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Beruryah

BERURYAH

BERURYAH (second century ce), one of the few famous women in rabbinic Judaism of late antiquity. Rabbinic tradition states that she was the daughter of ananyah ben Teradyon, and the wife of Meʾir.

In rabbinic sources Beruryah appears several times among the scholars who reestablished the Sanhedrin in the Galilean town of Usha after the Bar Kokhba Revolt. She is mentioned twice in the Tosefta (in Tosefta, Kelim, Bavaʾ Metsiʿaʾ 1.6 by name and in Tosefta, Kelim, Bavaʾ Qammaʾ 4.17 as the daughter of ananyah ben Teradyon) and seven times in the Babylonian Talmud.

Beruryah's contemporary importance lies in her prominence as one of the only female scholars accepted in the male-dominated rabbinic culture. David Goodblatt (1977) believes that Beruryah exemplifies the possibility, though quite uncommon, that a woman might receive formal education within rabbinic society. Goodblatt argues, however, that the traditions that ascribe rabbinic learning to Beruryah appear to be late accounts that do not reflect the situation in Roman Palestine, where Beruryah is said to have lived, but rather the situation in Sasanid Baylonia, where the traditions were formulated during the process of Talmudic com-pilation.

Whether historical or not, rabbinic tradition portrays Beruryah as a sensitive yet assertive figure. The Talmud recounts anecdotes illustrating her piety, compassion, and wit. In one source she admonishes her husband Meʾir not to be angry with his enemies and not to pray for their deaths. Instead, she suggests, he should pray that their sins cease and that they repent (B.T., Ber. 10a). When two of her sons died one Sabbath she delayed telling her husband until Saturday night when he had finished observing the Sabbath in peace (Midrash Mishlei on Prv. 31:10). The Talmud also recounts Beruryah's sharp tongue. When Yose the Galilean asked her for directions on the road she derided him for speaking too much with a woman (B.T., ʿEruv. 53b).

The drama of her life climaxes in the so-called Beruryah Incident. A story preserved by the eleventh-century exegete Rashi (in his commentary to B.T., ʿA.Z. 18b) says that Beruryah mocked a misogynistic rabbinic tradition that labeled women as flighty. To test her own constancy, Meʾir sent one of his students to tempt her to commit adultery. According to the legend, she committed suicide after submitting to the student's advances.

Bibliography

David M. Goodblatt, in "The Beruriah Traditions," in Persons and Institutions in Early Rabbinic Judaism, edited by William S. Green (Missoula, Mont., 1977), pp. 207229, translates and analyzes all the materials relating to Beruryah in rabbinic literature.

New Sources

Bacon, Brenda. "How Shall We Tell the Story of Beruriah's End?" Nashim 5 (2002): 31239.

Tzvee Zahavy (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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