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Bruriah (Hebrew: ברוריה) is one of several woman quoted as a sage in the Talmud. She was the wife of the Tanna Rabbi Meir and the daughter of Rabbi Hananiah Ben Teradion, who is listed as one of the "Ten Martyrs." She is greatly admired for her breadth of knowledge in matters pertaining to both halachah and aggadah, and is said to have learned from the rabbis 300 halachot on a single cloudy day (Tractate Pesachim 62b). Her parents were put to death by the Romans for teaching Torah, but she carried on their legacy.
Bruriah was very involved in the halachic discussions of her time, and even challenges her father on a matter of ritual purity (Tosefta Keilim Bava Kamma 4:9). Her comments there are praised by Rabbi Judah Ben Bava. In another instance, Rabbi Joshua praises her intervention in a debate between Rebbi Tarfon and the sages, saying "Bruriah has spoken correctly" (Tosefta Keilim Bava Metzia 1:3).
She was also renowned for her sharp wit and often caustic jibes. The Talmud (Tractate Eruvin 53b) relates that she once chastised Rabbi Jose, when he asked her "Which way to Lod?" claiming that he could have said the same thing in two words, "Where's Lod?" instead of four, and thereby keep to the Talmudic injunction not to speak to women unnecessarily.
In the Midrash on Psalms 118 it states that Bruriah taught her husband, Rabbi Meir, to pray for the repentance of the wicked, rather than for their destruction. According to the story, she once found Rabbi Meir praying that an annoying neighbor would die. Appalled by this, she responded to him by explaining the verse "Let the sinners be consumed from the earth, and the wicked shall be no more" ( ), that the verse actually states: "Let sin be consumed from the earth," adding that "the wicked shall be no more" because they have repented.
She is also described as having enormous inner strength. The Midrash on the Book of Proverbs tells that her two sons died suddenly on the Sabbath, but she hid the fact from her husband until she could tell him in a way that would comfort him. In response, Rabbi Meir quoted the verse, "A woman of valour, who can find?" ( ).
In the Talmudic commentaries (e.g. Rashi on Tractate Avodah Zarah, 18b), a story explains how she died. According to the story, she mocked a Talmudic assertion that women are not to be considered as witnesses in rabbinical court (Beth Din), due to the possibility of being easily swayed or influenced. In order to prove her wrong, Rabbi Meir sent one of his students to seduce her. After some time, he succeeded, even though it did not get all the way to intercourse. (The point here was to prove to her that even a woman of her wisdom and virtue could be swayed or seduced.) Bruriah committed suicide (by strangling, according to Rashi) out of shame. Other sources have it that she fell ill emotionally due to shame, and a group of Rabbis prayed for her death and peace. Rabbi Meir, who never expected things to spiral out of control in this way, imposed exile on himself and left Palestine for Babylonia.
But Rabenu Nissim Ben Yakov of Kairouan brings on a different explanation that is closer to the text. According to him, Rabbi Meir and Bruriah had to flee to Babylonia after the Romans executed her father, sold her mother to slavery and her sister to a brothel (to be rescued by Rabbi Meir) and were looking for her. Other Rabbinic sources also take issue with Rashi's commentary, and indeed, there exists a tradition among Orthodox Rabbis to name their daughters Bruriah, as an assertion of her righteousness.
- ↑ Brought down in a book of Midrashim attributed to Rabenu Nissim of Kairouan. H.Z. Hirschberg (editor), Chibur Yafe Min Hayeshua, Mosad Harav Kook, 1970, p.39-40