In her recent Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety, Marjorie Garber has written: "The male nun, the female monk, the feminized Jewish man are recurrent figures of fantasy as well as of history and propaganda. They too are 'third kinds,' figures who put in question received beliefs - in this case, the very kinds of signifying practices (like, for example, celibacy and circumcision) that create and police religious faith" (213). What is it that conjoins these figures, i.e., how is it that monks and Jews are similar in the European imaginary? Garber's solution to this question attempts to force Judaic culture into a pattern that just does not fit it: "Since ecstatic religion depends to a certain extent upon the existence of exceptions, chosen persons who explicitly violate the very tenets that faith and custom ordain for the ordinary practitioner, the presence of transvestite figures, or of the phantom of the transvestite in the representation of holy personages (saints, virgin martyrs, rabbinical leaders) is in a way, oddly, to be expected: these are the exceptions that prove the rule." For all its powerful insight, there is a confusion here involving the placement of rabbis into the category of holy personages and the assumption that it was only rabbinic leaders who were characterized as feminized, while in fact it was all Jewish men. Secondly, while there are transvestite nuns and monks, the really interesting question that Garber's work raises explicitly is that of the "feminization" of all Christian religious - and even married Protestant - divines. Finally, rabbinic leaders were not threatening to a religious status quo (unless it was the Christian one); the Rabbis were in this sense "ordinary practitioners" writ large, not saints or ecstatics who disturb and threaten the established order of things. These cultural conflations becloud the true insight that Garber sees perfectly (in the first quoted passage), namely the existence of a category - a third gender - formed by Jewish men whose characteristic or ideal mode of existence is scholarly-bookish, and therefore nonphallic and unmanly for Eurochristian performances of gender, and monks for whom the same is largely true (McNamara 6).
Garber's brilliant insight can be reconfigured and recaptured. Christian and Jewish images of gender-crossing, and particularly of the feminization of the male, have in common that they are forms of resistance to a culture that equated power and dominance with maleness and maleness with the "husband's natural position" in coitus. Where Roman culture despised the submissive male, both early Christian and early Jewish cultures valorized him.(1) Both early rabbinic Jews and early Christians performed resistance to the Roman imperial power-structure through "gender-bending," thereby marking their own understanding that gender itself is implicated in the maintenance of political power.(2) Thus various symbolic enactments of "femaleness" - as constructed within a particular system of genders - among them asceticism, submissiveness, retiring to private spaces, and circumcision (interpreted in a distinctive way, see below) were adopted variously by Christians and Jews as acts of resistance against the Roman culture of masculinist power-wielding. This point is made by Virginia Burrus about early Christianity: "For men, the pursuit of Christian ascesis entailed the rejection of public life and therefore of the hierarchies of office and gender; in this respect, their opponents were not far off the mark when they insinuated that male ascetics were 'feminized' through their rejection of the most basic cultural expressions of male identity" (Making).(3)
Historically the Jewish male is from the point of view of European culture a sort of woman.(4) I should state early and often just what I mean by this term, in order to prevent misunderstanding of my intent. I am not claiming a set of characteristics, traits, behaviors that are essentially female but a set of performances that are culturally read as non-male within a given historical culture. This culture can be very broadly described as Roman in its origins (Veyne) and as European in its scope and later history. It is the culture of romance that, while always contested - in large part precisely by "feminized" Christian religions - maintained hegemony as a male ideal, ever gaining power through the nineteenth century and beyond. Bernadette Brooten has well formulated it:
Active and passive constitute foundational categories for Roman-period culture; they are gender coded as masculine and feminine respectively. In their presentations of a wide range of sexual behaviors and orientations, astrologers often categorized an active sexual role as masculine and a passive sexual role as feminine; for this reason they described passive men as effeminate and active women as masculine.
A very recent writer - a psychoanalyst - continues to reflect this ideology of maleness by assuming confidently that "strength, assertiveness, activity, stoicism, courage, and so forth" (Lane 147) are "gender syntonic" for men. In this, he just continues the common wisdom of a culture within which, as a recent critic has written of Havelock Ellis, the patronizing assumption is that "men whose deepest sexual desire does not involve dominance of women must be in some way physically deficient" (Siegel 59). As Jo Ann McNamara has written of the dominant men of twelfth-century Europe:
They had fused personhood with manhood, and to defend their manhood they had to become ever more manly. They had to persecute with ever-increasing severity anyone who threatened the inner core of that image. Women were victimized by their exclusion and male victims - heretics, homosexuals, Jews, any rebels who didn't fit the mold - were turned into women. This was a tragedy for women and for the not-men, half-men, effeminate men who were the objects of this relentless persecution. (22)
I thus suggest a certain continuity of ideal gender patterning as a dominant strain within European culture from the Romans, through medieval romances, and into the modern phenomena known as the romantic in all of its values, both high-cultural and low - from Wagner to Gone with the Wind - hence, Roman/ce. Within the context of a culture in which "strength, assertiveness, activity, stoicism, courage and so forth" were the essential characteristics of manliness, Jewish men (and certain classes of Christian men as well) appeared to be not-male or feminized.(5)
Cultural construction and its category formations involve the manipulation of stereotypes, of self and other. For various, mostly quite obvious, reasons, accounts of stereotypes have been generally described from the perspective of dominant populations, thus male stereotypes of females, European of colonized people, straight of gays, Christian of Jews. Dominated populations also engage in stereotyping behaviors vis-a-vis their oppressors, and these practices have various functions, from self-defense to self-definition. There is an arguable correlation between an "ur-orientalizing" phase in Roman elite writers vis-a-vis their eastern others - including Jews - and feminization of those same others.(6) One might expect a defensive posture within which those others represented themselves as masculine and found, perhaps, ways of feminizing their dominators. Such representations of self and other by Jews are not absent by any means. Much more interesting, however, in my opinion, is the evidence that Jews in the rabbinic period stereotyped the "Roman" as being possessed of a certain despised hyper-masculinity, interpreted as violence and crudity, and read themselves as feminized, i.e., they accepted the stereotype but transvalued femininity and feminization.
In this essay, I will be looking quite closely at two talmudic narratives, the common thread of which is the constitution of a homosocial couple in which one of the male partners is figured as "wife" to the other, and this wifeliness is projected as a paradigm for male deportment. The cultural theme that I am describing in rabbinic Jewish culture can easily be countered by citing contradictory texts. I am not claiming an essentialist, pure (and utopian) construction of masculinity in the Talmud or in later Jewish cultural practice but focusing on a particular theme that attracts me, owing to my own particular set of identifications and desires (political and erotic), in certain talmudic texts. This is an openly tendentious reading but not, I trust, a dishonest one. I am tracing a cultural theme, an overtone, or voice in the polyphony that I wish to isolate and to amplify. I will attempt to show at the same time how some of the very talmudic texts that play this theme also are aware of its problems and contradictions. At the very moments in which I find a utopian alternative to the "dominant fiction" in talmudic culture, I also try to show how even that utopian instant itself produces its own pitfalls. We must constantly reckon, indeed struggle, with the ways that "utopian" analysis can slip from a hermeneutics of recovery, connoting that a wish and hope for something vastly new and better shows through a cultural product, into a hermeneutics of conservation, whereby that wish and hope are taken for the already existing reality and thus used as an alibi for a fundamentally conservative, indeed reactionary position.
The Emperor "Wife"
The first text is a story that occurs as part of a cycle of tales about the relations between Rabbi Yehudah Hannassi, known simply as Rabbi, the political and religious leader of the Palestinian Jews under Roman rule, and the Caesar Antoninus, son of Severus. We have, therefore, a paradigmatic representation of Jewish and Roman masculine ideals, from the Jewish point of view, of course. At the point that we enter the tale, after having been regaled with the Rabbi's great wisdom and how he and the Caesar became great friends and the Rabbi became a trusted adviser to the Roman ruler,(7) we are informed:
Every day [Antoninus Caesar] used to serve Rabbi. He used to feed him and give him drink. When Rabbi wished to get up on his bed, [Antoninus] would kneel down before the bed and say: "Get up on me to your bed." [Rabbi] said: "It is not appropriate to demean the kingship so." [Antoninus] said: "May I be a couch under you in the Next World!" [Antoninus] said: "Will I come into the Next World?" [Rabbi] said: "Yes. "[Antoninus] said, "but is it not written: 'There will not be a remnant left of the house of Esau' [Obadiah 1.18]?!" "That applies only to one who behaves as Esau." [Antoninus] said, "but is it not written: 'Edom is destroyed with its kings and all of its princes' [Ezekiel 32:29]?!" "Its kings - but not all of its kings! All of its princes - but not all of its ministers!"
There is also a tannaitic tradition that says this: "Its kings - but not all of its kings! All of its princes - but not all of its ministers! Its kings, but not all of its kings, that is, except for Antoninus the son of Severus. All of its princes but not all of its ministers, that is, except for Keti a bar Shalom."
And what is this story of Keti a bar Shalom?
There was a certain Caesar who hated Jews. He said to his courtiers: "If someone has a wart on his leg, should he cut it off and live or leave it and suffer?"
They said to him: "Let him cut it off and live!"
Keti a bar Shalom said to him: "First of all, you won't be able to defeat all of them, for it is written, 'I have scattered them as the four winds of the heavens' [Zachariah 2.10] - What is this 'as the four winds'? It ought to read 'to the four winds'! Rather it means that just as the world cannot exist without winds, so the world cannot exist without Israel. And secondly, they will call you a king who cuts."
[Caesar] said: "You have spoken well, but anyone who defeats the king [in argument] gets thrown into a hollow furnace."
When they were taking him out [to be executed], a certain Matron said to him: "Woe to the ship that goes without the toll!"
