RASHI’S DAUGHTERS, BOOK I: JOHEVED

A Novel of Love and The Talmud in Medieval France

Maggie Anton

The first two novels in a dramatic trilogy set in eleventh-century France about the lives and loves of three daughters of the great Talmud scholar.

In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world—writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.

Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden.

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The first two novels in a dramatic trilogy set in eleventh-century France about the lives and loves of three daughters of the great Talmud scholar.

In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world—writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.

Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. When she becomes betrothed to Meir ben Samuel, she is forced to choose between marital happiness and being true to her love of the Talmud.

Rich in period detail and drama, Joheved is a must read for fans of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.

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  • Plume
  • Paperback
  • August 2007
  • 385 Pages
  • 9780452288621

Buy the Book

$15.00

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About Maggie Anton

Maggie Anton lives with her husband in Glendale, California. She is working on Rashi’s Daughters, Book III: Rachel, as well as a translation of Machzor Vitry.

Praise

“The writing successfully captures the pace of medieval life and pulls the reader into the details of the characters’ lives.” —Jewish Times News

“A forceful novel of the power of learning, faith, and the two sides of love.”
Midwest Book Review

“Impressive work…a fine storyteller…an absorbing, detailed account.” —Jewish Journal

Discussion Questions

What tone does the opening scene set? What does it tell you about Joheved’s character?

Describe how the bond between Joheved and Salomon develops and changes with time? Discuss the pros and cons of Jewish childhood in medieval France.

Rashi’s Daughters is filled with carefully researched historical anecdotes that the author uses as inspiration for her own imagined scenes. Discuss this interplay of fact and fiction.

Rivka is upset with her daughters learning Talmud. Are her objections reasonable? Why would men not want women in a position of knowledge? What is threatening about educated women? Discuss the role of women in medieval society versus their role today.

Joheved and Meir have an arranged marriage, as do Salomon and Rivka. Compare Joheved and Meir’s relationship to Salomon and Rivka’s? To Miriam and Benjamin’s? Discuss the pros and cons of arranged marriage versus marrying for love. Why would Sarah prefer widowhood to remarriage?

Salomon’s decision to write down his kuntres is a controversial innovation. Discuss how a society is changed in a shift from oral to written tradition.

Relations between French Jews and Christians were fairly tolerant during this time. Was this lack of overt anti-Semitism surprising? What other myths about medieval times did Rashi’s Daughters debunk?

Which characters resonated the most powerfully for you? Were there others you would have liked to have known more about? Why?

What do you see in the future for Rachel? Are there any clues that indicate what might happen?

Religion was a powerful force for both Jews and Christians in medieval times. Is religion as powerful now? How does your religion, or lack of one, influence your life?