Jephthah’s Daughter: Parashat Behar

In this portion, we read about the laws governing vows. Famously, the military leader, Jephthah consigned his daughter to death in fulfillment of his vow. Jephthah’s daughter impels us to ask, How can God allow tragedies like this to happen? “The issue here is whether God micromanages human affairs or allows humans the freedom to act within a set of moral guidelines. This question goes to the very nature of the relationship between God and human beings.” (Miller, p.23) The story of Jephthah’s daughter allows us an opportunity to confront this fundamental religious question.

Last week I discussed Shelomith, a biblical woman with a name but no words or actions. This week I explore a woman without a name who speaks and acts, Jephthah’s daughter.* If being nameless keeps the daughter at a safe distance so that her death is less horrific, she resists her anonymity by speaking and acting. She insists that we look at her story more closely despite her obscurity. Read more…

 

* Pseudo-Philo, an anonymous author of the first century C.E. named her Seila, “the asked-for woman.” Jewish midrash variously called her Achsa and Adulah (see Louis Ginsberg, The Legends of the Jews, IV, pp. 43-47). Several modern feminist scholars have named her “Beth” meaning daughter.

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