Biblical Women Speak Hearing Their Voices through New and Ancient Midrash

About the Book

July 2023

What were biblical women thinking and doing when the men around them received all the attention and glory? How did Leah, Rachel, and their handmaids negotiate the complicated family dynamics of four women vying for Jacob’s affections? What compelled Potiphar’s wife to risk her high station to seduce Joseph, an enslaved foreigner? How did the midwives and Pharoah’s daughter conspire to rescue baby Moses, right under Pharoah’s nose?

Biblical Women Speak employs midrash (interpretative techniques) to discover ten biblical women’s stories from a female point of view and provide insights beyond how ancient male scholars viewed them. Each chapter brings alive a different biblical woman, including non-Israelite characters and others who are neglected in classical rabbinic texts, such as Keturah (Abraham’s last wife), Bat Shuah (Judah’s wife), Shelomith (the infamous blasphemer’s mother), and Noah (one of Zelophehad’s brave daughters who demanded inheritance rights). After each featured text we hear a creative retelling of the woman’s story in her own voice, followed by traditional midrash and medieval commentaries and the author’s reflections on how these tales and interpretations are relevant for today.

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman’s book is an engaging invitation to enter biblical narratives, challenge conventional wisdom, and recalibrate the stories and lessons through the lens of our own lives.

“Meeting these new role models of Jewish womanhood—some famous, others voiceless or infamous and nameless in the Torah—left me both enlightened and delighted. Reading the biblical text, rabbinic commentary, modern midrash, and Rabbi Feldman’s contemporary commentary illuminated four dimensions of these remarkable women.”—Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters

“Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is a marvelous teacher, and in Biblical Women Speak she proves to also be a weaver of ancient, modern, and original texts that give voice to women of the Bible who were often ignored or nameless, filling a void that has existed for centuries. Accessible for both beginner and advanced students, Biblical Women Speak should be required in any class of midrash.”—Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, executive director, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

“Rabbi Marla Feldman has created a dynamic and compelling conversation among the generations. Both individuals and groups will admire her captivating modern midrashic interpretations and her expert navigation of traditional texts. Feldman shows us how fresh and relevant our sacred tradition can be!”—Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, executive director, Women’s Rabbinic Network

“Rabbi Marla Feldman has added an imaginative, insightful contribution to our collective Jewish library. As she creatively gives voice to both familiar and lesser-known female biblical characters, she shows why their stories matter for us as contemporary readers.”—Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is the executive director of Women of Reform Judaism. She has published numerous articles about the role of women in Jewish life and social justice issues and her modern midrashim have appeared in several collections. She is the author of Reform Movement action manuals, including Speak Truth to Power.

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