“The Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages” features men and women, Jews and gentiles, ancients and moderns.
In a class presented not long ago at Teaneck’s Temple Emeth – scheduled to be repeated in February at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades – author Judika Illes focuses on three relatively modern Jewish holy women.
The oldest is Asenath Barzani (1590-1670) of Kurdistan, “considered by many to be the first pre-modern woman to be awarded the title ‘rabbi,'” says Illes.
She was a student of her father, Rabbi Samuel Barzani, who had no sons.
“When she got married, her father stipulated in the ketubah [marriage contract] that she must never be troubled by housework so she would have time to continue her studies,” says Illes.
Asenath Barzani was said to perform miracles of fertility and healing using the power of touch and blessings. Her grave in Amadiyah, in present-day Iraq, was a pilgrimage site for centuries.
|Save the date|
|Judika Illes will present her program, “Forgotten Jewish Holy Women,” for REAP (Retired Executives and Professionals) at the JCC on the Palisades on Feb. 28, 2012.|
Better known among Ashkenazim is the Maid of Ludomir, born in 1806 in present-day Ukraine.
“In a lot of ways, she was very much a forerunner of women in the modern Orthodox community who want to be community leaders. She taught men and women, but was always Orthodox. She had a mechitzah; she just put men in the back,” says Illes.
An only child, she received an education befitting a wealthy Jewish boy instead of a girl’s. When her parents died, “she inherited their fortune and she built herself a yeshiva. She was reputedly a wonderful healer and created amulets. People came from far and wide for her cures.”
She was “always a controversial person,” says Illes.
The third woman, Solica Hatchoel, known as Lalla Solica, was born in 1817 in Morocco and died, a martyr, in 1834. (See encyclopedia excerpt for details.)
“These women led unique lives,” says Illes.