The talmudic sages esteemed Hannah's petition to God for a son as exemplary prayer, yet most also opposed women's participation in communal prayer and Torah learning. This paper explores how rabbinic exclusion of women from the core of public Judaic religious practice could coexist with rabbinic endorsement of Hannah's prayer—the only prayer by a woman recorded in the Hebrew Bible—as the model that all petitioners to God, female and male, should follow. I place Hannah's prayer in the context of other biblical narratives about barrenness, compare it with heartfelt prayers by Moses and Hezekiah, and summarize the talmudic and midrashic commentary on Hannah's prayer. The discussion of Hannah's prayer in the rabbinic literature follows a characteristic pattern when it comes to women. The rabbis promulgate regulations inimical to the full expression of women's potentialities but also acknowledge and even celebrate the very potentialities that they would suppress.


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pp. 36-48
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