The Good Old Days Before Political Correctness

Are Women Akin to Animals?

That title sure got your attention, huh? Blogging experts claim controversy can be beneficial, so let’s check out their claim.

What, no, I didn’t say it! It wasn’t me! He said it!

Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon Shabsai, son of R’ Rafael Issachar Sinigalia (1770 – 1840) is the author of Ya’akov Lechok (on Pri Megadim), responsa Megged Shamayim, and several other works. He also wrote “Shabbos Shel Mi” on tractate Shabbos, his best-known work, and also the one which contains the offending passage we discuss here.

Here is the title page of the book –

Here’s a closer look –

In his book “Shabbos Shel Mi” (first published in 1807) Rabbi Sinigalia ends most chapters with some short phrase in prose.

For illustration, here are some chapter headings and their attached notes:

Bameh Madlikin –

Bameh Tomnin –

Bameh Beheimah –

Klal Gadol –

Hamotzi –

It’s pretty banal so far. In the chapter of “Bameh Isha”, (that’s page 175 of Part One in the Jerusalem, 1961 edition) it gets personal, however.

A full page view –

A closer look –

Just in case you still can’t see it, here it is in Hebrew:

דרשינן סמוכים פרק במה בהמה ובמה אשה כל הקרב הקרב כי לא לחינם הלך זרזיר אצל עורב

I don’t need to translate this (nor do I wish to do so)! The clear meaning is his view that women are analogous to animals. The only important question that remains is: Did he mean “Beheima Gasah” or “Beheima Dakah”…?

Just to be clear, this is not some canonical dogma of Judaism. We don’t slaughter either Goyimor women for our Matzos!

This is purely an offhand remark by a little-known author of two hundred years ago, not based on anything. It is slightly puzzling that this was published as is, however (maybe this wasn’t immediately noticed).

Rather shocking, right? What drove him to write this? Was he a misogynist, or was he simply having a difficult Friday? There might be an explanation/justification, but I can’t think of one.

So what do you think? Should we ban the book…?

What ought a modern publisher to do about these kinds of sticky situations? Leave it as is and note it in the introduction? Delete it, and then note its deletion?

There’s one other quote which is meaningless on its own, but might reinforce the “theory” of misogynism (from SSM idem Shabbos 118b) –

Rant and rave all you like! Just remember, I didn’t write these words, so please don’t shoot the messenger.

And oh yeah, if I got you excited enough to want to buy the book, see here.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.