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Holiness and Transgression

Mothers of the Messiah in the Jewish Myth (Psychoanalysis and Jewish Life)
Academic Studies Press
Publication Year


This volume deals with the female dynasty of the House of David and its influence on the Jewish Messianic Myth. It provides a missing link in the chain of research on the topic of messianism and contributes to the understanding of the connection between female transgression and redemption, from the Bible through Rabbinic literature until the Zohar. The discussion of the centrality of the mother image in Judeo-Christian culture and the parallels between the appearance of Mary in the Gospels and the Davidic Mothers in the Hebrew Bible, stresses mutual representations of “the mother of the messiah” in Christian and Jewish imaginaire. Through the prism of gender studies and by stressing questions of femininity, motherhood and sexuality, the subject appears in a new light. This research highlights the importance of intertwining Jewish literary study with comparative religion and gender theories, enabling the process of filling in the ‘mythic gaps’ in classical Jewish sources. The book won the Pines, Lakritz and Warburg awards.


“Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel’s careful handling of discussions spanning nearly two thousand years of Jewish literary output is highly original and is accomplished by excellent knowledge of the relevant texts and of the research literature, Gender Studies and Myth Theory. The overall picture that emerged from this book is an innovation within the field of Jewish Thought … a major contribution to the understanding of the Messianic idea and its development in certain branches of the Jewish world, as well as to the understanding of the importance of the role of women in the history of the Messiah.”

—Moshe Idel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“This is a fascinating history of women’s transgressive sexuality, which features time and again in the biblical, rabbinic and kabbalistic sources, where it is construed as the crucial and most productive element of the redemptive process, giving rise to the famously irregular maternal genealogy of the Jewish Messiah in each one of his incarnations, right up to and including Jesus Christ.”
—Ada Rapoport-Albert, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London

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