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The Miriam Tradition

Teaching Embodied Torah

Cynthia Sautter

Publication Year: 2010

The Miriam Tradition works from the premise that religious values form in and through movement, with ritual and dance developing patterns for enacting those values. Cia Sautter considers the case of Sephardic Jewish women who, following in the tradition of Miriam the prophet, performed dance and music for Jewish celebrations and special occasions. She uses rabbinic and feminist understandings of the Torah to argue that these women, called tanyaderas, "taught" Jewish values by leading appropriate behavior for major life events._x000B__x000B_Sautter considers the religious values that are in music and dance performed by tanyaderas and examines them in conjunction with written and visual records and evidence from dance and music traditions. Explaining the symbolic gestures and motions encoded in dances, Sautter shows how rituals display deeply held values that are best expressed through the body. The book argues that the activities of women in other religions might also be examined for their embodiment and display of important values, bringing forgotten groups of women back into the historical record as important community leaders.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright

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p. 5-5

Contents

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pp. 6-7

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Preface: Why Movement Matters

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pp. vii-x

This is a tale about women’s leadership of important Jewish rituals that conveyed Torah truth, following in the tradition of Miriam the prophetess. In many ways it is a forgotten story, perhaps because it involves dance and women, two things that Western intellectual tradition tends to deem inconsequential. Yet...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-15

Since the writing of this book, both my father and my doctoral advisor died. Both assisted me greatly. My father was my initial proofreader, advisor, and writing mentor. Doug Adams guided me through the doctoral program at the Graduate Theological Union, and with his great grace and humor made it...

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1. Women and Sacred Power

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pp. 1-22

When I tell people that I study “religion and dance,” the response almost always makes me wince. I often hear, “David danced before the ark and all that, but what else is there?” Apparently no one remembers Miriam: a prophet and leader of Israel, she is the icon for dance in the Torah. Of the many overt...

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2. Movement Matters

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pp. 23-45

When I teach a class called “The Movement of Meaning,” my students learn about how we perform religious values. In the novel Nin, author Cass Dalglish outlines the background of a similar idea in her colorful tale that involves two women, Enheduanna and Shatapda, the first writers. When the...

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3. Miriam's Dance

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pp. 46-76

When I wrote my first biblical studies paper, I told the professor that I wanted to study Miriam. He attempted to persuade me to focus instead on Deborah, because she was a general. While he did not have a problem with the dancing Miriam as a topic, his concern was that there was not enough critical evidence...

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4. Miriam at the Wedding Celebration

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pp. 77-106

In Judaism, women’s dance traditions are often more than just entertainment. Biblical, Talmudic, historical, visual, and written records indicate that women’s activity was important to the community. That is undoubtedly true with regard to weddings in the Sephardic community, where women...

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5. The Rachel Tradition: Dancing Death

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pp. 107-131

Historically, Jewish woman have been experts on grief. Their performance of dance for death was seen as a means of dealing with the profound sense of sadness that comes with loss. As a symbolic dance of death, their wailing was a means of purging the body and soul of grief. Modern American culture...

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Conclusion

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pp. 132-136

In the now many years that I have been teaching religious studies, I have found that students often face the same difficulties with the fieldwork I assign. Many assume that because they are not experts in religious study, their observations at an event are invalid—despite the fact that I provide them...

Notes

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pp. 137-150

Bibliography

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pp. 151-164

Index

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pp. 165-168


E-ISBN-13: 9780252090271
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035777

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Dance -- Religious aspects -- Judaism.
  • Miriam (Biblical figure).
  • Jewish women -- Religious life.
  • Women in Judaism.
  • Sephardim.
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