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After the Apple provides lessons for today
by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
07/27/05
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After the Apple: Women in the Bible - Timeless Stories of Love, Lust, and Longing
Naomi Harris Rosenblatt
NY: Hyperion, 2005


Naomi Harris Rosenblatt is a Jewish psychotherapist who has gained much of her understanding about people from the Bible. As she states, "by portraying life as it is, with all its contradictions and complexities, the Bible has guided me along the path of compassion, empathy, and understanding of others." In "After the Apple: Women in the Bible," she uses the Jewish technique of midrash, reinterpreting Biblical narratives in light of today's circumstances, to delve into the lives of several notable women of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In Rosenblatt's capable hands, these women are three-dimensional. They struggle with decisions and with odds stacked against them. Rosenblatt analyzes their motivation and their influences. None are purely good or purely evil (although Jezebel does come close!) Most of them are simply trying to survive and insure that the Jewish faith will continue to the next generation. Several, including Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, conceive children late in life, having faced the difficulty of infertility in a world where much of a woman's value was the children she gave her husband. Some such as Leah, Jacob's first wife, and Michal, David's first wife, are stuck in unhappy marriages. While Leah creates her own identity as mother to her children, Michal becomes a bitter woman who seals her own fate when she humiliates the king in public. Later on, another wife of David's, Bathsheba, will exert her influence in having her son Solomon named to the throne to succeed his father.

Ruth and Esther are the two women for whom books of the Bible have been named. Both use seduction as a means of getting what they need. Ruth seduces Boaz so that he will take her as his wife and provide support for her and her mother-in-law Naomi. Their great-grandchild is King David. Esther is a member of the Persian king's harem. After one night with her, he decides to make her queen. Ultimately, she will use her influence to prevent the mass killing of all Jews living in Persia.

Rosenblatt acknowledges that the biblical scribes (most, if not all, of whom were men) were very sympathetic to women. "The risks they took, their heroism, and their resourcefulness" was recorded in detail. Exploring the lives of the women in "After the Apple" can help us understand our own lives and difficult circumstances more clearly.


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of "The Spiritual Woman Newsletter" and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004). She has a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Theology from Elms College.


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