The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

Sharon Faye Koren

Cover of "Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism"A fascinating analysis of why there are no female mystics in medieval Judaism. This book addresses a central question in the study of Jewish mysticism in the medieval and early modern periods: why are there no known female mystics in medieval Judaism, unlike contemporaneous movements in Christianity and Islam? Koren demonstrates that the male rejection of female mystical aspirations is based in deeply rooted attitudes toward corporeality and ritual purity. In particular, medieval Jewish male mystics increasingly emphasized that the changing states of the female body between ritual purity and impurity disqualified women from the quest for mystical connection with God.

Offering a provocative look at premodern rabbinical views of the female body and their ramifications for women’s spiritual development, Koren compares Jewish views with medieval Christian and Muslim views of both female menstruation and the possibility of female mystical experience.

"Koren's scholarship is first rate, and the clarity of the content is striking. She addresses themes from many disciplines, including Jewish mysticism, Jewish women's studies, and medieval and early modern Jewish studies, with depth and authority." —Judith R. Baskin, University of Oregon

"This unique study provides a number of perspectives that have been lacking in studies to date. Koren combines a history of ideas and a history of practice in a highly intelligent manner. Moreover, she allows a meeting of scholarship on Kabbalah and historical methods in a most successful way." —Elisheva Baumgarten, Bar-Ilan University

About the Author

Sharon Faye Koren is an assistant professor of medieval Jewish culture at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, New York.