He fell on the end of his foreskin and bit it off. He said: "I have paid the toll, and I will pass."
A voice was heard [from Heaven]: "Keti a bar Shalom is invited to the Next World!" Rabbi cried and said: "There are those who acquire the Next World in one instant, and those who acquire the Next World only after many years!"
Antoninus served Rabbi, and when Antoninus died, Rabbi said: "The tie is rent!" (Avoda Zara 10b)(8)
Reading this text will provide us with important insights into rabbinic self-fashioning on several levels. In its function as wish-fulfillment, this kind of text has something like the force of dreams in Freudian theory (Kristeva 41). If we can speak of a "cultural unconscious," analogous to Fredric Jameson's "political unconscious" I suggest that for rabbinic culture at least it is to be found in these fantastic sagas of the Rabbis and their adventures. The most obviously dream-like aspect of the story is the fantasy of the Roman Emperor who serves as a foot-stool for the spiritual leader of the Jews. The way that this particular fantasy is played out in the story is much richer than mere revenge, however. In fact, what is thematized in this text is both a presentation of a stereotyped "Esau" or "Edom," i.e., Rome in rabbinic symbolism, as well as a partial interruption of that stereotype through the recognition of exceptions to it. As we shall see, the two consecutive episodes that I have excerpted here from the larger narrative sequence double each other in their presentation of the "Roman" vs. the "Jew."
At first glance, the political and religious meanings of these stories seem quite obvious, almost to the point of triviality. A subject people fantasizes two forms of reversal of its subjugation: one, that the very leaders of the dominating political power will become subject to the leaders of the dominated group (compare Jean Genet's The Blacks and The Maids) and the other, that God Himself will reward the subjected population in the Next World with a much greater benefit than that which the tyrants enjoy in the present world. By treating the two stories as "mirrors" of each other, however, a rich reading of the role of gender and power and their symbolic connection with circumcision in rabbinic culture begins to develop. In the first episode, the Rabbi and the Caesar, the gendered meanings are quite palpable. This Caesar is an exception to the general rule that kings of "Esau" have no place in the Next World by virtue of his sympathetic treatment of the Jews. The way that he earns this exceptional status is, however, fascinating. He becomes socially - if not sexually - Rabbi's wife. The services that he performs for Rabbi, preparing food and drink for him, and even, in displaced fashion, preparing his bed for him, all strongly mark him as the female partner in a marriage. According to the Babylonian Talmud Ketubbot 96a, in fact, preparing his drink and his bed are the two most intimate services that the wife is expected to perform for her husband. It is these that are forbidden during her menstrual period in order to prevent any possibility that husband and wife inadvertently will be swept away into sexual passion, and it is precisely these that Antoninus performs for Rabbi. This performance wins him his exceptional place among all Roman rulers in the Next World. This feminization of Antoninus is again strongly signified by Antoninus's desire to be "bedding" for Rabbi in the Next World. In addition, according to the Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 62b), the wife is described in this world as a "mattress for her husband," and, in the Next World, it is the reward of the virtuous wife to serve as his footstool. Finally, the strongly homoeroticized character of this imaginary friendship is inscribed in Rabbi's lament on the death of Antoninus, "The tie is rent," glossed forthrightly by Rashi as "Our love which has joined us soul to soul."(9) As we already know, a homoerotic relationship in antiquity always inscribes one of the partners as gendered female. The overly "male" Roman emperor becomes righteous and earns his place in the Next World through feminization. This feminization is thus positively marked within the culture, and this cannot be, of course, only for Roman men. If acting as a wife towards important scholarly men is what gets Roman men into the Next World, then it is even more the case for Jewish men. Indeed, one point of the story is precisely to present that model of feminine service and homoerotic attachment as a male ideal, and the talmudic text is addressed, of course, to Jews.
Moreover, this "wifely" ideal as the proper relationship of student to master is explicitly coded in the texts. The ideal rabbinic disciple is described as "washing the teacher's hands" - indeed "He washed the hands of the Rabbi" is a common metaphor for "He was the Rabbi's disciple" - and sure enough, washing the husband's hands and face is the third of the most intimate services that the menstruant wife is forbidden to perform. As servile as this position is, it is, nevertheless, positively marked for both men and women within the culture, just as a feminized servility was receiving positive valorizations within Christian culture at about the same time. I do not, of course, claim that such servility had the same meanings for men as for women. Indeed, it could be argued that the adoption of femininity by men in a culture within which there is a major disparity in power between the genders (virtually all human culture until now) will always form an appropriation of femaleness. Tania Modleski has well put it by referring to "how frequently male subjectivity works to appropriate 'femininity' while oppressing women" (7). The logic of referring to it as appropriation grows out of the very fact that it uses the female body as its metaphor for critique of modes of male hegemony. I do not discount the critique or its usefulness if I notice at the same time that it "shifts the gaze away from the physical suffering of the female body to the . . . dilemmas of men" (Gravdal 15). Noting its appropriative aspect does not, however, exhaust the meaning that such valorization of submission has within culture, nor does it eradicate the differences between cultures within which submission was despised and only domination prized and cultures within which submissiveness was valued.
The politics of this project have, therefore, two faces. The traditional valorization of femininity for Jewish men hardly constituted good news for Jewish women. There is no question that women were disenfranchised in many ways in traditional Jewish culture, and the culture authorized, even if it did not mandate, efflorescences of misogyny as well.(10) If the ideal Jewish feminized male has some critical force vis-a-vis general European models of manliness, at the same time a critique must be mounted against "him" for his oppression of Jewish women - and indeed, frequently enough, for his class-based oppression of other Jewish men as well, namely the ignorant who were sometimes characterized as being "like women."(11) Any attempt at a feminist rereading and rewriting of Jewish tradition must come to terms with this material fact and the legacies of pain that it has left behind. But the struggle against women's oppression within Jewish culture need not (and must not) lose sight of the critical force that Jewish culture can bring to bear on models of gender that were developed within romantic European culture.
An effective ground for this figure of a valorized submissiveness, of an emotional dependence of men on men, can be garnered from Roman texts. When Cicero wishes to attack Antony, he first accuses him of having been a prostitute and then, "but soon Curio turned up, drew you away from your meretricious trade and, as if he had given you a matron's robe, established you in lasting and stable matrimony. No boy bought for sexual gratification was ever so much in the power of his master as you were in Curio's" (qtd. in Edwards 64).(12) Catherine Edwards, in citing this passage, makes the excellent point that what offends here is not primarily the sexual practice, for as she says, "Cicero contrives to make a stable, lasting relationship sound far more reprehensible than prostitution," and this because "Antony's emotional attachment to Curio, he implies, reduced him to a position of slave-like dependence" (64-65). Rather, it was the dependence of one man on another, emotionally and materially, that was considered shameful and not their sexual practices. We have here the founding moments of a culture characterized recently by Lee Edelman as one in which there is "a deeply rooted concern about the possible meanings of dependence on other males" (50). However, for slaves it seems, it was precisely dependence on other males that was honored. Slaves have something to teach us about demystifying masculinist ideologies.(13) Dale Martin has derived some fascinating evidence to this effect from inscriptions:
The very names of slaves and freedpersons and the epithets they accepted for themselves demonstrate their acceptance of patronal ideology: many slaves were named Philodespotos, 'master-lover,' and one freedman is complimented as being a master-loving man in spite of the fact that this very term occurs in literary sources as an insult similar to 'slavish.' Several slaves honored a deceased fellow slave by saying he was a real lord-lover (philokyrios). They bear, probably without shame, names that bespeak servitude, for example, Hope-bearer, Pilot, Gain, Well-wed, and Changeable." (28-29, emphasis added)(14)
Before rushing to dub such data as mere evidence of false consciousness, we would do well to examine our own ideological investments, investments which still, as in Greek times, validate "tops" over "bottoms" (Foucault, Politics 300).(15) The "good" Roman emperor, according to this Jewish legend, not only allowed himself to be dependent on the leading rabbinic sage of his day but even behaved towards him as a wife toward a husband, and this is how he earned his place in the world to come.
I am now in a position to read the even more symbolic story of Keti a bar Shalom who also, by being an exception, and explicitly marked as such, defines what the stereotype of "Roman" is, and even more to the point, what the self-definition of Jewishness is. I am going to read this story, as I have said above, as an echo of the previous one. This echoing effect is supported by two moments within the narrative: one, the explicit antithetical notice of Keti a bar Shalom as the servant of a Caesar who "hates the Jews," evidently in opposition to Antoninus, the Caesar who loves the Jews, and secondly in the activity of stooping in order to circumcise himself that enables him to pass. The act of stooping and mutilating his phallus is what provides the possibility for Keti a bar Shalom (whose name is the obviously emblematic, "The Cut One, Son of Peace") to pass the tollgate and enter into the Next World, an ironic reflection of the Roman toll-gatherer who would normally prevent the subject populations from passing without paying the toll. This reading is doubled by the puns on the Hebrew root kt '"to cut." The Caesar considers the Jews to be a painful blemish on his realm and wishes to cut them out, as one would cut out a wart. Keti a bar Shalom both warns him (citing chapter, verse, and midrash of course!) that he will not be able to succeed at that aim (Jewish wish-fulfillment) and that he will then be stereotyped as a "cutter." The term that Keti a bar Shalom uses to indicate the way that the king will be stereotyped is, however, precisely his name, which also means (in the passive voice), the cut one, i.e., the circumcised one. "Cutter" is thus structurally opposed to "Cut One," as evil (the bad king who hates Jews) to good (the righteous Gentile who saves Jews). What I propose, therefore, is that, in addition to whatever other meanings this legend encodes, if we read it in the light of its immediate context, this form of Gentile attainment of the Next World, that which every Jewish male undergoes, consists of the same kind of symbolic feminization that was encoded explicitly in the story of Antoninus and Rabbi, and that Keti a bar Shalom also stooped to conquer.
