jews regardless of gender is guided and controlled by mitzvot, which is equally applied to both genders. Though this is true there are two specific mitzvot that will be focused on that of menstruation and the education of women.
In regards to the impurity of menstruation is an area in which a change from biblical to rabbinic law happens (Wasserfall pg. 60). Holiness Code in Leviticus twice states the absolute prohibition of sexual intercourse of a married couple while the wife has her menstrual period (Wasserfall pg.60). This innovation is the invention of the rabbi as an expert on menstrual blood, as the authority to be consulted by women thus displacing women as authorities over their own bodies (Wasserfall pg. 61).
In the story of Yalta she brought the blood before Rabbah bar bar Hana and he declared it impure (Wasserfall pg.62). Instead of stopping there she consults a second rabbi Rav Yizhaq, who declares it to be “pure” (Wasserfall pg.62). Leviticus, chapter 15, defines menstrual bleeding by a simple time line, which a woman has a fixed menstrual period, that is presumed to occur regularly (Wasserfall pg.62). If she bleeds during that period, she is considered to have her menstruation and is in a status of ritual impurity for seven days, regardless of how long she bleeds (Wasserfall pg.62). Any bleeding beyond this fixed period or any bleeding for several days outside this period constitutes the abnormal impurity of what is called a zavah (Wasserfall pg.62). During this time of zavah or ritual impurity this state remains until the bleeding has stopped. The abnormality is marked by adding a waiting period of seven days without any discharge before the woman can perform purification rituals (Wasserfall pg.63).
The Mishnah discusses various criteria, such as the exact location of the stain in relation to the woman, its shape, and its size (Wasserfall pg.67). The fact that in the Mishnah, the founding rabbinic text on menstruation, women are represented as consulting the rabbis and the rabbis are already staged as gynecologists, as authoritative interpreters of women's bodies (Wasserfall pg.67). In contrast to the women, who are staged as the object of the rabbis' interpretation (Wasserfall pg.67).
In the Mishnah women, slaves, and minors are exempt from reciting the Shema and from putting on phylacteries, but they are subject to the obligations of prayer, and mezuzah, and grace after meals (Biale pg.17). Although women do not have the same legal status as minors and slaves, they are grouped together in this passage because they share a secondary role in ritual life (Biale pg.18).
The reading of the Megillah touches on another important aspect of the participation of women in public worship: their role in the weekly reading of the Torah (Biale pg.24). Since the reading of the Torah is clearly a...

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