The pesky Tznuot and Perutzot, about whom we gossiped on daf 3a reappear on daf 3b, surprise surprise! On daf 3a we were concerned that the meek woman would think the best of her husband (who left her over a year ago with a suspicious conditional divorce) and assume she was still married, rendering herself an agunah; while the brazen woman would purposely remarry despite her husband’s intention to return. (Picture Romare Bearden. Two Women in a Landscape, 1941.)

On daf 3b they play different though similar roles. As we discussed earlier, the meek woman would prefer to be killed then allow a local governor rape her on her wedding night (perhaps for halakhic reasons because she believes she won’t be allowed to return to her husband, or simply for emotional reasons). On the other hand the lascivious woman will actually enjoy the first night’s rights- her desire transforming it from rape to adultery, after which she really is not allowed to return to her husband.

In some ways the tznuot and the prutzot play a similar role in both sugyot. The Rabbis would like to build a perfect world, with clean clear legal standards and set rules, but reality keeps rearing its ugly head, and it has two faces. The minute we step from the ideal into the real, we find women, real live people with personalities and opinions. And they don’t always listen to Rabbis. In fact the Perutzot, listen to the Rabbis and then manipulate the system with the knowledge of halakha, while the tznuot, a term we would usually consider praise, are in fact those that reject halakha and rabbinic loop holes on the grounds of their emotions or sense of the world.

Reality doesn’t always work out as planned. But the Rabbis do want to make things work in the real world, and so time and again they have to face the women, the real people for whom the law exits and adapt.

Leave a Reply.