Circle, Arrow, Spiral

Circle, Arrow, Spiral

Exploring Gender in Judaism
Miriam Kosman

Mekor Press / 376 PP

Miriam Kosman’s book, “Circle, Arrow, Spiral” is an exciting look into gender related issues in Judaism. The title is reflective of the theory that the arrow represents the male, along with traits such as excellence, accomplishment, and progress. The circle represents the female, along with traits such as the holistic, harmonious, and completeness. The spiral represents the ideal synthesis between the forces. The book helps us understand the “Circle” and the “Arrow” while striving for the “Spiral.”

The first part of the book is more philosophical in nature with my favorite piece being the section on “Mashpia and Mekabel" – all about the giving and receiving forces in the world as it applies to male and female roles and symbolism. Filled with biblical, talmudic, midrashic, and philosophic sources, readers are treated to uncharted waters in gender relate issues in general, and the “female force” in particular.

The second part of the book, far more up my alley, focuses on halachic issues related to gender, particular those relevant to women. In this section the author tackles some of the thorniest gender related issues with unprecedented patience and clarity. Such issues include, why it is the husband who must initiate a divorce (which, as we know, has caused many women to be agunas), polygamy, the ketuba, why women can’t serve as witnesses, the “thank you for not making me a woman” blessing, and much more. This section is very well done -- presenting advanced halachic concepts in very bite size and digestable portions suitable for readers of all backgrounds.

I don’t think there exists a more thorough and balanced Torah approach to gender relations in Judaism -certainly not one written by an orthodox woman. Circle, Arrow, Spiral is easy reading and highly recommended. It will definitely leave readers with a renewed perspective on the role of men and women in Judaism.

For more information on Miriam Kosman, her book, and speaking engagements, see:

Bonus: Miriam’s husband, Rav Avrohom Kosman, gives the best online/downloadable Gemara-Rashi-Tosfos shiur around:

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