The Bottom Line
I enjoyed reading Rashi's Daughters, Book I: Yoheved, by Maggie Anton. I dont think this is a book for everyone due to the text-like writing, the bulk of the historic content and the feminine focus. However, as a feminist who happens to like historic fiction and love Jewish history, I found the book entertaining and enlightening.
- The book provides a well-researched look into Jewish life in eleventh century France.
- The drama of Jewish women living in Medival Europe is entertaining.
- Reading about the evolution of Jewish culture and religious practice is enlightening.
- This is a light read. I was not wowwed by the writing.
- Sometimes the historic content, especially regarding France, is forced into the drama.
- The book focuses on the life of Joheved, the learned daughter of the great Jewish scholar Rashi. Women's issues are covered.
- The book's setting of a Jewish home in eleventh century France provides insight into the lives of Medieval French Jewry.
- Anton's writing about Rashi's Yeshiva teaches about Jewish learning, culture and religious practice in Medieval Europe.
- Reading about Rashi's winery business teaches about how Jews earned livings and interacted with the non-Jewish world.
- Joheved's engagement and marriage to Meir brings romance to the drama. The book includes some detailed sex scenes.
Guide Review - Rashi's Daughters Book I Yoheved by Maggie AntonMaggie Anton, an American clinical chemist with a passion for Jewish learning, wrote Rashi's Daughters, Book One: Joheved because she found the paradox of learned Jewish women in medieval Europe to be fascinating.
According to legend, the three daughters of the great Jewish scholar Rashi learned Talmud and even wore Tefilin. And this is astounding because they lived in France in the eleventh century, when educating women was considered taboo.
The book succeeded to transport me into Rashis modest home, yeshiva and winery. Along with Rashi's eldest daughter Joheved, I worked in the vineyard, prayed in the synagogue, celebrated holidays, and even studied Talmud.
Anton should be applauded for providing a spotlight, so often lacking, into the historic lives of Jewish women. How did women deal with their menstrual cycles? How did women endure birth with only the help of midwives, herbs and prayers? How did women survive miscarriages and their childrens deaths? How was sex education provided to newlyweds?
Anton succeeded, via exhaustive research, to change some of my views. Previously, I found it hard to understand the strength of peoples ties to their religious beliefs in the face of persecution. But after Anton's coverage of all their superstitious beliefs, especially demons, I better understand the fierceness of their faith. Likewise, by turning Rashi into a three-dimensional figure for me, the book changed how I will understand his commentaries.
As Anton details the familys home life, the reader gains insight into likely interpersonal struggles. And as Anton scans out into the city surrounding the family, the reader learns about relations between Jews and non-Jews. I was surprised by the tolerance shown toward Jews, the prosperity enjoyed by Jews, and the progressive values, such as womens rights, held by Jews in medieval France.