by Ilana Kurshan

Rahel: A Golden Age Feminist Foremother

In The Wayward Moon, Janice Weizman tells the story of a Jewish woman living in ninth century Babylonia. In the book’s opening pages, Rahel bat Yair, a 17-year-old, witnesses the brutal murder of her father, a respected physician, by a government official. Without thinking twice, Rahel plunges the knife into her father’s murderer and has to flee her native Sura, a major center of Jewish learning both in Talmudic times and in the Geonic period in which this novel is set. Amusingly if implausibly, she disguises herself first as a man, then as a Muslim slave girl, and then as a Christian monk, and there is something picaresque and even quixotic about her episodic adventures. 

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