My friend Justin is reading The Travels of Rabbi Pesachia of Regensburg, the travel writing of a 12th Century Ashkenazi rabbi who journeys from Prague to the Mediterranean and Middle East. He sent me the following excerpt, which I thought might be of interest to some of y’all:

ורבי שמואל, יש לו ספר היחס שלו עד שמואל הרמתי בן אלקנה: ואין לו בנים אלא בת אחת: והיא בקיאה בקרייה ובתלמוד. והיא מלמדת הקרייה לבחורים דרך חלון אחד. והיא סגורה בבנין. והתלמידים בחוץ למטה ואינם רואים אותה. וכל ארץ אשור ובדמשק בערי פרס ומדי ובארץ בבל אין להם דיין אלא מי שמוסר רבי שמואל ראש ישיבה…וחותמו הולך בכל הארצות ובארץ ישראל.

Rabbi Shmuel has a book of geneology going back as far as Shmuel the Ramathean, son of Elkanah. He has no sons but, rather, one daughter. She is an expert in Scripture and Talmud. She gives instruction in Scripture to young men by way of one window. She is within the building, and the students are below outside, and they do not see her. And in all of the land of Assyria and Damascus, in all the cities of Persia and Media, as well as the land of Bavel, they have no judge other than those appointed by Rabbi Shmuel, head of the academy…..His authority is acknowledged in every country, and also in the land of Israel.

It’s a great tidbit–this 12th Century daughter of a very, very important Baghdad rabbi was expert in and a teacher of Jewish text. They solved any issues of possible impropriety by placing a building between her and her students (this understandable given the time and place), but nobody seemed to quibble about her ability to drop knowledge. There are a scant handful of women who are known to have been Torah teachers in the ancient and medieval world; I always love when another one comes to light.

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