The Obligated Self

The Obligated Self

Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought
Mara H. Benjamin
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/24/2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-03432-8
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Mara H. Benjamin contends that the physical and psychological work of caring for children presents theologically fruitful but largely unexplored terrain for feminists. Attending to the constant, concrete, and urgent needs of children, she argues, necessitates engaging with profound questions concerning the responsible use of power in unequal relationships, the transformative influence of love, human fragility and vulnerability, and the embeddedness of self in relationships and obligations. Viewing child-rearing as an embodied practice, Benjamin’s theological reflection invites a profound reengagement with Jewish sources from the Talmud to modern Jewish philosophy. Her contemporary feminist stance forges a convergence between Jewish theological anthropology and the demands of parental caregiving.

Author Bio

Mara H. Benjamin is Irene Kaplan Leiwant Associate Professor and Chair of Jewish Studies at Mount Holyoke College. She is author of Rosenzweig’s Bible: Reinventing Scripture for Jewish Modernity.


“Brings together modern Jewish philosophy, Jewish historical and religious studies, and feminist theory to draw out themes like responsibility and obligation in the maternal experience.”
 — Claire Elise Katz, author of Levinas and the Crisis of Humanism

“A richly imagined work that brilliantly captures the complexity and contradictions of the experience of parenting and then uses that experience to shed light on the nature of God and multiple neglected aspects of Jewish tradition. Few readers will come away from this book without being stimulated, challenged and enlarged by it.”
 — Judith Plaskow, author (with Carol P. Christ) of Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology

“One of the most creative projects in Jewish feminist thought in a long while. Benjamin turns a feminist examination of maternal subjectivity into a critical lens for Jewish thinking about the self. She draws on a wide range of resources, beginning with biblical and rabbinic texts, putting them into conversation with modern Jewish thought and various types of feminist literature to create as rich and deep a Jewish conversation as possible.”
 — Charlotte Fonrobert, author of Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender

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Table of Contents



Part I

Chapter 1: Obligation

Chapter 2: Love

Chapter 3: Power

Chapter 4: Teaching

Part II

Chapter 5: The Other

Chapter 6: The Third

Chapter 7: The Neighbor