It should be noted that Keti a bar Shalom's self-circumcision has no halakic (normative) status. He has not converted, thereby, to Judaism, nor, in fact, was it necessary for him to be circumcised in order to achieve a place in the Next World; he could have done so under the rubric of Righteous Gentile, which he clearly was. Moreover, the act is proposed in the text, ironically enough, not by a Jewish voice at all, but by a matrona, a figure for Roman culture. Once more, the text is proposing here a self-construction through the eyes of a Gentile character, looking, as it were, at Jews. We do not have here, then, a representation of the "official" meanings of circumcision, but of public, non-official and even perhaps unarticulated meanings. They are all the more significant for all that. Given the echoes and doubling from the previous story in the context, both the very act of submission and perhaps the mutilation of the genital itself, and the concurrent bleeding, seem possibly to have had feminizing significances. In Roman literature this feminization through circumcision appeared as a thoroughly negative representation. In Petronius, the slave with the intact foreskin is the more "virile" lover (Daniel). Moreover, among the acts of molding the male infant's body that a nurse is expected to perform in order to thoroughly virilize him is stretching his foreskin should it seem undeveloped. The short foreskin, then, was among the other signs of an effeminate nature (Gleason 71), and the intentional removal of the foreskin could only be read as perverse. Epictetus, in his Discourses, writes "Nature made women smooth and men hirsute. If a man born hairless is an ominous sign (teras), what are we to make of a man who depilates himself (3.1.27-28)" (qtd. in Gleason 69). Since making oneself less male on purpose through depilation was considered depraved, and the long foreskin was considered a sign of masculinity, circumcision, a deliberate "feminization" - in the very terms of their cultural construction of the foreskin - would have seemed to these Romans to be just as perverse as depilation. Within Jewish culture, I suggest, the same representation, circumcision as feminizing, became positively marked. This complements the transvaluation of feminizing servility that I read in the first episode of the text. Although this reading of circumcision as being a positively marked feminization of the male body is quite speculative, it can be supported from other rabbinic texts, as I have shown elsewhere ("'This We Know'").
There is important support for this notion from the reading of the famous verse of Ezekiel in which Israel is figured as a female child (16.6). God says to her, "I found you weltering in your blood," and blesses her, "Live in your blood." This blood is interpreted in rabbinic literature as the blood of circumcision!(16) This displacement involves very complicated semiotic transactions. Israel is female partner with respect to God, but many of the adepts in Israel are male. An event must take place in their bodies that will enable them to take the position of the female, and that event is circumcision. Ezekiel's metaphor of weltering in one's blood becomes the vehicle for a transformation of male blood into female blood and thus of male Israelites into female. This transformation is powerfully enacted at the ritual level, until today, when at a traditional circumcision ceremony, the newly circumcised boy is addressed: "And I say to you [feminine]: In your [feminine] blood, you [feminine] shall live. And I say to you [feminine]: In your [feminine] blood, you [feminine] shall live." These texts suggest strongly the possibility that circumcision was understood somehow as rendering to the male something of the attributes of the female,(17) thus making it possible for the male Israelite to have erotic communion with a male deity within a homoerotic economy in which one partner must always be feminized. I am suggesting, therefore, that there is here further evidence for a valorization of such feminization.(18) The talmudic text that we will read in the next section will prove sharply critical of the "without women" of this "feminism" at the same time that it also insists on the worth of the feminization itself.
This story and analysis begin to give us some insight into rabbinic collective male self-construction, and we see what a complicated process that is indeed. The ideal Jew is portrayed in contrast to a stereotyped Roman Other, who is portrayed as violent and cruel in his masculinity. At the same time, however, the stereotype is complicated by allowing that there are exceptions even among the Romans, Romans who are more like us, and their "more-like-us-ness" is figured as feminization. In fact, as Maud Gleason has recently made eminently clear, manliness was a highly contested quality for the Romans also; that is, every male (nearly) wanted to be manly, the question was precisely how it was constituted. This explicit marking of the exception - "Its kings - but not all of its kings" - both reinforces the stereotype and enables the narrative of proper male behaviors and relationships as appropriating the "feminine." Crucial to my argument, of course, is the assumption that we should not read this story as a mere fantasy of reversal of status, with Jews now "on top," a reading that would leave the representations of gender exactly where they were, i.e., in modern terms, one that would still privilege "top" over "bottom." Against such a reading stands the fact that according to another talmudic legend that I have discussed elsewhere (Boyarin, "Jewish"), Rabbi himself, this same religious and political leader of Palestinian Jewry, had also to become "female" through a painful mimesis of the pain of childbirth, in order to achieve his true destination as nurturing - not conquering - hero.
I think a good case can be made that the Rabbis represented Roman maleness as aggressively phallic, which may say nothing about Roman culture but nevertheless is significant for describing the culture of the Rabbis. This raises an important theoretical issue in cultural studies of the stereotype. Ultimately the point that needs to be emphasized is that this is not a discussion of "real" differences between Roman/ce and Jewish male behavior but about different cultural models signified in large part in specular, mutually confirming stereotypes. Thus, while Jewish men are represented by European Christian culture as feminized, they in turn represented the "Goy" as crude, violent, macho, hypermale. The stereotypes seem to confirm each other, to agree with each other that the Jewish male lacks the phallus that the Gentile possesses and thus to propose a homology between political and sexual domination. Something else, however, must be emphasized here as well. Virtually all of the texts I am discussing, from the talmudic to the early modern period, represent the "Goy" not by depicting a Gentile but by depicting a Jew who is, in some ways, like "them." This is a double-edged sword, but an interesting one. On the one hand, it interrupts a simply racist notion of: We are not like them. On the other hand, by inscribing the negative pole as "Goyishness," there is a reinscription of an essentialized negative stereotype of "their" culture. Here is an analogy. I am deeply offended when a Pauline scholar refers to Paul's use of the term "Jew" as not being really about Jewish people but about "the Jew inside of all of us," because it implies that having a Jew inside is an evil thing. It would be equally offensive if all evil in Jews were referred to as their being "like Goyim." It cannot be denied that this "racist" mood overtakes Jewish culture here and there, as for instance in the Yiddish proverb: Alle Yevonim hobm ein ponim (All Greeks/Ivans have one face [Funkenstein 1]). Nonetheless, I would argue that it is not an essentialized "Goyishness" that is being stereotyped so much as a particular European cultural formation of masculinity, one that is formed (and resisted) within Roman culture and passed on, broadly speaking, into medieval aristocratic and ultimately romantic culture. This formation was resisted from within European (Christian) culture as well, notably however by celibates and celibacy, as if to grant that male sexuality is violent and aggressive by nature and the only way to renounce such violence is by renouncing, as it were, masculinity itself (Burrus, "Male"; "Reading"). Parallel to this is Freud's later refusal to imagine a dephallicized masculinity as anything but castration, thus inscribing his inability to distinguish between the phallus and the penis (Geller, "Freud"). If we read this way, then the "racism" of the representation of the Gentile male in European Jewish culture is more cultural critique than chauvinism. Jewish culture, I suggest, rejects the phallus as a representation of male sexuality and thus imagines the possibility of a nonphallic male sexuality. I do not claim that it successfully achieves it. Remarkably, neither does the Talmud, as we shall see in the next section. In other words, I hypothesize here the Talmud as a resisting reader of itself.(19)
Rabbis and Their Pals
At the same time that the Talmud imagines an alternative to phallic, aggressive machismo as a definition of manliness, it seems aware (at times) of the liability of its own ideals, practices, and institutions, including, strikingly enough, the evils of the erasure of female agency, desire, and subjectivity from its homotopic world of Torah-study. In complementarity with the above stories that presented Romans who were like Rabbis, the next text presents a Rabbi who is (or was) like "Romans" but became a "proper" Jew. Since the end of the story is tragic, however, and violent, we see that at the same moment that the narrative presents the rabbinic male ideal it contests its own presentation and questions the validity of its own ideals:
One day, Rabbi Yohanan was bathing in the Jordan. Resh Lakish saw him and thought he was a woman. He crossed the Jordan after him by placing his lance in the Jordan and vaulting to the other side. When Rabbi Yohanan saw Rabbi Shim'on, the son of Lakish [Resh Lakish], he said to him, "Your strength for Torah!" He replied, "Your beauty for women!" He said to him, "If you repent, I will give you my sister who is more beautiful than I am." [Resh Lakish] agreed. [Resh Lakish] wanted to cross back to take his clothes but he couldn't. [Rabbi Yohanan] taught [Resh Lakish] Mishna and Talmud and made him into a great man.
Once they were disputing in the Study House: "the sword and the lance and the dagger, from whence can they become impure?"(20) Rabbi Yohanan said, "from the time they are forged in the fire." Resh Lakish said, "from the time they are polished in the water." Rabbi Yohanan said, "a brigand is an expert in brigandry" [i.e. sarcastically: You should know of what you speak; after all, weapons are your metier]. [Resh Lakish] said to [Rabbi Yohanan], "What have you profited me? There they called me Rabbi and here they call me Rabbi!" [Rabbi Yohanan] became angry, and Resh Lakish became ill [owing to a curse put on him by Rabbi Yohanan]. His sister [Rabbi Yohanan's sister; Resh Lakish's wife] came to [Rabbi Yohanan] and cried before him. She said, "Look at me!" He did not pay attention to her. "Look at the orphans!" He said to her "'Leave your orphans, I will give life' [Jeremiah 49.1]." "For the sake of my widowhood!" He said, "'Place your widows' trust in me' [Jeremiah 49.1]." Resh Lakish died, and Rabbi Yohanan was greatly mournful over him. The Rabbis said, "What can we do to comfort him? Let us bring Rabbi El azar the son of Padat whose traditions are brilliant, and put him before [Rabbi Yohanan]." They brought Rabbi El azar the son of Padat and put him before him. Every point that he would make, he said, "there is a tradition which supports you." [Rabbi Yohanan] said, "Do I need this one?! The son of Lakish used to raise twenty-four objections to every point that I made, and I used to supply twenty-four refutations, until the matter became completely clear, and all you can say is that there is a tradition which supports me?! Don't I already know that I say good things?" He used to go and cry out at the gates, "Son of Lakish, where are you?" until he became mad. The Rabbis prayed for him and he died. (Baba Metsia' 84a)
I propose to read this legend as a paradigmatic story of the formation of the Jewish male subject and especially, in this context, to focus on the issue of male intimacy that it encodes and problematizes.
