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Bruriah, A Female Heroine in the Talmud

Published on Tuesday September 3th, 2019

In the history of the Talmud, the wisdom of men is put forward. There were judges who knew how to decide, leaders who knew how to guide, priests who knew how to sanctify. Women were usually more discreet and withdrawn. They evolved in the shadow of their husbands, fathers, brothers...This was not the case with Bruria. Bruria was not only the daughter of Rabbi Chananya ben Teradion, the sister of Rabbi Shimon, the wife of the eminent Rabbi Meir, but above all she was Bruria the righteous. She felt no apprehension or hesitation in giving her opinion on a question of Halacha or a thorny dispute between two neighbors, even if it went against what had been decided by the great of the generation . The sages also often appealed to Bruria's judgment, which always proved to be filled with insightful and practical feminine wisdom. Rabbi Yehudah was generally on the side of the “Tzadeket” because he knew her relevance and foresight. Indeed, Bruria learnt more than 300 questions of Halacha a day.

Bruriah father, Rabbi Chananya ben Teradion, was one of the 10 martyrs killed by Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the Divine Name) for the Jewish people. His executioner placed wet sponges all around his body to slow down the effect of the flames and to cause him to die softly and cruelly. Seeing the dignity and Kedusha (holiness) of Rabbi Chanania, while what he was experiencing was of excruciating and inhuman pain, the executioner took pity on him, he withdrew his sponges to end to his sufferings and threw himself into the fire to die alongside the Holy Man.

Bruria was not only intellectually erudite, but she also held the secrets of this concrete wisdom, which only "men" on the ground have.

When her sister was forcibly taken to the city of Antioch to live a life of shame among the Romans, Bruria did not hesitate to move herself and her husband, to sit by her side to watch over her, and save her.

Another time, Rabbi Meir cursed drunkards, who, because of their constant noise, prevented the tzaddik from concentrating on his learning. Bruria said: "Is it not more justified to wish for the eradication of evil than for fishermen? ".

She knew her place and especially she knew when to show compassion and when, on the contrary, to be inflexible.

If it were necessary to remember a single story of Bruria, it would be the one wherein she lost her sons on Shabbos, because it is the one that shows what a great woman she was, and how close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu she was, to the point that she placed the Torah before her own feelings. Her mother's heart was bleeding, her sadness just begging flow forth, but she out aside how she felt because Hashem was waiting for something else from her at that moment.

Bruria lost her two sons on Shabbos. At that time she was alone. She placed them in a room, and covered them with a sheet. When her husband, Rabbi Meir, came home and asked about his children, Bruria simply stated that they had gone out a little earlier. Shabbos ended without her showing an ounce of sadness. She waited for her husband to do Havdalah and have Melave Malka after which she told him the news, but with great wisdom. She prepared his heart and especially his spirit of Talmid Chacham in such a way that he would feel a less intense pain in time.

She said to him: "I was entrusted with the safekeeping of someone's belongings a while ago, and the owner came to pick them up, what should I do?". Rabbi Meir's answer was immediate and clear: "You must give them back, what is this question my wife?". She led him to the lifeless bodies of their children, and when the sorrow began to overwhelm Rabbi Meir, Bruriah, with a force that we cannot imagine, reminded her husband, "What did you just tell me? Why are you sad? Hashem gives, Hashem takes back, He came to recover the treasure He entrusted to us during all these years. Our duty is to give Him back His treasures without a fuss".

This woman was a rock on which all her family and all those around her leaned on. She knew her mission on earth, she knew what the Creator of the World expected from her and she carried out this mission with courage and determination. It was useless to be too discreet when she had the answers, or to complain when life was not giving her presents. This attitude would have distanced her from her mission. Bruria represents, for us Jewish women, a magnificent model of female wisdom.

Myriam H.

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