The Marital Knot

Agunot in the Ashkenazi Realm, 1648-1850

Noa Shashar


This book tells the family stories of men and women who lived hundreds of years ago. Focusing on agunot, literally “chained women,” who were often considered a marginal group, it sheds light on Jewish family life in the early modern era and on the activity of poskim (rabbis who gave Jewish legal rulings, hereafter called “decisors”), who dealt with agunot. The sources show that iggun was probably quite common in this period. Who were the women in this situation, and who were the men who caused it? How did Jewish society deal with the danger of a woman’s becoming an agunah? What kind of reality was imposed on women who found themselves agunot, and what could they do to extricate themselves from their plight? How did decisors—the rabbinic experts with the authority to free agunot—discharge their task during this period, and what were the outcomes of the fact that the agunot were dependent on the male rabbinic establishment? The present study has a twofold aim: to fill a void in the scholarship on agunot by describing the lives of agunot and of the men who brought this about. The second is to reexamine the halakhic activity concerning the freeing of agunot in this period, and to propose a new assessment of the attitude that decisors displayed toward the freeing of agunot. These issues, which previously have been met with only slight scholarly attention, merit extensive investigation.

Paper: $40 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $39.95
ISBN-13: 9781684582402
Pages: 400 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: December 23, 2024

About the Author

Noa Shashar

Noa Shashar earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish and Gender Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Jerusalem Branch – Schechter Institute). Shashar is a lecturer at the Sapir Academic College. She is the author of Vanished Men: Agunot in the Ashkenazi Realm 1648-1850 (Hebrew, 2020), Not on Bread Alone: The Krell Murachovski Family Histories (2015), Mazkeret Rishonim: A History of the Levin and Miller Families from Mazkeret Batya & Rishon Lezion (2013), and Bein Olamot (between worlds): The Story of the Mathias and Irma Fischer Family(2003).