Resh Lakish, although "ethnically" Jewish, is clearly in the beginning of the narrative stereotyped as a follower of Roman cultural paradigms.(21) The term that is used to describe him at this stage in his life is listes, brigand, but he seems here to have been as much a soldier or gladiator as a thief, and a sexual libertine as well.(22) Indeed, by the time that this story is being told, and in the eastern reaches of the Sassanian Empire where it is being told, these figures would probably have been conflated in the cultural imagination into a single image of violent, sexually aggressive masculinity (Barton 12-15; 48). There is, accordingly, a thematization of rape at the very beginning of the story. Resh Lakish, the quintessential "Goy," vaults over the river with clear and aggressive sexual intent. Kathryn Gravdal has recently demonstrated brilliantly how the semantics of one successor language to Latin, Old French, builds rape into its very definition of masculinity by using as its prime term for rape the "euphemistic" paraphrase, "to force a woman," while otherwise retaining the lexeme "force" as its main defining feature of manliness:
Within this chivalric rubric of admirable strength and heroic efforts appears, also in the late twelfth century, the word esforcement, denoting effort, power, military force, bravura, and rape. From the notion of strength, manliness, and bravery, we move to the knight's striving after heroism, and then to the idea of forced coitus. This specifically medieval glissement suggests that rape is part of the feudal hegemony, built into the military culture in which force is applauded in most of its forms. (3)
The talmudic text, four hundred years earlier than the Chanson de Roland, seems to be burlesquing this very Roman/ce male ideal of force and rape.
Rabbi Yohanan, the object of this sexual aggression, is the quintessential symbol of rabbinic Jewish maleness, and he has already been introduced to us within the immediate context in highly erotic, or even sexualized, imagery both as of extravagant beauty and as androgynous or effeminate in appearance:
Said Rabbi Yohanan, "I have survived from the beautiful of Jerusalem. "One who wishes to see the beauty of Rabbi Yohanan should bring a brand new silver cup and fill it with the red seeds of the pomegranate and place around its rim a garland of red roses, and let him place it at the place where the sun meets the shade, and that radiance is something like the beauty of Rabbi Yohanan.
Is that true?! But haven't we been taught by our master that: "The beauty of Rabbi Kahana is like the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu. The beauty of Rabbi Abbahu is like the beauty of our father Jacob. The beauty of our father Jacob is like the beauty of Adam," and that of Rabbi Yohanan is not mentioned. Rabbi Yohanan did not have a beard [lit. splendor of face]. (Baba Metsia(c) 83b)(23)
Rabbi Yohanan's beauty is described as an almost angelic beauty, a beauty marked however by his effeminate appearance. But he is left out of the list of the most beautiful men in history because his face is not marked with the mark of "true" masculine beauty, the gray beard of an aged sage.(24) While from the perspective of "Jewish" values, Rabbi Yohanan's remarked lack of a beard explicitly marks him as less beautiful, it seems also calculated to inscribe him (from the perspective of Roman/ce culture) as the appropriate object of Resh Lakish's desire, marked in the text by the explicit statement that Resh Lakish thought that Rabbi Yohanan was a woman.(25) Since Rabbi Yohanan is arguably one of the two or three most central rabbinic heroes and models within talmudic literature, his presentation as androgynous is highly significant. I would argue that here we can locate almost explicit evidence for my claim that certain textual/ideological strands, particularly within the Babylonian Talmud, were at pains to construct their ideal male figures as androgynes or as feminized men.
After vaulting over the river, leaving his clothes - but not his lance - behind, Resh Lakish is in for a surprise. The nature of the surprise is, however, left tantalizingly inexplicit, particularly according to the version of the text that does not explicitly claim that Resh Lakish thought he was pursuing a "real" female. The talmudic academy consists of an all-male grouping structured around intensely eroticized relations to the object of study, the Torah imagined as female, and to each other.(26) The sexual meanings of such erotic male-male desire and its relation to learning were, I suggest, no less an issue for the Talmud than they are for Plato's Symposium. Our text and its larger context provide us with a reflection on this subject through one of talmudic culture's favorite media for such thinking, the biographical legend. Instead of rabbis thinking, we have a sort of "thinking with rabbis." The questions being considered in this passage have to do with rabbinic, i.e., ideal Jewish maleness and its relationship to homosocial desire, to women, and especially to the phallus as a definition of masculinity. I shall suggest that whatever else is going on here, the questions of philia and the phallus, the understandings of "proper" manhood and proper male intimacy and their consequences for women are central to the text, and that it is about Jewish collective male self-construction in the context of a dominant Greco-Roman culture, a culture which this text projects as its other.
Rabbi Yohanan invites Resh Lakish to join him in the fellowship of "real men," those who devote themselves to the service of the female Torah - "Your strength," the virility of the lance with which you vaulted the Jordan, "for Torah." Such manhood is wasted in the pursuit of mere physical sex objects. Resh Lakish in turn answers with the ambiguous, "Your beauty for women."(27) For both characters there is a powerful element of identification and envy in their utterances. By desiring Resh Lakish's strength for Torah, Rabbi Yohanan is also expressing desire to have that strength himself. By desiring Rabbi Yohanan's beauty for women, Resh Lakish speaks his envy of that beauty. The envy will remain throughout the story, as we shall yet see. Rabbi Yohanan's appeal is: Bring that virility to me, share it with me in a love that will be mediated through our erotic attachment to the Torah. For Resh Lakish, initially resisting Rabbi Yohanan's invitation, it is: Bring that beauty to me, share it with me in the love that will be mediated through our common pursuit of women. These two possibilities - mediation of male erotics through "female" texts or female people - seem to reproduce the twin foundations of a by-now model pattern of homosocial desire (Sedgwick, Between 2).(28)
The narrative has set up two alternative homosocial communities, both having exactly the same erotic economy: an all-male hierarchical society - as we will see Rabbi Yohanan is the dominant male in his, Resh Lakish in his - structured around close male attachments with female figures "between" the men. Rabbi Yohanan's next rejoinder to Resh Lakish proves to he disingenuous at best. He says to him: You can have it all, both the spiritual female, the Torah, and a human female as well, one, moreover who has exactly the same carnal characteristics that attracted you to me.(29) "I will give you my sister": in this imagined world of homosociality, the woman has as little to say about her fate as does the Torah herself. When the female is only a symbolic function of displaced homoeroticism, then her will or subjectivity is hardly relevant. The structure that is set up is a perfect synecdoche of rabbinic homosociality, a structure of intense homosocial (even homoerotic) connections between the male denizens of the Study House, channeled through and partly displaced via their focus on two types of "female" objects: the Torah that they study and their wives.
In replacing Resh Lakish's unsanctioned desire for coerced sex (with Yohanan - whether he knows him to be male or not) with a sanctioned (but apparently no less coerced) sexual relationship, the narrative is both offering the latter as a better alternative to the former and raising the suspicion in our minds that they are not all that different. Illegitimate rape is replaced by legitimate marriage, setting up a dual hermeneutic within which the latter is represented as the proper substitute for the former but also suggested as its virtual equivalent. In other words, I submit that the text proposes a marriage within which the subjectivity, desire, and agency of the female partner are effectively ignored as being the virtual moral equivalent of a leap over a river to rape an attractive nude bather.(50) Lest it seem to readers that I am tendentiously conveying or even smuggling modern ideas into this text, I offer that this suggestion of a suspicious reading by the text of its own social formation is borne out dramatically in the continuation, wherein we see that the erasure of female desire, subjectivity, and agency is the fatal flaw that brings the hero down in a denouement best described as tragic. Interestingly enough, according to talmudic law what Rabbi Yohanan did here was impossible. There is no way that he could betroth his sister without her consent. However, the story as story represents the actual social situation perhaps in ways that a statement of the law cannot, for in a society in which the disparities in power are as great as they were between men and women in rabbinic culture, even requiring consent or assent to marriage arguably does not mean a great deal.(31) Read this way, the story is a mise en abyme of the entire rabbinic structure of gender relations, a structure that is at least as much about protecting women from male exploitation as it is about institutionalizing exploitation, but that nevertheless remains a system within which men are empowered virtually exclusively to make decisions about the lives of women. Even when the male text condemns male violence toward women, it is still assuming and arrogating to itself the power to condemn or approve of such violence and thus, in effect, merely displacing the domination from the personal to the political level. Even if the formal, institutional arrangements exclude sexual and other violence against women, this is analogous to the situation in other cultures within which an individual man (and even most) may totally avoid such violence and be repelled by it but still benefit from it. In a sense, the very condemnation of male violence against women is arbitrary within a system in which women have no voice, so the threat of such violent domination is always there. This, by itself, is not so startling a revelation; what seems astonishing here is the extent to which it is the talmudic text itself that produces (as opposed to being subjected to) this critique.
