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A Fellowship for women writing books of Torah scholarship

“Esther sent to the Rabbis: Kitvuni ledorot — Record me for all generations.”

(Megilla 7a)

The Kitvuni Fellowship was created by Matan to promote the publication of high-level Torah scholarship by women. The initiative provides female Torah scholars with the support necessary to facilitate their ability to complete a book in a field of Torah scholarship.

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Kitvuni fellows 2023-24

Dr. Brachi Elitzur will lead the readers through the paths of Aggadah on the book of Genesis. Brachi lectures on Tanakh and Rabbinic literature at Herzog Teachers College, and is a researcher in the field of Midrash. Her research involves tracking biblical narratives and characters through postbiblical and Rabbinic literature, in an attempt to follow the reasons behind the shift of the character or story throughout the generations. She is the author of Portraits through the Generations.

In the Paths of the Aggadot of Bereishit Rabbinic Midrashim have became foundational stories of Jewish heritage. Young children are well versed in these texts, which are often viewed as inseparable from the biblical narrative, and even adults are often surprised to find that the details of what they know of the biblical plot are midrashic additions to the biblical text.

Sometimes the midrash intertwines with the narrative, providing an additional dimension; at other times, it reverses the evaluation of the protagonists’ actions altogether.

The proposed book will analyze some foundational midrashic texts, trace the early building blocks that led to their design, and grapple with the question of their objectives, and the reason they have been adjoined to the biblical narrative.

This analysis will enable the reader to go back in time to the flourishing midrashic era in Israel, during the Talmudic period; to imagine the bustle of Batei Midrash in Lod and Tiberius; to become familiar with the questions and debates that troubled Jewish society at that time, and understand the religious and cultural challenges posed by non-Jewish neighbors, and also, the yearning for redemption that throbbed in the hearts of Jews throughout the generations.

Dr. Lisa Fredman will be writing on Rashi’s holistic approach to books of the Ketuvim. Lisa has a Ph.D in Bible from Bar Ilan University and has published a Critical Edition of Rashi’s Commentary to Proverbs as well as articles on Rashi’s methodology. She teaches in Efrata College and other prominent women’s Torah institutions.

Rashi’s Holistic Approach to Ketuvim Rashi’s localized interpretive style, glossing verse by verse, often inhibits a panoramic understanding of the text at hand – yet analysis of his commentaries to selected books of the Ketuvim reveals thematically unified compositions with overarching themes, thus uncovering another facet of Rashi’s exegetical artistry and brilliance.

Dr. Achinoam Jacobs will write about the portrayals of God in Rabbinic literature after the destruction of the Temple, and their theological significance. Achinoam holds a Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature from The Hebrew University, and lectures on Midrash and Aggadah in Migdal Oz and Herzog College. She served for many years as a member of the Ministry of Education committee for the study of Tanakh and literature.

The Changing Face of God Following the Hurban in Aggadic Literature The crisis of the Temple’s destruction led our Sages to portray God experiencing uncharacteristic emotions. How did these homilies emerge? What is their theological meaning? Were these portrayals of God also accepted in the far-away Babylonian community? And what of contemporary relevance can we extrapolate from this discussion?

Rabbanit Karen Miller Jackson will be writing a commentary on the first half of Talmud Berakhot. With a focus on analyzing the Aggadic portions within their halakhic context, this book will demonstrate that more than a code of law on the topic of Jewish prayer, Berakhot contains ideas and themes related to preservation and revitalization of Jewish life and practice for all time. Karen is a certified Meshivat Halacha, lecturer at Matan and beyond and host of the Eden Center podcast “Women & Wellbeing.” She has an MA in Rabbinic Literature from NYU.

Talmudic Aggadot in Berakhot: A Guide to Revitalizing Jewish Life This book will explore how the Sages expressed their concerns, weaknesses and strengths, philosophy and ideals and shaped Jewish life by interweaving midrash and aggada throughout the Talmud. Analysis of the aggadic material, and how it interacts with its halakhic (legal) context, demonstrates that Talmud Berakhot served as more than a code of law on the topic of Jewish prayer and blessings. This book hopes to demonstrate that Berakhot – the beginning of the Oral Torah – provides a model and guide for preserving Torah and tradition alongside necessary adaptations, allowing for the revitalization of Jewish life throughout history, in different times and places. These ideas have relevance for Jewish commitment and practice, particularly in today’s ever-changing world.

