Thursday, March 17, 2016

Anton, Fifty Shades of Talmud

OKAY, I GUESS SOMEONE HAD TO DO THIS: Sex in the Talmud uncovered in different ‘Shades’ (Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal).
In “Fifty Shades of Talmud: What the First Rabbis Had to Say About You-Know-What” (Banot Press), Anton draws on her own deep knowledge of Jewish history and writing, as well as her sly sense of humor, to open our eyes to “texts that sound more like they belong in a locker room than in a seminary.” The irony that suffuses her book is spoken aloud: “[A]ccording to the Torah … a Jewish man is both obligated to have sex, under certain circumstances, and forbidden to have sex, under other circumstances,” she explains. “This means the talmudic rabbis had to use their prodigious intellects to determine those precise circumstances — how, when, where, with whom?”

Of course, this is hardly the first time that Anton has pushed the envelope on matters of gender in Jewish tradition. She is beloved by her many readers for the award-winning novels in the “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy and, more recently, the “Rav Hisda’s Daughter” series, both of which extract the mostly hidden female offspring of ancient Jewish sages from obscurity and bring them fully and dramatically to life on the printed page.
And given that someone had to do it, I guess I'm glad it's Maggie Anton and not someone else. I have been following stories on her novels for the last decade, and she does seem to have made it her business to become well informed on such matters. For past posts on her novels, see here and follow the links. For more on the Hebrew words for penis and vagina (the question of which, not surprisingly, come up in this review), follow the links.