At first all seems to be going well between Rabbis. Rabbi Yohanan introduces Resh Lakish fully into the world of Torah. One might say that the shiddukh (match) that he makes between the new ephebe and the two female figures is highly successful. He produces Resh Lakish as an adult, rabbinic male, a great "man," and apparently as an adequate husband as well, if we may judge by the wife's distress at the prospect of losing him. The two Rabbis are imagined as a sort of rabbinic Jewish answer to such archetypical pairs as Achilles and Patroclus on the one hand and David and Jonathan on the other.(32) Both of these couples and their associated meanings would have been available in the rabbinic sociolect, the biblical one, obviously, but the Homeric one very likely as well. As David Halperin has described such alliances,
whatever [their] sentimental qualities, [they] always [have] an outward focus, a purpose beyond itself in action, in the accomplishment of glorious deeds or the achievement of political ends. Each of the . . . friends, accordingly, is an exceptionally valiant warrior: we are dealing not with an instance of some neutral or universal sociological category called "friendship," then, but with a specific cultural formation, a type of heroic friendship which is better captured by terms like comrades-in-arms, boon companions, and the like. (77)
Within this text of rabbinic self-fashioning over-against their fantasies of Roman culture - explicitly signified by the "ethnically" Jewish but culturally "Roman" gladiator, Resh Lakish - the valor of war-making is replaced by the valor of Torah study, metaphorically realized as a sort of battle. The dialectics of the Rabbis are frequently referred to with metaphors of gladiatorial combat or battle. The Rabbis themselves are called in the Talmud, "the shield-bearers," i.e. hoplites.(33) (I shall suggest below that the positive significance of this substitution is being both asserted and contested within the text at one and the same time.) Following this reading of the narrative as being constructed within the Mediterranean paradigm of heroes and their pals, the ending fits as well. The exquisite portrayal of Rabbi Yohanan's bereavement - we see him going from door to door, a wanderer in the city, crying out for his lost love - strongly supports the reading as well. This sentence is the literary equivalent of David's Lament for Jonathan: "I am pained for you my brother Jonathan. You were exceedingly pleasant to me. Your love was wonderful beyond the love of women. How have the heroes fallen, and the weapons of war are lost" (2 Samuel 1.26-27). Traditional interpretations have sought to reduce the unsettling nature of this moment by insisting that its pathos is Rabbi Yohanan's consciousness of the sinfulness of his behavior. They thus both recuperate Rabbi Yohanan as hero via his "repentance" and eliminate the homoerotic desire from the text. The text, however, gives no indication that the pain suffered by Rabbi Yohanan was caused by a sense of sinfulness on his part. This story would not fit into a tale type of the sinner redeemed. It depicts, rather, a man desperately missing the man he has killed, fitting, if you will, into the folk-tale type of lover killed in jealousy and then bitterly mourned. The rabbis sought fruitlessly to comfort him with another friend and his crying is not of self-contempt or repentance but of loss and desire: "Son of Lakish, where are you? Son of Lakish, where are you?" - not, "I am a sinner. I am a murderer."
There are several indications in this text that the anxiety that inhabits it is not anxiety about sexuality, so much as anxiety about gender and the boundaries of gendered performance (cf. Edwards 78; 87-88). Rabbi Yohanan's gender is uncertain from the beginning of the story. Before the narrative even begins we are ceremoniously informed by the Talmud that the reason that Rabbi Yohanan was omitted from the list of the most beautiful men was his lack of a beard.(34) Now this is precisely the feature, it would seem, that recommended him as sexual object to Resh Lakish, whether or not the latter "knew the truth" of his gender. The latter point, indeed, is a moment of undecidability between manuscripts. One manuscript tradition leaves it quite uncertain as to whether he thought he was pursuing a woman or a man attractive just because he had the physical attributes of a woman.(35) In the version of the narrative that I have reproduced here, drawing on another manuscript tradition,(36) this moment is made almost superfluously obvious by indicating that Resh Lakish actually thought that Rabbi Yohanan was a woman.(37) On the one hand, this renders the sexual theme more explicit and might have been censored out for this reason; on the other hand, it reduces the homoerotic subtext and might, therefore, have been added at a time when such anxiety was more powerful. In any case, the conflict between the two manuscript traditions points up that the question of gender undecidability is in the "unconscious" of this text.
A second point of undecidability in the narrative has to do with the repartee between the two Rabbis once Resh Lakish arrives at the scene. Yohanan's immediate response to Resh Lakish's "virility" is "Your strength for Torah," i.e., that physical prowess is wasted on the pursuit of carnal objects of desire - like me; instead of seeking to seduce (rape?) me, you should be joining me in lusting after learning. Although Yohanan's invitation is not without its ironies, as we shall presently see, it is, however, Resh Lakish's response "Your beauty for women" - that holds the greater potential for multiple readings. In the text above, I have preferred the reading that contextually makes the most sense, namely that beauty is wasted on the pursuit of spiritual objects of desire; join me in seeking women.(38) The phrase itself can also mean, of course, that beauty is wasted on a man; why aren't you a woman? Once more the blurred status of Yohanan's gender is what is at stake here; at some level, the entire narrative is engendered by the confusion that his body represents: is he male or female?(39)
A final hint of the underlying cultural disquietude of this text has to do with the curious detail about Resh Lakish's attempted return to take his clothes. This is a highly overdetermined moment in the text. He will no longer be wearing the clothes that he wore before, the masculine clothes of a Roman man - presumably the toga virilis;(40) he will now be wearing the robes of a scholar of the Talmud. This change is doubled in the text by the failure of Resh Lakish's lance as a means of propulsion back to the masculine signifiers of his clothing. His lance no longer works. He is emasculated.(41) I am not, of course, invoking some putative Freudian notion of a phallic symbol here. I am suggesting, rather, that the text itself is animating such a symbolism - knowingly. A narrative that has a man vault over a river on his lance, undergo a spiritual transformation in which gender is explicitly thematized and then be unable to vault back on the same lance, seems clearly to be symbolizing masculinity through the working or non-working of the lance. Bram Dijkstra has made the point that painters of the nineteenth century frequently used snakes as a symbol of male sexuality, not because they were under thrall to psychological symbolisms that they could not control and that Freud would diagnose, but because these symbolisms were culturally available to them - as they were, indeed, to Freud as well (Dijkstra). I am making a similar claim about the symbolism of the lance here, not imagining that it is a psychically universal "phallic symbol," but rather that this text has summoned it as a symbol of a repudiated active, violent, thrusting masculinity.
Nor were such representations of masculinity entirely foreign to actual Roman cultural productions. Roman sexual discourse was pervaded with images of violence. The penis itself was most commonly figured as a weapon. Amy Richlin has given abundant examples to support the Roman cultural identification of the phallus as a weapon,(42) and this is, according to her, considered by the Romans a "positive" representation: "All these patterns depend on a scale of values in which the Priapus figure is top or best and the other figures are subordinate; militat omnis amans [every lover a soldier], with a big gun. The image of the phallus as weapon is a common one" (59).(43) A nice, and relatively decorous, example can be cited from Ovid, who after a bout of impotence was moved to write: "Why do you lie there full of modesty, o worst part of me? / So I have been taken in by your promises before. / You're cheating your master; caught weaponless because of you [per te deprensus inermis]" (qtd. in Richlin 118).(44) Altogether, Richlin makes the excellent point that (at least following Suetonius), sexual activity and potency were considered homologous with political effectivity. The weak emperors had inactive sexual lives and were cuckolds; the powerful emperors had active sexual lives and cuckolded others (Richlin 88-89). Catherine Edwards also makes clear the connection between seducing other men's wives and political power (47-48). According to at least one poem of Martial, moreover, an unsatisfactory husband, a "cinaedus" is described as "unwarlike [imbelles]" and "soft [molles]," and as Richlin comments, this refers "both to their lovemaking and their way of life" (139). Clearly the implication is that a satisfying male sexuality will be "warlike."(45)
It is very important at this point to emphasize that I am sure that actual sexual life and discourse in Rome was much more complex and heterogeneous than this picture would allow. There is no more reason to doubt tender, sexual love between some husbands and wives, women and their lovers (male or female), or kinaidoi and their lovers, in Rome than anywhere else.(46) The important issue here is what face Roman culture presented to its others, and especially to those it subjugated, and much of that was a face of violence, of a male sexuality suffused with brutality and domination. This image would have been received through a variety of discourses, ranging from graffiti to the poetry of such canonical figures as Catullus, Martial, and Ovid - although these actually subvert the paradigm through parodic appropriation thereof, as pointed out to me by Molly M. Levine - to the gladiatorial arena, paradigmatic of Roman culture for the Rabbis. These were, to a great extent, the "public" meanings of maleness.
Since the text projects it as belonging to the "Other," this forms a comment on the fancied antiphallicism of the projecting culture - a self-critical and ironic one, as it turns out. The traditionally definitive talmudic commentator Rashi suggests this interpretation when he glosses the non-working lance as "his strength had been sapped [like that of a woman]."(47) For Romans, according to Edwards, it was rather "sexual indulgence" that "sapped a man's strength and made him like a woman" (86). With a certain irony, however, the text indicts that Rabbi Yohanan taught him Torah and Mishna and made him a "great man."(48)
Resh Lakish's lance is replaced by his speech.(49) Note that the metaphor of gladiatorial activity for Torah study is marked at least twice in the text: once in the dialogue between Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan in the beginning and once more when the former bitterly complains: "There they called me Rabbi, and here they call me Rabbi." Resh Lakish, deprived of the "phallus," nevertheless is not castrated. He marries and fathers children.(50) The same difference obtains between the nonphallic monk (or the transvestite female saint) of European culture and Jewish talmudic scholars. These former achieve the status of "third sex" by escaping sex (and sexuality) altogether (Warner 146); not so the Rabbi. I read the (first part of the) story, therefore, as a utopian fantasy about the production of a normative, nonphallic Jewish male subjectivity. It is also a story in which same-sex desire and homoerotic intimacy can be comprehended within a context of a fulfilling of paternal functioning as well.
