Anyone up for some more Gemara? (Last Talmudic lesson here.)
Have you ever had “daatan nashim kalos” quoted at you? It’s an incredibly irritating line typically used out of context.
I recall one teacher telling us that it means women’s minds flit from subject to subject too easily, and that’s why we aren’t suitable for studying Talmud and such weighty subjects. Part of me hopes she just made that up, because if she was quoting a rabbi, then he was being intellectually dishonest.
Part of me knows she was not, because of articles like this one.
Below is the snip of one Gemara in which it appears, on Shabbos 33b.
The story is the famous one of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai. He spoke badly about the Romans and had to hide out from them in the beis midrash. His wife brought him food every day, but he was still worried. “Nashim, daatan kalah” he said to his son. “Maybe they’ll torture her and she won’t be able to resist and will give away our location.” So they went and lived in a cave instead.
Isn’t context a wonderful thing?
In context, it is clear that R’ Shimon is not referring to a woman’s mental capacity or thinking pattern. He is simply doubting female resilience under torture. And by that, he doesn’t mean that her mind will flit from subject to subject, and she’ll forget she’s talking to the Romans, and blab out where her husband is. He is probably imagining his wife being forced to choose between grotesque rape and confession.
Moving right along, the phrase also appears in Kiddushin 80b. Here, the Mishna is discussing whether a man can be alone together with two women. It concludes not. The Gemara explains this is because “nashim, daatan kalah aleihen” and then immediately changes the subject with no explanation.
Translation: Mishna: A man may not be alone with two women, but one woman may be alone with two men. R. Simeon said: even one man may be alone with two women, if his wife is with him, and he may sleep with them in an inn, because his wife watches him. A man may be alone with his mother and his daughter, and he may sleep with them in immediate bodily contact; but when they grow up, she must sleep in her garment, and he in his.
Gemara: What is the reason?—Tanna debe Eliyahu [states]: Nashim, daatan kala aleihen.
Again, the context includes bullying and/or raping.
Or, to quote an academic, the phrase refers to “lacking a strong enough will to resist that which one is being pressed into doing.” (Judith Haptman, Reading the Rabbis)
So, please don’t let anyone tell you it’s about how your brain works. .