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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Title: Rashi’s Daughters, Book One – Yocheved

Title: Rashi’s Daughters, Book One – Yocheved
Author: Maggie Anton
Publisher: Banot Press, Glendale, CA

 

Ms. Anton’s book falls into that genre termed historical fiction, but in this extensive volume of over 360 pages, one can begin to wonder if Ms. Anton had a fly on the wall, so realistic are her characterizations. One could wonder it her real calling is as a “medievalist.”


Rashi’s Daughters was written in celebration of the 900th anniversary of the yahrzeit of the great talmid chacham, who was known in his time to have taught Talmud to members of his family – his daughters!


In Rashi’s day, there was the real danger of a young woman becoming unmarriageable, because the bride was supposed to be unsophisticated and a homemaker, with a life divided between the kitchen and the nursery.


This first book of a projected three-volume family saga, is focused on Yocheved, the first-born daughter. Anton not only recreates a medieval French community but is faithful to many little-known details of Jewish ritual, including marital relations, childbirth, life-cycle events and holidays. In Rashi’s time, a daughter was “chattel” and had only a choice of refusal to a marriage, but Yocheved was strong-willed and intellectual. So, she and was allowed to choose decidedly unfeminine studies, as well as marriage to a young man who wanted his intellectual match, not merely a betrothed servant to bear his young.


Suffering from “empty-nest syndrome” after her children married and recovering from a long period of caring for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Anton spent years on her own Talmud study that has enabled her to craft a beautiful story that captures the essence of the times and lives of her protagonists. For us – hours of enjoyable reading.


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