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‘Your covenant that you have sealed in our flesh’: Women, covenant, and circumcision

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Chapter Summary

There are only two passages in the rabbinic prayer book whose language prevents, or has been thought to prevent, their recitation by women. The first is benediction ‘who has not made me a woman,’ which has been discussed often by historians and apologists. The second is the benediction in the birkat ha-mazon which thanks God for ‘your covenant that you have sealed in our flesh,’ that is, circumcision. The core of the rabbinic birkat ha-mazon consists of three paragraphs, each of them phrased as a blessing. The first thanks God for gift of sustenance; second thanks God for the gift of the land of Israel; the third is a prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem. In medieval Europe some women omitted this phrase in their recitation of the birkat ha-mazon because the covenant of circumcision does not apply to women. This chapter is devoted to the history of this phrase.

Keywords: benediction; birkat ha-mazon; circumcision; covenant; Israel; rabbinic prayer book; recitation; women



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