Dirshuni: Contemporary Women’s Midrash
Edited by Tamar Biala
Dirshuni is a step forward; it carves out a place for contemporary women to see themselves in the sacred texts. It focuses on the courage, the heartbreak, and the fight of biblical women — and it brings them to life. ... What would Judaism look like if women had been reading, studying, interpreting, and commenting on our sacred texts all this time? Dirshuni gives us a glimpse of that, and the view is spectacular.
Jewish Book Council
Dirshuni: Contemporary Women’s Midrash, is the first ever English edition of an historic collection of midrashim composed by Israeli women, long anticipated by multiple American audiences – of synagogues, Rabbinical seminaries, adult learning programs, Jewish educators and scholars of gender and religion. Using the classical forms developed by the ancient rabbis, they express their religious and moral thought and experience through innovative interpretations of Scripture. The women writers, from all denominations and beyond, of all political stripes and ethnic backgrounds, contribute their Torah to fill the missing half of the sacred Jewish bookshelf.
The volume features a comprehensive introduction to Midrash for the uninitiated reader by the distinguished scholar Tamar Kadari and extensive annotation and commentary by Tamar Biala.
Dirshuni is a step forward; it carves out a place for contemporary women to see themselves in the sacred texts. It focuses on the courage, the heartbreak, and the fight of biblical women and it brings them to life. ... What would Judaism look like if women had been reading, studying, interpreting, and commenting on our sacred texts all this time? Dirshuni gives us a glimpse of that, and the view is spectacular.
—Jewish Book Council
Opinions regarding the practical conclusions to be drawn from the innovative readings of sacred history offered here will no doubt differ widely, ranging from demand for inclusion in the canon to dismissal as heresy. Either way, the jolt that these feminist midrashim present to traditional sensibilities, highlighting and imaginatively amplifying upon the lacunae of distinctly male perspectives, will leave readers with much food for thought.
—Tamar Ross, author of Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism
How thrilling to have this rich collection of women’s midrashim in our hands. The melding of scholarship, deep insight, and creativity in this brilliantly edited volume yields fresh new feminist perspectives on classical Jewish tradition. We are truly blessed to have this resource for understanding biblical texts and rabbinic commentaries. I will be studying it and referring to it for years to come.
—Marcia Falk, author of Night of Beginnings: A Passover Haggadah
Those familiar with feminist midrash primarily in the U.S. context will be surprised and delighted with the richness, range, and erudition of this collection by Israeli women. The conversations with and reworkings of traditional texts are consistently thought-provoking, sometimes brilliant, and always carefully explained. This is an exciting addition to the body of feminist commentary available in English.
—Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective
Part classical midrash, short story, poetry and social commentary, these midrashim are a new genre, a treasure to cherish. These voices and texts are bound to leave each student moved and changed.
—Rabbi Avi Killip, Hadar
A long-overdue expansion of the sacred Jewish library following centuries of patriarchal hegemony, exclusion and injustice. The texts’ profound insights result from the encounter between the authors' lived experience, their creativity, and Torah study. This volume belongs in every Jewish library, in our homes, our schools, and our synagogues.
—Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, NYC
In its two slim Hebrew volumes, Dirshuni changed the study of Rabbinic midrash for those fortunate enough to grasp the brilliance, expert knowledge and exquisite language that pays homage to while shattering traditional midrash. Now the English reader has the opportunity to study these masterpieces and to find their own voice in our tradition.
—Rabbanit Devorah Zlochower, Yeshivat Maharat
Jerusalem-based author and teacher Tamar Biala birthed a contemporary oeuvre of midrashim that could legitimately stand alongside those of the ancient rabbis in their canon of Midrash. With a capital M. Biala... collected contemporary midrashim written by a group of exceptional Israeli women. Curated in anthology form, unadorned, these luminous pieces addressed the needs and truths of the female half of the world....Not only is the world of Dirshuni now available to English-language readers, but there is a new twist: Biala has added framing and commentaries to each piece.
Dirshuni is the long-anticipated English edition of a collection of midrash composed by Israeli women. Scholars will relish the book’s nuances, it is the less experienced Torah student who will learn most from this wealth of new insights into the tradition.
Dirshuni” is powerful, playful, joyful and sometimes painful. Its words and insights will be making many 'guest appearances' in my sermons and teaching in the coming year. ....Get a copy of “Dirshuni.” As we begin a new cycle of Torah for the year, it should be at your side — for your own learning and teaching. It will yield numerous insights. With a solemn caveat: Don’t lend it out. You might never see it again.
—Jeffery Salkin, Religion News Service
Biala’s commentary... sparks further questions and insights. Her remarks are a testament to the effort, thought, consideration, and time that not only went into writing the commentary, but also into the midrashim themselves.
This text is a gift - a profound exploration of both ancient text and the modern world all through the lives of women and their experiences...this volume should be required reading.
Tamar Biala earned her Master’s Degree in Women's and Jewish Studies from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. She taught at the Shalom Hartman Institute, trained teachers and IDF army officers. She coedited volume I of Dirshuni with Nehama Weingarten-Mintz (Yediot Aharonot/Jewish Agency for Israel, 2009) and, in 2018, published volume II (Yediot Aharonot). She teaches in various batei midrash, rabbinical schools, and adult education programs in the US and Israel. She lives in Jerusalem and is raising her two daughters Nahara and Nofet, along with her husband, Yehudah Mirsky.