Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Talmud on acquiring women

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: On the Acquisition of Women. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis parse the betrothal of Jewish couples under the patriarchy. Plus: Is sex really sex if it doesn’t go all the way?
The first words of the mishna are “A woman is acquired,” which might seem to make betrothal equivalent to the purchase of a slave or a piece of land: In all these cases, the man is gaining ownership of something. Yet things are not so simple, as the Gemara goes on to explain when it examines the language of the mishna. Why, the rabbis ask, does the mishna state “a woman is acquired,” rather than “a man betroths”? In the Talmud, the exact choice of words is always critical; there is always a conscious reason why the tannaim put things one way rather than another.
The world of antiquity had very different, often shockingly different, standards from those of the twenty-first century, not least regarding the status of women. That said, the Talmud's standards for protecting the rights and well-being of women were comparatively high in the context of the ancient world. Some related thoughts are here and links.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.