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A Learned Woman: I

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Beruriah the wife of Rabbi Meir was known by all as a sharp-tongued, intelligent woman. Time and again her husband's students and friends muttered amongst themselves that such knowledge and learning in a woman was unseemly. The more they muttered, the more Beruriah laughed, and corrected them when they quoted the scriptures wrongly or when they spoke belittlingly of women.

"Are not women given to gossip and frivolities due to their smallness of mind?" Rabbi Yosi the Galilean said one day as he journeyed with his students, to have something to say while he thought how to hide that he was lost. The road was unfamiliar and he thought they should never reach their destination. The students nodded and one and all agreed that to speak with a woman was like conversing with a speaking bird – the words that the bird said were by rote only and without import, just as with the chattering speech of women. All at once, and with some delight, Rabbi Yosi recognised a person he knew, for he saw that the woman walking nearby who had listened to his speech and snorted in contempt at his statement was Beruriah the wife of his friend Rabbi Meir. Wishing to find his way and come to the end of a long and dusty journey, he asked her, "Woman, by which road should we go to Lod?"

"Don't the sages say, Don't talk too much with women?" Beruiah said, imitating his way of speech so that his students turned their heads aside and smiled at her Galilean accent. "You should have said, Where's Lod? so that my small female mind could comprehend your question and answer in tones as sweet as the song of a bird. Galilean fool!" So saying, she walked off laughing to her house, and Rabbi Yosi did not find the way, and all his students' feet were blistered.

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