Given the larger cultural context within which they worked, the Rabbis, who exclusively devoted themselves to study, were feminized vis-a-vis the larger cultural world, explicitly figured in our text by the pre-Torah Resh Lakish. For the Romans - at least as they were imagined by Jews and presumably for many Jews themselves - a man who did not have a weapon was not a man at all.(51) He was castrated, but from within the rabbinic Jewish perspective, he is merely circumcised. In other words, I am suggesting that precisely those practices and performances that defined the rabbi as feminized from the point of view of the dominant culture were those that constituted masculinity within the dominated culture - although here too the dominated men understood themselves positively as feminized as well. Such perceptions of men as feminized whether by self or other are hardly productive of interruptions of gendered hierarchies. Roman femininity is significantly like rabbinic masculinity in certain ways. Studying Torah is a kind of cross-dressing, marked by Resh Lakish's crossing of the river and doubly marked by his inability to cross back on his masculine lance to take up again his masculine clothing.(52) But again I emphasize, in the utopian moment of the narrative, this feminization does not imply emasculation.(53)
One of the remarkable aspects of narrative as cultural discourse is, however, its haunting ability to tell a hegemonic story and contest it at the same time. I have read this story as a story of Jewish male subjectivity, a subjectivity that is explicitly figured here as at the margins, not of a dehistoricized masculinity, but at the margins of the Roman cultural Empire. Using for the moment psychoanalytical terms, traditional Jewish culture, I suggest, cuts the phallus down to size, demonstrating that the choice is not between a phallus and castration and that a man can have a working penis even if he has "taken off" his phallus - or never had one to begin with. Traditionally Jewish men identified themselves as feminized in some ways, beginning with the Talmud and through an opposition to Roman ideals of the male, and understood that feminization as a positive aspect of their cultural identity. They neither had nor wanted "the phallus." Among the pivotal notions of Western culture is the phallus as the principle of spirit which is abstracted, sublimated from the male body. My thesis is that rabbinic Judaism, resisted, can even be defined as resistance to, this sublimated penis that we have come to call the phallus.
For Lacan, it is only the equation of the phallus with the penis that would lead to an unproblematic assertion of male privilege. Such an equation, however, is always necessarily and paradoxically implied by the very separation/idealization of the phallus that European culture - including Lacan promotes.(54) The issue is not whether we differentiate between phallus and penis but whether we posit a phallus at all. It is the very transcendent immateriality of the phallus, and thus its separation from the penis, that constitutes its ability to project masculinity as the universal - as the Logos - and by doing so significantly enables both male and imperial projects of domination. Precisely because the penis is not the phallus but signifies the phallus, any psychoanalysis that bases itself on the phallus and castration will always be an instrument in the service of the dominant fiction. In this sense my position here is almost the exact opposite of that of Jane Gallop, who argues that the inability to keep phallus and penis separate is a "symptom of the impossibility, at this moment in our history, to think a masculine that is not phallic, a masculine that can couple with a feminine," and further that "this double-bind combination of necessity and impossibility produces the endless repetition of failed efforts to clearly distinguish phallus and penis" (Gallop, "Phallus/penis" 127). Gallop ends her brilliant meditation still longing for a phallus that could be separated from the penis, or rather, a penis that is separated from the transcendent phallus (131) - and frankly, in her totally honest and disarming way, admits as much and why (132). I maintain that the phallus itself, and its necessary inseparability from the penis for deep historical and linguistic reasons (Words just don't mean what I want them to mean when I say them, as Gallop herself had written earlier [Gallop, Daughter's 96-97]!), is one of the factors that makes it difficult (not impossible in my view) to refigure masculinity in our culture and in this time.(55) Nancy K. Miller seems to me very much on point here when she doubts that "nondiscursive practices will respond correctly to the correct theory of discursive practice," and worries that "glossing 'woman' as an archaic signifier glosses over the referential suffering of women" (114). The same, mutatis mutandis, applies to the nonreferentiality of the phallus. It may escape gravity; it will not escape the penis (Bernheimer).
Jewish culture, then, contrary to its current reputation, may have something rich and utopian to offer our feminist projects of the reconstruction of male subjectivity. Resh Lakish in his former life is the very figure of Roman masculinity, as the Jews constructed it of course. It is he, according to our legend, who is the possessor of the phallus, that entity that belongs to Gentiles, not to proper, learned, rabbinic Jews. This talmudic Jewish text breaks the identification between penis and phallus by traumatizing the phallus via a symbolic or partial "castration" without giving up - as marginal European masculinities, such as that of celibate saints, do - the penis, a renunciation, of course, that leaves the phallus intact and powerful.(56) Insofar as the body itself - as opposed to the phallus which is a Platonic idea of the body - is feminine, it is this return to the body that inscribes the Jewish male as female. Another way of making the same point would be to avow that, for rabbinic culture, feminization is not equivalent to castration precisely because masculinity was not defined by possession of the phallus. The fatal flaw, however, within the cultural system itself, represented almost allegorically within our story as a fatal flaw in its hero, Rabbi Yohanan, is in its nonrecognition that any resistance to power and masculinist constructions of the phallus must be accompanied by a revolution in the power-relations between men and women as well, if it is to be material and critical. It is the reinscription of male dominance within the text itself that causes the crisis that leads to its catastrophic and tragic end.
The continuation of the story thus directly contests the idealized and utopian picture of masculine subjectivity that the beginning constructs. Resh Lakish bitterly complains to Rabbi Yohanan: "What have you profited me. There they called me Rabbi and here they call me Rabbi!" You offered me a masculinity that would be resistant to that of the dominant culture, one that would not depend for its adequation on the violence of male rivalry and cruelty to women, but this substitute, this resistant male subjectivity turns out to be just as brutal - claims Resh Lakish - as that which I left behind me. At one moment the text is insisting that Jewish masculinity is different, less violent, and at the other, with a hermeneutics of sharp suspicion, suggesting that nothing is really different after all. At one moment the text is arguing, as it were, that the gladiatorial combat of Torah-study is somehow finer, less cruel, more sublimated, than the gladiatorial combat that "they" engage in, but then, the text seems to suggest with its deadly ending, perhaps our vocal combat is not so different from theirs after all.(57) They kill with the spear, but we kill with the voice. The renunciation of the weapon turns out to be merely the substitute of the vocal weapon for the physical one. The narrative thus essays, on this reading, a far-going critique of the implicit violence of the institutionalized male competitiveness in Torah-study. In addition to this, in the heartfelt representation of the pain of the wife-sister and the extreme arrogance of her brother, represented as arrogating to himself the place of God via his quotations from Jeremiah, there is a powerful and salient critique of the indifference to the subjectivity, pain, and desire of women that rabbinic homosociality could promote as well.(58) Her subjecthood is represented through the powerful demand of her brother that he see her, and his refusal to do so (eliminated from the printed editions) speaks volumes of his callousness in rivalrous rage and wounded male pride.
It is, of course, no accident that the incident that precipitates this epiphany is a controversy having to do with weapons. With its remarkable self-consciousness, then, this text serves as a point of origin for both a Jewish antiphallus and for an intra-Jewish critique of the real achievement of such a utopian moment in masculinity. One of the weapons mentioned in the Mishna about which the fictional discussion between the Rabbis is constructed is that very lance that Resh Lakish had renounced. On the one hand, it seems to be saying, we do not use weapons, we talk about them, but at the same time, it suggests, that very talk may be as evil - and even as deadly - as their gladiatorial combat.(59) Although the text tries to recover a utopian vision of rabbinic combat in Rabbi Yohanan's rejection of the irenic Rabbi El'azar for the pugnacious Resh Lakish, the critique of the danger and violence of such verbal competitiveness is not erased.(60) We can regret them, but just as Resh Lakish cannot be brought back from the dead, so also destructiveness can never be entirely expunged from rabbinic male rivalry, as long as its homosocial and thus willy-nilly masculinist base is maintained.(61)
Dis/Owning the Phallus
Rather than seeing the breakdown of the phallic imaginary as a product of trauma, as does Kaja Silverman in her Male Subjectivity at the Margins, these texts present a culture of men who are resisting, renouncing, and disowning the phallus. This is entirely clear with respect to the early Christians discussed by Burrus ("Male"), for many of them were men of power and status in their pre-Christian lives, so it is hard to argue that it was trauma that dislodged the dominant fiction for them. Ambrose was a provincial governor before his conversion, so, for him, becoming Christian was truly a renunciation of the phallus, as it was for his compatriot, Prudentius, and many others at the time. Their status in the church, while it had many attributes of power, had to be configured differently from their former status. If anything, it was their resistance to the dominant fiction that brought trauma upon them and not the opposite. It is clear that the "phallus" was renounced and resisted by them as a particular cultural product, one belonging to a culture they had rejected.(62) The peculiar promise of the Jewish text, in contrast, seems to be in its premise that such a renunciation does not imply an exit from male sexuality entirely. It was the condition of not being imperial, of being colonized, that presents this possibility to the Rabbis, a possibility not of a temporary disruption but of demystifying "the phallus" for what it is, a violent and destructive ideological construct. Instead of reading this alternative mode of constructing maleness as anomalous, thus accepting the terms of the dominant fiction as reality, I offer an antithetical reading of Jewish history, one in which the absence of the phallus is a positive product of cultural history and not a signifier of disease. Rather than seeing these feminized responses as evidence of a pathology, I would suggest that in their political and cultural opposition to the tyranny of the Roman Empire, both Rabbis and early Christians developed positively marked images of feminized men, thus marking the site of a cultural crisis for the Roman Empire that, it could be argued, led eventually to its breakdown.
