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my ancestress the one woman who is named who speaks in Talmud an actual historical person they say you learned three hundred precepts from three hundred rabbis in a single day a miraculous feat they say when your sons died you forestalled the grief of your husband the great Rabbi Meir saying: if someone lend me two jewels then require them of me what should I do he said: return them then you showed him the dead boys and when your house was robbed your husband wished to curse the thieves so that they would die but you said it would be better to pray for their repentance and they say once when the formalist Rabbi Yose the Galilean met you on the road and asked directions of you you spoke to him ironically: should you not use fewer words when speaking to a woman

five hundred years after your death the sage Rashi relates a tale that your husband cited a tractate saying "women are light-minded" that you denied this that he set his student to seduce you that you resisted then succumbed and hung yourself let me beg to doubt this the Romans liked such tales Dido immolates herself for love Lucrece stabs herself for shame of such deeds the nations create high art but what kind of story is this forJews why didn't your husband hang himself for shame

my friendJane visits Tiberias the grave of Meir is a magnet for pilgrims but where is the grave of Bruriah she wanders streets puzzled no citizen can tell her where you lie rather they seem appalled or angry at the query nobody has a clue Bruriah my ancestress how when you taught Torah your words rang like a harp so diligent you were such soul you had

ALICIA OSTRIKER is a poet and critic. Her most recent book of poems, The Little Space (1998), was a National Book Award finalist. She is also the author of The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994).
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Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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