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Featured Book for March 2022

Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne

by Wilda Gafney

Womanist Midrash is an in-depth and creative exploration of the well- and lesser-known women of the Hebrew Scriptures. Using her own translations, Gafney offers a midrashic interpretation of the biblical text that is rooted in the African American preaching tradition to tell the stories of a variety of female characters, many of whom are often overlooked and nameless. Gafney employs a solid understanding of womanist and feminist approaches to biblical interpretation and the sociohistorical culture of the ancient Near East. This unique and imaginative work is grounded in serious scholarship and will expand conversations about feminist and womanist biblical interpretation.

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Community Questions

Reflection Questions written by Claudia Love Mair

Week 1

  1. On page 3, Dr. Gafney describes womanist midrash. She credits giving voice to marginalized biblical characters as an outgrowth of her experience with the sanctified imagination, a type of of African American indigenous midrash. Based on your reading of Womanist Midrash, what is your response to how Dr. Gafney reimagines both classical and contemporary Jewish midrash?
  2. On page 9 Dr. Gafney shares Alice Walker's definition of womanism in full. How has learning about a womanist framework shifted your view of dominant culture feminism?
  3. Matthew 5:18 says, “for truly I say to you, until the heaven and the earth may pass away, one iota or one tittle may not pass away from the Law, until all may come to pass.” How do you view this scripture in relation to the concept of the sanctified imagination?

Week 2

  1. On page 10 Dr. Gafney says she has listened to men and women read and preach very few texts in which she could hear herself. This is attributed to an assumption of a normative male subject. How have you heard or seen yourself in biblical texts?
  2. In chapter 1 Dr. Gafney shares the stories of the women in Genesis. Regardless of your gender, which woman do you most identify with most?
  3. What is your response to Dr. Gafney referring to many of the women in the Bible she highlights with the modern term "sex slaves"? 

Week 3

  1. Gafney references the late rapper Tupac on page 82 and shares lyrics from the song, "Keep Ya Head Up". Shakur was convicted of sexual assault, and in addition to that often referred to women as "bitches" and "hoes". What is your response to Dr. Gafney including these lyrics in Womanist Midrash?
  2. Page 82 describes Dr. Garfney as, in her words a "God-wrestler." How have you wrestled with God?
  3. Many stories in scripture include slavery, stories which were used to justify chattel slavery, the subjugation of captive African people. How do you grapple with Bible stories about slavery in light of what we know now about the transatlantic slave trade?

Week 4

  1. In the Torah, we see many instances of the erasure of women that Dr. Gafney brings forward in her interpretations. How have you been enriched by the fleshing out of these stories of sometimes nameless characters?
  2. In chapter 8 Dr. Gafney expands our perception of David. How have her insights about David's dominance influenced your opinion of him?
  3. In her translations, Dr. Gafney uses gender specific language, for example "She, the Spirit," rather than gender inclusive or neutral "the Spirit." (page 287). Have her insights regarding changed the way you think of the translation of the Bible that you use?