I’ve handed in all my coursework for the semester. It’s just me vs. the second Talmud comp exam, to come this Thursday.
I haven’t posted much about prep for this exam (in contrast to Daf Exam I, this summer). Much of this is due to the fact that the exam prep has been squeezed into the crevices between a full load of classes and my internship and the various other things going on over here. Some of it, though, is that I haven’t quite been able to figure out what I want to say about the material.
We’re studying the 5th chapter of Ketubot, plus a bunch of commentaries on it. It’s about women’s (often, lack of) status vis a vis marriage, divorce, and property rights. It’s not news to me that women didn’t have much room to maneuver in the Rabbinic era, but I’ve found that the experience of actually marinating in these difficult texts for four months has been pretty challenging.
Upon reflection, I think the hard part has been the fact is that my job is to learn the texts themselves–to receive them on their terms, rather than getting to dialogue with them. Looking around at other commentaries would be one way to enter the conversation, but the ones we’re meant to learn, unfortunately, don’t offer many (or, any) windows of hope, and I haven’t yet had the chance to do a real survey of other interpretations of each sugya (Talmudic discussion) in the chapter. There’s time yet for that. I’m looking forward to being able to use these texts as a starting point for a bigger conversation about the status of women in Judaism, about our ideals for relationships, about what kind of religious law might help and what kind might hinder marriage, and so forth. I’m looking forward to having the chance to move forward past the first step of this process, which is where I’ve been for the last few months.
In any case, I have two days left to study, and then there’s the exam, and then there’s a bit of vacation time. I don’t imagine that I’ll start up the project of redeeming this chapter immediately, but I’m also quite sure that I won’t be able to stay away from it for that long.