The Tanna’it: Osnat Barazani

 

20170926_091536
from the art of the Tiberias Open Air Museum

 

In the 17th century, Kurdistan’s most illustrious rabbi, Rav Shmuel Barazani, a charismatic reformer and yeshiva builder, produced no sons.

Finding he is unable to continue his line in the usual manner, he drills his beautiful daughter, Osnat (Asenath) Barazani, in Hebrew, Torah, and the Kabbalah.  He marries her to his nephew and favorite disciple, Rav Jacob, and makes the man swear he’ll never make her do housework.

When her father and then Rav Jacob die, Osnat remains the only one in the family with the training to take over the yeshiva the two men had run in Mosul.

Osnat became what is thought to be the world’s first female rabbi.  She proved herself a formidable leader, fundraiser, and intellectual, plus acquired herself the reputation as a kabbalist miracle worker and sage poet, winning over the local Jews.

Her ascent forced the bewildered brotherhood of local rabbis to coin a new Hebrew term: Tanna’it, or woman Talmudic scholar.

[from Ariel Sabar’s My Father’s Paradise, pp. 55-56]

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