- What R. Eliezer Taught a Wise Woman
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 35, Fall 5780/2019
- pp. 153-175
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The Talmud describes conversations in which women addressed questions to the sage R. Eliezer, and his responses seem offensive. This article explains that R. Eliezer used a consistent educational method, reflected both in his conversations with these women and in his teaching of R. Akiva: He answered all of them with fiery words of Torah, allowing them to hear either an insult or an invitation to engage in a struggle that promoted their moral growth. This approach to teaching is part of the context of his (in)famous saying that "One who teaches his daughter Torah, teaches her tiflut." That saying is commonly read as indicating that he disapproved of teaching women. However, the relevant texts support an alternative reading: His saying was a complaint about the way fathers taught their daughters Torah—watering down fiery words of Torah and thereby teaching their daughters worthless words, tiflut.