Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved - A Jewish Book Mall Review

Well, with our busy duties tending the Jewish Book Mall, we don't often have time to write reviews of individual books ourselves. Of course, we include reviews from readers like you on all products where they're available, but that's a different story.

This book grabbed our attention, though. Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved by Maggie Anton is a lovely book, and of course it's only the first of a series. You become very quickly transported to medieval France, where you join the family of Rashi, the most famous exegete of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud to this day, 1000 years later. You can see the family around the dinner - or disner - table.

If you want to get a sense of what the life of Rashi and his daughters was like, this is the book. The author says she spent a decade researching it, and we believe it. Certainly with regard to the details of French life then, and also with regard to Jewish life in France, Anton has done her job. She also does a very creditable job with regard to some of Rashi's work, quoting from his known responsa on kosher meat and, of course, wine.

No book is without its imperfections. The small ones we noted were misspelling of the Hebrew word for marriage, which should be nisuin, not niusin(which appears that way at least twice). And while we don't know if Rashi's daughters attended synagogue with him on weekdays, it would be a very different synagogue than what we know if the family would eat breakfast before going and then eat lunch upon returning - Saturday services, being the Sabbath, can last several hours, but weekday services are generally brief so as to allow congregants to arrive at work in a timely fashion.

Other books have been written about Rashi. This one is about his daughters, and of course this is clearly indicated by the title. So do not be surprised that the perspective is decidedly focused not on Rashi or his scholarship, but on Joheved, her sisters, and other female characters. There is sex, and childbirth, and midwifing, and love. True, there is also women engaging in business, agriculture, and Talmud study, alongside the male characters in the story. But this is definitely the book form of what you'd call a chick flick in the film business.

Official Jewish Book Mall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0.


1 comment:

inga K. said...

Who knew that this book would be such exciting and such rapid reading! It makes me wish I knew more about Rashi etc. Hope my friends enjoy the book as much as I.