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The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism


My close friend Sharon Koren’s book, Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism, has been released.

This book addresses a central question in the study of Jewish mysticism in the medieval and early modern periods: why are there no known female mystics in medieval Judaism, unlike contemporaneous movements in Christianity and Islam? Koren demonstrates that the male rejection of female mystical aspirations is based in deeply rooted attitudes toward corporeality and ritual purity. In particular, medieval Jewish male mystics increasingly emphasized that the changing states of the female body between ritual purity and impurity disqualified women from the quest for mystical connection with God.

Offering a provocative look at premodern rabbinical views of the female body and their ramifications for women’s spiritual development, Koren compares Jewish views with medieval Christian and Muslim views of both female menstruation and the possibility of female mystical experience.

One Response to “The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism”

  1. 1
    Jon Baker:

    I mentioned this book to my wife, perhaps she would be interested. Her thought: when would medieval Jewish women have been able to engage in mystical activity – study, meditation, etc.? Married women are busy with children, and tamei half the time if childless or the children are grown. Unmarried women are tamei all the time, and most mystical activity seems to presume regular visits to the mikvah. So when would they have had a chance (unlike Christian mystical women like Teresa d’Avila, Margery Kempe, Hildegarde von Bingen, etc.) to develop a mystical practice?


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Michael Pitkowsky