Rabbinic male subjectivity is, thus, ideally different from general European male ideals.(63) I claim that there is something correct - although seriously misvalued - in the persistent European (Roman and later Christian) representation of Jewish men as a sort of women, in a culture in which being a man was predicated on possessing the phallus, the symbolic marker of coherence, power, and sublimation from the body,(64) in short, of human completion. And Jewish men did not have it. As John Hoberman has put it: "By the time Weininger absorbed it, this intuitive sense of the Jew's deficient masculinity had been germinating for centuries, dating from the Middle Ages" (143). In the antisemitic imaginary of Europe (and perhaps Africa and Asia as well) Jews have been represented traditionally as female, but, as Sheila Briggs points out with reference to the latest forms of this representation, this obtained only with respect to "the negative sense of the feminine" (256). There is, however, a positive possibility to "feminization" as well.
The vector of my theoretical-political work, accordingly, is not to deny as antisemitic fantasy but to reclaim the feminized Jewish male, to argue for his reality as a Jewish ideal going back to the Babylonian Talmud. I desire also to find a model for a gentle, nurturing masculinity in the traditional Jewish male ideal - without making claims as to how often realized this ideal was - a male who could be so comfortable with his little, fleshy penis that he would not have to grow it into "The Phallus," a sort of velvet John. As Hoberman has written, "For Weininger the Jewish family is a contemptible environment precisely because it is where 'male camaraderie' - Mannerbund - is sure to collapse into an effeminized relationship between men" (152). That which a past dominant culture (as well as those Jews who internalized its values) considered shameful the feminized Jewish male, may be useful today, for "he" may help us precisely in our attempts to construct an alternative masculine subjectivity, one that will not have to rediscover such cultural archetypes as Iron Johns, knights, hairy men, and warriors within.
In fine, two forms of critical work need to be engaged at the same time. One is directed at a critique of traditional Jewish culture and gender practice, while the other mobilizes aspects of that practice in order to demystify dominant ideologies of gender within the larger cultural and social context. One argues for the potential and necessity for radical change within traditional Judaism, while the other argues that precisely that traditional culture has something to offer in the effort to produce radical change within the culture of "the West." Some feminists would assert that without the former the latter is an ethical impossibility, and I would tend to agree, which will explain the double-movement of my work, at once critical and recuperative of traditional Judaism.
1 Seen in this light, the origins of (Western) Zionism with its (in)famous ideology of "Muscle Jews" are not so much in the "anomalies" of the Jewish condition as simply part and parcel of the same late Victorian process that produced "Muscular Christianity" (Hall) as well.
2 In other words, the "ambivalent cultural space" that Garber speaks of (Vested 229) is constituted, at least in part, and very early on, within Jewish culture out of a fraught attraction/resistance to the dominant cultural models of gender and its relation to the public/private opposition.
3 The similarities with the Rabbis are obvious; the difference equally as striking, namely that for the Rabbis this feminization was not coeval with asceticism, a point that I shall be making in Judaism as a Gender, the book for which this essay will provide a chapter.
4 This project could not have even been begun without the prior work of Eilberg-Schwartz, Geller, and Gilman.
5 I write this way to indicate clearly that I am not ascribing some form of actual or essential femininity to certain behaviors or practices, as to a Jungian anima. For the toxic effects of that ideology, see Conell 12-15; cf. Garber, Vice Versa 211-14. I am rather marking these performances as "femme" within the context of a particular culture's performatives, and particularly as they intersect with other cultural formations. The point is not to reify and celebrate the "feminine" but to dislodge the term. Like "phallus," the "feminine" and, in only a slightly different register, "Jew" are fatally equivocal terms in western discourse, which insists on their disconnection from real human beings of particular groups, men, women, and Jews, at the same time that it inescapably declares their connection with these groups. For the coinage itself, compare Ed Cohen's "'fem'-men-ists" (Cohen 174). I had, in fact, for a long time considered "femmenized" but worried that it would be read as a pun on "men" and not on "femme." This usage further distinguishes the cultural processes that I am describing from those referred to when one speaks of the "feminization of the synagogue," by which is meant the fact that in certain "assimilating" communities only women typically attended the synagogues (at the same time that Protestant churches were being feminized in the same sense). This phenomenon, discussed more recently and cogently by Paula Hyman, is not what I am talking about here (Hyman 24-25).
6 Some of this formulation is drawn from Brent Shaw, who rightly suggests that "the argument of the correlation needs more nuance and development." For my purposes here, it is enough to allude to the suggestive evidence that Shaw himself inter alia has gathered. Interestingly enough, as Shaw has pointed out to me, the Romans themselves were likely to portray their so-called "barbarian" enemies on other frontiers of the empire differently, as for example, those along the northern frontiers (Britons, Germans, Gauls, Goths, Huns) as "stereotypically more ferocious and 'hyper-masculine' (as you put it) than the Romans" (Shaw).
7 Similarities to wise Jewish courtier tales from the Book of Esther onward are not accidental.
8 Following ms. Rabbinowitz 15, Jewish Theological Seminary.
9 Rashi is a running commentary always printed with the text.
10 Although, interestingly enough, Geller points to an antisemitic (Nazi!) tradition of attacking Jews for misogyny and mistreatment of women ("Mice"); see also Hyams. This is analogous to the colonialist discourses about Indian and Moslem men that shore up various racist projects. See especially Sharpe.
11 For talmudic learning as a marker of class in East European Jewish culture and as a functional equivalent to wealth, see Katz, 109.
12 Cic. Phil. 2.44-45.
13 This argument is related to that of Silverman, Male, the reading of which was a major stimulus in the generation of this article. Readers here, and of the larger work that I am producing, will be able to detect the ways that I have dissented from Silverman as well as the ways that I have adopted her analysis.
14 For a counter-example, see Martin 43.
15 I am assuming that these namings and honorings belong to a relatively safe space of private discourse (discourse offstage) on the part of the slaves. Otherwise, they might be only the sort of public feigned performance from the analysis of which, Scott remarks, we are "likely to conclude [falsely] that subordinate groups endorse the terms of their subordination and are willing, even enthusiastic, partners in that subordination" (Scott 4).
16 This interpretation occurs so frequently that it can be regarded as almost a topos.
17 This is not an essential, automatic meaning for circumcision. Indeed, in some cultures, circumcision may have the opposite sense, of removing that which is "female," the invaginating foreskin, from the body, thus rendering it wholly "male." I do not know what meanings circumcision had in biblical culture, but am arguing from hints within the cultural context of late antique rabbinic culture that there it was understood as a feminizing, not as a masculinizing modification of the body, thus conforming to the famous Bettelheimian paradigm (Symbolic). For excellent discussion, see Caldwell.
18 Eilberg-Schwartz's God's Phallus is a detailed and thorough account of these issues and texts and should be consulted. Eilberg-Schwartz seems, however, to tend to regard these feminizations as problematic for men, while, in the spirit of Paul Gilroy, I see them as portending, however inchoately, the possibilities for a transcendence of masculinity. Gilroy writes: "It seems important to reckon with the limitations of a perspective which seeks to restore masculinity rather than work carefully towards something like its transcendence" (194). One's evaluation of circumcision will depend in part, I think, on whether one is seeking a restoration of masculinity or its transcendence, which does not, I add, imply transcendence of the body but indeed its very opposite.
19 Cf. Gravdal's description of the Renart texts in medieval French: "The character of Hersent and the story of her rape by the hero open a space for a cynical parody that strips courtly discourse of its idealizing pretensions and scathingly mocks the feminizing ethos of romance" (Ravishing 74-75). Where Henart provides, however, cynical demystifications of a prevailing ideology, I suggest that the talmudic text both avows and suspects its own cultural formation at one and the same time. The French text is openly parodic of its culture; the talmudic text a more complicated representative of the official culture that it also interrogates.
20 Raw materials are not subject to ritual impurity, but finished implements or vessels are. The question that this text asks is, then, what constitutes the completion of production for these various weapons.
21 In another part of Judaism as a Gender, I will treat at length the complex issues of specularity and stereotyping that are invoked via the construction of the ideal rabbinic male over against the "Goy," the Roman, Esau. Suffice it say that within the two texts that I am considering in this article, two positive figures are Roman and one (at least initially) negative figure is Jewish to indicate the involutions of these projects of self- and other-construction.
22 For Resh Lakish as a gladiator, see Babylonian Talmud Gittin 47a, where it is related that Resh Lakish sold himself as a gladiator [luda'a from ludus (games)]. An adroit literary use of this tradition can be found in the Palestinian Talmud Kil'aim 27a. Resh Lakish has delivered himself of the pronouncement that: "Everywhere that it says 'according to its kind' [Gen. 1.25-26; passim], the laws of forbidden mixtures apply." Rav Kahana answers with the reductio ad absurdum that then it would follow that the laws of forbidden mixtures apply to fish as well, which is ridiculous since fish obviously dwell together. Rabbi Yosi the son of Rabbi Bun remarks: "Here Rav Kahana spread his net over Resh Lakish and caught him!" This quip is doubly significant. First of all, since the hook was fish, the fishing metaphor is appropriate, but I think that I am not over-reading if I see here as well a reference to the retiarus, the gladiator who fights with a trident and a net and defeats his opponent by throwing the net over his head and immobilizing him.
23 Emphasis added. The derivation of this metaphor is via the verse: "Thou shalt give splendor to the face of an elder" (Lev. 19.32), understood as an injunction to give splendor to one's own face by growing a beard. Gleason points out: "In Clement's view, to depilate one's beard and body while coifing one's head was to announce a preference for unnatural acts. Clement feels entitled to take this reading of the effeminate's body language because the beard is agreed to be the distinctive mark of a man (to andros to sunthema). It serves as a symbol of Adam's superior nature (sumbolon tes kreittonos phuseos, [Paidogogos] 19.1). Hairiness in general is the mark of a manly nature (19.3)" (68). We see from here that the resolution offered by the Talmud, to wit that Rabbi Yohanan was not mentioned owing to his lack of a beard, is not as arbitrary as might first appear.
