A Case Study of Narrative Precedent in Talmudic Law
Chapter 3 focuses on the Babylonian Talmud at Makkot 5b, which records the debate of a hypothetical in which a woman who has already produced two sets of perjuring witnesses attempts to produce a third set. One side believes the litigant loses the ability to produce a third set of witnesses; the other contends that witness credibility must be presumed. Wimpfheimer connects this legal discussion of perjury to Jewish folk beliefs about women who are twice widowed, referred to in post-Talmudic literature as “killer wives.” He argues that the example of the killer wife reflects a pattern of rabbinic thought in which the rabbis consistently characterize superstition itself as female-gendered. Both stories reflect the absorption of the myth of Pandora’s box into rabbinic culture and the relationship between rabbinic views of women and the views of their broader culture.
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