"Her Husband Went Overseas": The Legal and Social Status of Abandoned Jewish Women in Medieval Provence and Languedoc
Contributor(s)RELMIN ; Maison des Sciences de l'Homme Ange Guépin (MSH Nantes) ; MSH Nantes - MSH Nantes
European Project : 249416, EC:FP7:ERC, ERC-2009-AdG, RELMIN(2010)
[SHS.HIST] Humanities and Social Sciences/History
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This paper deals with the legal term "medinat ha-yam" (meaning "overseas") in Jewish law, which, among other things, refers to a husband abandoning his wife, and to debtors who refuse to pay their debts, and commercial partners who took someone else's property out of their homeland. That such disparate examples were considered conjointly is explained by the fact that the marital partnership was regarded in the Middle Ages as a commercial deal: the man ritually acquired the woman and provided her with food and clothes, in exchange for a number of services that she was obliged to give to her husband. The difficult consequences that abandoned women might face are listed and examined, as well as legal solutions provided by rabbinical authorities. The paper is intended to show, on the basis of rabbinical Responsa dealing with the Jewish communities of Provence and Languedoc, the controversial nature of the status of abandoned women. On the one hand, they were one of the most disadvantaged social groups within Jewish communities. On the other hand, they enjoyed liberties unavailable to other Jewish women. Some leniency was offered to them by the rabbis. They were more visible in public space than other women and more socially active.