Rabbanit Gilla Rosen will be writing about the development and portrayal of the mitzvah of hadlakat ner Shabbat in Halakha, Aggada and women’s tehinnot. Gilla is a yoetzet halakha  and has a Masters degree in Comparative Literary Studies. She helped to create Yakar where she teaches Talmud and Midrash. Gilla has studied and taught at Matan and other prominent Torah institutions.

Hadlakat Ner Shabbat in Halakha, Aggada and Tefilla This book will analyze halakhic issues – the purpose of hadlakat ner Shabbat, its status as a mitzvah, and its liminal transitional nature – as well as parallel perceptions of Shabbat candles in midrash aggadah and in women’s prayers. 

Kitvuni fellows 2022-23

Dr. Shifra Assulin will be writing on Shir HaShirim in the Zohar. Shifra has a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought and is a teaching fellow at Shalem College. She is highly regarded in the field of Kabbala study and is doing extremely innovative work.

“Tell me, my love” – peshat, remez, derash and sod in the Zohar’s Commentary on Shir ha-Shirim Zohar Shir ha-Shirim: Annotated Edition and Commentary The Zohar, the quintessential book of Jewish mysticism, is inaccessible to most people: the Aramaic, the diagrams, the symbols, and the mystical content project unapproachability. This book offers a reading of the Zohar’s commentary on the Song of Songs: first, a translated and annotated version of the text, including basic interpretation and references, on the one hand. Next, the book will offer comprehensive reflections comprising thematic introductions, an in-depth review of content, literary analysis, comparative discussions, and an examination of the existential and practical ramifications of the text. This edition will provide the reader with access to the Zohar, enabling a personal reading of the text, and offering a broad array of commentary and analysis.

Dr. Sharon Galper Grossman will be writing on Halakha and preventive medicine. Sharon is a Harvard-educated oncologist and a graduate of Matan’s Morot L’Halakha program and other Matan Beit Midrash programs.

Jewish Perspectives on Staying Healthy This book will address the ways that halacha approaches disease prevention in general, with specific attention to current topics and cutting-edge interventions, tracing the development and evolution of the halachic perspective from its earliest sources to contemporary decisors.”

Yael Leibowitz will be writing on the Book of Ezra. Yael is an innovative and dynamic educator who teaches Tanakh at Matan and other prominent Torah institutions.

Ezra: Retrograde Revolution This book will explore the revolutionary strategies employed by the Jewish leaders of the Early Second Temple Period, as they grappled with the unprecedented challenge of reconstituting a lost world in an utterly new one.

Dr. Adina Sternberg will be writing an interdisciplinary book on the holidays and the Mikdash, from the perspective of both Tanakh and the Mishna. Adina has a Ph.D. in Talmud, is studying in Hilkhata, Matan’s advanced Halakha program, and teaches in Matan and other prominent women’s Torah institutions.

ימי מועד ואוהל מועד This interdisciplinary book examines the foundational concepts of the Jewish holidays, through their analysis from biblical law to the prism of the prophets; from the details of halakhah to the literary design of the Mishnah; and from Talmudic sugyas to Rishonim.

Dr. Merav Suissa will be writing a guide to literary-philosophical study of the Talmud. Merav has a Ph.D. in Talmud and is the head of Midreshet Siach Hasadeh.

The Secret Talmud: Halakhah and its Significance in Talmudic Sugyas This book will outline a literary approach to the study of the Babylonian Talmud, based on the view that the Talmud as a literary work, and its content is expressed not only in the explicit debates presented in the sugyas, but also in their design and redaction. This approach will be demonstrated through a literary analysis of various opening sugyas and halakhic sugyas in the Talmud. Through an examination of the foundational concepts at the base of the sugya, the book will endeavor to understand the ideological significance of Talmudic themes.

Dr. Miriam Weitman will be writing on the Book of Chronicles. Miriam has a Ph.D. in Contemporary Judaism. She is a Matan graduate and has worked for the Ministry of Education training teachers nationally.

Readings in the Book of Chronicles Chronicles is one of the most inexplicable books in Tanakh. Many of its chapters seem to be a repetition of other biblical texts, and others (primarily the genealogical lists) seem technical and incomprehensible. This book intends to offer a key to deciphering the inaccessible book of Chronicles, by integrating interpretive discussions with textual analysis, providing a broader perspective on the essence, individuality, content, and values embedded in the text. Instead of a chronological reading, this book addresses foundational themes in Chronicles, and is intended for those who study and love Tanakh, and have an appreciation for literature and culture.