cover image Praise Her Works: Conversations with Biblical Women

Praise Her Works: Conversations with Biblical Women

. Jewish Publication Society of America, $20 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-8276-0823-8

While preparing for her daughter's Bat Mitzvah, Adelman stumbled across a 13th-century Yemenite text called Midrash ha-Gadol (The Great Commentary), which referred to 22 righteous biblical women. Here Adelman, a women's studies professor at Brandeis, and several other writers offer meditations and musings on those 22 women, who include Sarah, Naomi and Ruth, as well as some unnamed women, like the wife of Noah and the Shunammite woman. (Adelman also includes Queen Vashti, who was not mentioned in the original Midrash ha-Gadol.) Each figure stars in her own chapter, which opens with the relevant passages from the original text. But the heart of each chapter is Adelman's and her colleagues' imaginings of what these women would say to us today. Miriam, for example, recalls how she felt when she crossed the Red Sea, and urges readers to ""find God in all the people who surround you."" Naomi encourages women to name and experience their grief and sorrows. Michal, one of the wives of King David, advises today's readers to ""question the assumptions you make about what is valuable in women's lives."" Adelman is to be congratulated for recovering a little-known medieval text and simultaneously creating a remarkable work of modern midrash.