Nechama Goldman Barash made aliyah from Philadelphia over 20 years ago after graduating from Stern College. She studied for three years in Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute and finished a master’s degree in Talmud, with a thesis on the Beautiful Captive Woman in the Eyes of Chazal, at Bar-Ilan University. For many years she has taught classes in halacha and rabbinic thought in a variety of Jewish institutions includingbthe Pardes Institute, Young Judea, Lindenbaum, the Emunah Art Seminary and Matan. She is also a graduate of a program that trains women to answer questions on women’s health and sexuality in halacha. She uses that expertise to teach brides and answer halachic questions in this area.
In the last year she has been a member of the Beit Hillel national-religious group that includes women in its leadership. Currently she is studying in Matan’s new Hilchata program, which is an advanced program in the area of Jewish law. Nechama lives in Gush Etzion with her husband and four daughters.
Session 1: How did Esau become the bad guy in Jewish tradition?
“Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated” (Malachi 3, 2-3). In Jewish tradition, Esau is the rejected brother because of his wicked ways. A closer look at the Biblical text shows that the brothers are part of a very complex family dynamic exacerbated by favoritism and lack of
communication between parents. As a result, neither brother behaves credibly towards one another. Nonetheless, we are told early on that Jacob is chosen by God to perpetuate the Abrahamic covenant while Esau is rejected. We will look at how each brother responds to God’s
decision and how ultimate, after great struggle, each comes to accept their individual fate and achieve reconciliation with one another.
Session 2: It is Not in Heaven
In a famous rabbinic story, Rabbi Eliezer is ousted from the study hall for refusing to conform to the new world order represented by the venerable but younger sage Rabbi Akiba. The sages rely on the orally transmitted tradition that “It is not in Heaven” to give power to their decision making, including the exile of Rabbi Eliezer whose inability to accept the majority ruling leads to tragic
consequences within the study hall and his family. The story is an excellent example of the tensions within the halachic community post Second Temple destruction as the sages struggle to form an
identity that will ultimately shape the creation of rabbinic Judaism and save the future of the Jewish race as they face indefinite exile.
Session :. Women’s Health and Sexuality in Judaism:
The Jewish laws of family purity affect couples, and particularly women, in an extremely intimate and sometimes invasive way. Women are prohibited from sexual relations for the duration of their
menstruation as well as seven days following, after which they immerse in a ritual bath (mikva). These laws do not always sync with actual women’s bodies, sexuality or fertility causing confusion, frustration, anger and even depression. For thousands of years only the rabbinic male establishment were qualified to answer questions of extreme intimacy that are often emotionally
painful. In the last fifteen years, women have been rigorously trained in the intricacies of these complex laws so as to become a valuable resource available to answer questions – woman to woman – that were previously directed at the male rabbinic establishment. As one of those trained women, I will give an overview of the legal system, a description of the training
program and some personal stories from the field