R. Johanan and Resh Lakish

The Image of God in the Study Hall – 'Masculinity' versus 'Femininity'

in European Judaism
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This article presents a new reading of the tragic end of R. Johanan and Resh Lakish (BT Bava Metzia 84a). It reviews the traditional apologetic interpretations of the narrative, as if it was meant to aggrandize these sages' devotion to the value of Torah study – before rejecting this understanding, arguing that the intent of the narrative is to present these sages in a critical light, as being repositories of knowledge, while lacking the attribute of humility. The article analyses the narrative from a gender perspective, and shows that the phallic model of the two males is surprisingly contrasted with the wife of Resh Lakish – despite her being a woman and apparently totally illiterate - as a spiritually mature model, who stands outside the exclusive club of Torah scholars.

European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe