Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rashi's Daughters: Joheved - Myths and Facts, Part II

Part I is here - please read it first.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of errors I found in Rashi's Daughters, Book I: Joheved. It is not comprehensive because there were many items I felt were probably incorrect, but I lacked the time or resources to fact-check. I have only included those items I was able to verify as errors. The parentheses include the page number in Rashi’s Daughters Book I: Joheved. The brackets include notes as well as the sources showing the errors.

Frankly, the specific items listed here don't bother me much; I am including them only because I did the research and want something to show for several hours of work. The more troubling items are the ones I included in Part I.

Unfounded practices
• Emphasis on demonology doesn’t fit the fact that Rashi doesn’t discuss it much in Responsa or in Vitry

• Use of translations during Torah reading (pg. 11, 79) [Tosafot Megilah 23b says they didn’t use translators]

• Reciting Shehechiyanu at the birth of a child (pg. 17, 347)

• Reading Sefer Chashmonaim [Book of Maccabees] in shul on Shabbat Chanukah (pg. 95)

• Tzidduk haDin every day of Shivah (pg. 167)

• No meat/wine during Shivah (pg. 168)

• No Shivah for a death which occurs during Yom Tov (pg. 178) [shivah simply begins after Yom Tov is over]

• Not visiting the same grave twice in one day (pg. 185)

• Gambling, cardplaying (pg. 190) [doesn’t show up in Jewish European life until the 15th century]

• Making noise for Haman in the Megilah (pg 190) [first found in 14th century sources]

Explanations of Jewish practices which don’t match Rashi’s own explanations
• Refraining from work while the menorah is lit (pg. 94) is not because of women’s role in the miracle, but rather to highlight that one may not use the candles to illuminate work

• Using nice shrouds (pg. 166, 295) is not out of concern for embarrassment in the next world; Berachot 18a only says that the soul there cannot leave the grave because the body was buried in a reed mat.

• Sniffing earth, tearing grass at a funeral (pg. 167) is not to permit the soul to leave, but to echo verses about a person being as grass and dust, per Rashi in Vitry 279-280

• The idea that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden because of Adam’s ingratitude for Eve (pg 321) doesn’t match Bereishit, or Rashi there

Practices which are contradicted by clear sources
• Not starting new ventures on certain days of the week (pg. 27, 39) [Rashi Vayyikra 19:26]

• Rashi wears tefillin his right hand, but also lifts his right hand to hit, indicating he is a righty (pg. 41)

• Wearing a red ribbon to deflect the evil eye (pg. 70 and later) [Tosefta Shabbat 7:11]

• Eating squash/beet/leek on Rosh haShanah (pg. 71) [Machzor Vitry 323 specifies other foods: red apples, white grapes, white figs and lamb heads]

• Trying to find a hive and get honey on Shabbat (pg. 121) [Shabbat 95a]

• Collecting Ketubah before yibbum (pg. 127) [Yevamot 87b]

• Eved Ivri in Rashi’s day (pg. 130) [Erchin 29a]

• Holding a Purim celebration in a house of mourning (pg. 186)

• Holding a feast on Purim night before Megilah reading (pg. 189) [Tosefta Shabbat 1:7]

• Reading the Ketubah aloud during a wedding (pg 221) [Vitry 476]

• Leaving the Chuppah for Sheva Berachot (pg 221) [Vitry 476]

• Gathering shards from the broken glass after a Chuppah (pg 221) [Vitry 476]

• Permitting a couple to each other after their initial marital act (pg 229-230) [Vitry 466]

• Abortion for non-Jews (pg 314) [Sanhedrin 91]

• Laxity in men-women interactions (such as pg. 210) [Shabbat 64b, Vitry 528]

• Cheating taxes [Bava Kama 113a]

• Teaching Torah to the Abbot [Sanhedrin 59a]

• Students go to prostitutes [Likkutei haPardes meiRashi 3b]

• Raunchy singing and general loose speech re: sexuality (pg. 195, 224) [Ketuvot 8b]

• “Euphemisms for sexual acts are for children” (pg. 214) [Yevamot 103a]

• Publicly identifying who is using the mikvah on a particular night (pg. 215) [Eruvin 55b]

• Daylight cohabitation (pg. 288) [Shabbat 86a]

• Watching animals mate (pg. 290) [Avodah Zarah 20b]

Non-Rashi sources are put into Rashi’s mouth
• The institution of having families give the money from Kapparot to families, instead of the birds, as well as the complaint against having the needy people receive birds “filled with sins” (pg. 72) - Actually from Maharil Erev Yom Tov #2

• Women’s exemption from time-bound mitzvot are “because their time belongs to their husbands” (pg. 136) - That’s R’ Yaakov Anatoli in his Melamed haTalmidim

• Rashi is listed as cutting his nails in a particular order (pg. 179) which actually appears first in Avudraham

• Rashi says he can’t study Kabbalah until he is 40 years old (pg. 260) but that doesn't show up until the Shach to Yoreh Deah 246:6 - some 500 years later

• Rashi is quoted as saying that the prohibition against teaching one’s daughter applies uniquely to secrets of Torah (pg. 340) This is a direct quote from Sefer Chasidim 313, which wasn’t written until 100 years after Rashi’s time, in Germany

• Rashi is quoted as adding that if women’s hearts draw them to learn, they should be taught (pg 341), in a direct quote from the 16th century Maayan Ganim of R’ Shemuel Arkevolty

• Labelling “Original Sin” part of the mystical tradition of “Maaseh Bereishit” (pg 183) [Chagigah 11-13]

• “Rabbis in Tractate Megillah complain about licentiousness at Purim time” (pg. 199) [not found in Tractate Megillah]

• Confuses "Erusin" with betrothal (pg. 199); "Erusin" happens with the presentation of a ring at the wedding (pg. 221)

• Identifying “Honor your parents” as the fourth commandment (pg 208)

• Saying that Arayot may not be studied with less than 2 students (pg 213) [Chagigah 11b]

• Considering Arayot to be about “How-To” (pg. 213) [Chagigah 11b]

• Advanced students haven’t heard of Masechet Kallah (pg. 215, 257) [Shabbat 114a]

• Fourteen days of niddah after miscarriage of a baby girl (pg. 253)

• Rashi refuses to learn Kabbalah (pg. 259-260) [Vitry 291]

• Considering rice to be new to the area then (pg 300) [Responsa 110, all over Talmud]

• The berachah on Shabbat candles is considered new and controversial (pg. 308) [Responsum of Rav Natronai Gaon]

• Infants under 30 days have no soul yet (pg. 325) [Sanhedrin 91]

• It is claimed that Rashi complained about his wife throwing keys at him when she was a Niddah. (pg. 353) The only similar account is simply a record, in Machzor Vitry 499 and Tosafot Ketuvot 61a, that Rashi was careful not to pass keys hand-to-hand when his wife was a niddah.


  1. My husband said that the idea of separating erusin from nisuin was long gone from Jewish life by Rashi's time--and doesn't erusin include a ring, which happened at the nisuin in the book?

  2. Interesting list. I have no interest in reading the book that prompted the list, but I do have some questions about how you do your research. Just because I would like to learn how to do some!

    >Gambling, cardplaying (pg. 190) [doesn’t show up in Jewish European life until the 15th century]
    How do you know this? Source?

    >Making noise for Haman in the Megilah
    Same question.

    We eat beets on Rosh Hashanna (SLK? selek) I believe it's in a siddur we have. So is this custom later than Rashi? Is that what you are saying?

  3. Mother in Israel-
    Thanks for your link!
    Machzor Vitry (476) does record that they did Erusin and Nisuin together, as your husband notes - but that is what they do in the book. I think she did make the mistake of identifying Yocheved as an arusah before then, but I'm not sure.
    As far as a ring - that's an interesting question. It certainly did not have to be a ring, but they may well already have been doing it. I'll have to check Vitry to see, if I get a chance later.

    Cards - We find it various historical works, including one she cited in her bibliography, Israel Abrahams' "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages."

    For Haman, I looked at the works on Rashi's minhagim - Vitry, Siddur Rashi, Seder Troyes and Likutei Pardes, and compared with Avudraham, Maharil and Levush, which are a century or two later and document the post-Crusades development of Ashkenazi minhagim.

    There certainly is an ancient custom of having the Rosh HaShanah foods she mentions - they actually appear in Krisus 11, as I recall, although Abayye says one need only look at the foods, and not necessarily eat them. Rashi, though, does not mention eating these foods for Rosh HaShanah; he has the other foods I mentioned.

  4. mother in israel-
    I had a minute to doublecheck the book, and sure enough - on pg. 199 she says erusin has happened already, even though on pg. 221 she has the erusin occur at the wedding. This is either a misunderstanding or simple sloppiness; not sure which.

    Vitry 476-7 does have a ring in use.

  5. Correction to my post from 10:35 AM: Take out the word Avudraham; I don't know how I slipped and included it. Avudraham is decidedly Sephardi.

  6. I believe your cite to "16th century Responsa Maayan Ganim of R’ Shemuel Arkevolty" is in error as Maayan Ganim is not a work of responsa or a halachic work.

    This has been much discussed elsewhere in the context of R' Boruch Epstein's claims to the contrary (& what this suggests about RBE's reliability generally), see e.g.:

  7. I hear your point. I cited it as it is usually cited, but I'll drop the "Responsa" title.

  8. Very good post (I also reviewed this book on my blog...a while ago though).

  9. Miss S.-
    Thanks, and thanks for tipping me off to your blog. A very interesting read.

  10. Correction to my senility - thank you to the reader who pointed out that I already linked to Miss S. in my original article, six months ago.

    Evidence of creeping senility, no doubt...

  11. I was reading this book and stopped to research as well and found this blog...

    I wish to add another possible mistake of the writer. I recently wrote a paper about 14th Century Jewish Communal Wedding Rings-- I dont think that Joheved would have had a ring, and certainly not one of her own...I know that the the earliest rings that were recovered were from a later period, the mid-14th C.'s buried during a time of the plague progroms, also we see images introduced into Mahzors at this time. There may be Talmudic discussion about it that I have not researched, but from an art historical perspective that is what I have found, however I am a student of Jewish art history, not the Talmud...

    If you have any information I may use to better my information on this ritual object, I would be pleased!

    I am also also currently writing about Jewish Wedding Ritual Adornment in Moroccan life...again, I welcome all thoughts to help me better learn about these subject!

    Thank you!

  12. Another thing that I remembered--they postpone Jocheved's wedding because Rashi is in the year of mourning for his mother. That seems odd, to say the least.

  13. Paige-
    Thanks for your comment.
    I am not fully versed in the history of choosing a ring for the kiddushin item, but we do find French sources from roughly Rashi's period referring to טבעת הקידושין, a ring of kiddushin, and as a personal rather than communal ring. See, for example, Sefer haManhig (12th cent France) pg 536, and Raavyah (12th cent Germany) #953, who discuss kiddushin cases involving rings and don't treat this as innovative.

    Mother in Israel-
    In the gemara's period they would not have postponed a wedding once the meal was prepared, but beyond that I couldn't say.