24 In the Roman culture of the second Sophistic as well, the beard was an important positive signifier: "Philosophers, as well as sophists, were interested parties in the struggle, and some of them used the beards that were a traditional component of the philosophical costume to claim high ground" (Gleason 73). Once more, we are reminded of the complexity and multiple ironies of the stereotyping texts of self-fashioning. On the other hand, Gleason is careful to point out the corresponding ambiguities built into Roman culture as well. Thus, "After all, these mannerisms - from depilation to ingratiating inflections of the voice - were refinements aimed at translating the ideal of beardless ephebic beauty into adult life, and as such might appeal to women and boys" (74). It is easy to see how the tensions and partial self-contradictions of our talmudic text fit into such a cultural matrix.
25 There is a manuscript tradition that leaves out the statement that Resh Lakish interpreted the object of his desire as a female, suggesting that he read him as the appropriate object of a pederastic desire. See Dover 68-81, for consideration of this issue with respect to differing historical periods of Greek culture. For Roman culture: "Still, the general rule appears to be that the more the boy seems like an adult without development of body hair, the more attractive he is" (Richlin 37). See also Edwards 69; Gleason 74 n. 84 for the same point.
26 See Sedgwick, Epistemology 110 on all-male social spaces and their cultural meanings.
27 Cf. Dover 172: "the attributes which made a young male attractive to erastai were assumed to make him no less attractive to women; Pentheus, sneering at Dionysos in Eur. Bacchae 453-59, treats his good looks, long hair ('full of desire') and fair skin as particularly captivating to women."
28 Koestenbaum describes "male collaborative writing as an intercourse carried out through the exchange of women or of texts that take on 'feminine' properties" (3), thus anticipating the two alternatives proposed for their friendship by Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan respectively. Rabbi Yohanan, of course, ends up by offering both - a pattern also not unknown within European homosocial formations.
29 For tension between the female Torah and a human wife as lover as a perennial problematic of rabbinic culture, see Boyarin, Carnal Israel 154-66.
30 Thus, to the best of my knowledge, we find nowhere in rabbinic literature a notion that women like to be raped, analogous to the text that Gravdal cites from Old French, within which it is asserted that "A maiden ravished has great joy; no matter what she says" (5). The Talmud recognizes: and abhors all rape as violence, including rape of wives, as opposed to canon law, which "disallowed the punishment of forced coitus in marriage, since consent was given at the time of marriage" (Gravdal 9). Talmudic culture is generally much less sensitive, however, to the subtler (and therefore arguably more insidious) ways that its own assumptions about women, e.g., that they always prefer to be married (to almost anyone) than alone (Yevamot 18b and parallels), institutionalize a comparable legalized erasure of female erotic agency - right to say no - less explosive than but ultimately just as violent as rape.
31 In her very subtle analysis, Gravdal shows that medieval laws against "rape" may have sometimes functioned precisely to efface female subjectivity, insofar as they were directed toward securing the woman's body for her father's purposes. In other words, an elopement of a daughter with a lover for purposes of consensual marriage was legally raptus, as opposed to a legal marriage to a man of her father's choosing against her will (Gravdal 8). On the other hand, some rabbinic texts not examined here represent women taking a highly active role in determining whom they will (or will not) marry including a refusal to marry the very Patriarch of the Jews of Palestine himself, Rabbi, the author of the Mishna (and friend of the Roman Emperor whom we have met above). Roman law also required mutual consent for a valid marriage to be contracted. This principle was later abrogated in European law (Gravdal 7).
32 Patroclus's concubine is a gift from Achilles (Halperin 77). Note, moreover, that David's first wife was also Jonathan's sister. Although Halperin analyzes the composite story as two narratives and reads the David and Jonathan friendship sequence as a later substitution for the David and Michael conjugal sequence, for the text, "as we have it," the structure is that David is married to his pal's sister - just like Resh Lakish. Halperin is, of course, arguing for the historico-cultural archaism of the hero and pal pattern (87); nevertheless, there were ways that the model was still alive into the Hellenistic period, however inflected through later sexual paradigms.
33 Within Roman culture itself such metaphors were also used, demonstrating that there is no contradiction between describing intellectual life as agon in terms drawn from the arena and simultaneous valorization of physical combat (Gleason 125).
34 The congenital eunuch rhetor of the second century, Favorinus is described by Philostratus as "born double-sexed, both male and female, as his appearance made plain: his face remained beardless even into old age" (qtd. in Gleason 6).
35 See Halperin 35 n. This represents a moment of incoherence in the formation of masculinity within the rabbinic culture, not entirely different from the incoherence involved in the figure of Jesus for Christians so beautifully evoked by Sedgwick, Epistemology 141-43; see also Bynum; Silverman 102-06. In a sense, the ambiguity within the European tradition as to whether male beauty is more or less like female beauty - paralleled, perhaps, by the problematic of whether same-sex desire is more masculine or feminizing - is reproduced here in the extravagant description of Rabbi Yohanan's supreme beauty followed by its qualification in that he is not listed in the lists of the most beautiful men because he has no beard! In important segments of our own cultural tradition, it is the man who is attracted to women who is figured as effeminate. On the other hand, if the remark in the ms. that Resh Lakish thought Rabbi Yohanan a woman is a secondary gloss, it might have had an apologetic intent, i.e., rendering it impossible to imagine that Resh Lakish, himself to end up a culture-hero, "really" vaulted a river to get at a man, even one as beautiful and effeminate as Rabbi Yohanan.
36 The famous Hamburg 19 ms., the "dean" of talmudic witnesses.
37 Compare the dreams in which Gilgamesh imagines Enkidu as a woman before actually meeting him, as discussed by Halperin 81.
38 For "effeminate" beauty as appealing to women in Rome, see Edwards 82-83.
39 Interestingly enough, although Edwards remarks that frequently in Roman literature, as in patriarchal societies in general, "it is not uncommon for men to compare to women other men they wish to humiliate" (65), I can think of very few, if any, such comparisons in talmudic literature. Men whom other men wish to humiliate in the Talmud are more likely to be accused of crudity than effeminacy. I realize that this is a very risky claim to make as well as an argument from silence. If my observation is borne out, however, it may have some significance.
40 Of course, no Jew or brigand would have been actually wearing this garment. We are dealing with symbolic, fictional representations here, so I allow myself this speculation as to the reference of the clothes that Resh Lakish cannot reclaim, paralleling the lance that no longer works. For the gendered significance of the changing of clothes, see Edwards 64 and the passage from Cicero quoted above.
41 This represents a possibly consistent and significant difference between the Palestinian and Babylonian Rabbis, for in Palestinian sources, Resh Lakish does not give up his physical strength by becoming a student of Torah. Indeed, this very prowess is turned to the study of Torah and the defense of Torah, as in the story in the Palestinian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 25b, where Resh Lakish strikes a "Samaritan" who blasphemes, or Palestinian Talmud Sanhedrin 19a, where he defies the authority of the Patriarch, the Jewish representative of Roman authority who sends bailiffs to capture him. See also Palestinian Talmud Terumot 46a, where Resh Lakish is presented as physically defending the rabbinic community against Roman tyranny. It would seem from these texts alone that there was a significant difference between the "totally" diasporized Babylonian rabbinic community and the only partially diasporized Palestinian community around the issue of masculinity and power, a conclusion that would support the general thesis of this paper strongly. Further research is required, however, to substantiate this suggestive point, for which (as well as for these references and much else) I am grateful to Yariv Ben-Aharon and to his colleagues in the Beth-Hamidrash at Oranim.
42 Cat. 67.21; Pr. 9.2; 11.3, 20.1, 25.7, 31.3, 43.1, 55.4; Diehl 1103; Mart. 11.78.6 (Richlin 26).
43 See also Edwards 73 on penetration as "stabbing."
44 Am. 3.7.69-71.
45 It should be pointed out, however, that Edwards's description is somewhat less categorical than Richlin's. She points to counterexamples as well, where the adulterer was considered "effeminate." Moreover, according to Gleason, a man who sought to please women sexually (rather than be pleased himself) was also called a cinaedus, a pathic, in the same category as a man who wished to be penetrated by other men (65). It is "passivity" per se that is feminized according to this view. Cf. Foucault, Use.
46 It should, of course, not be forgotten that there were strong currents of opposition within Greco-Roman culture to the equations of male sexuality with violence, and if I were writing about the Romans it would be important to pay attention to them. Plutarch's Advice to Bride and Groom with its much more tender understandings of heterosex certainly belongs in this category.
47 My completion of the phrase is based on its topical usage throughout talmudic literature.
48 See Gleason for an illuminating exposition of the ways that rhetorical excellence and competition "made men" in the Roman Second Sophistic, i.e., in the very period within which our legend is set!
49 For a fascinating discussion of the relation of virility to voice, see Rousselle; Edwards 86; Gleason 122-30.
50 In "Jewish," I explore an affiliated text in which renunciation of the phallus is signified by extreme masochistic behavior on the part of Rabbis, and their reward is the promise of progeny, thus producing a parallel structure of giving up the phallus and retaining the penis.
51 For the Romans themselves, as Halperin reminds me, it was the toga virilis that signified masculinity and not a weapon, but see also Edwards 77. For the Greeks, see Halperin 37.
52 For Torah-study as cross-dressing, see Garber 224-33, especially 227.
53 The Entmannung of Daniel Schreber is instructive here. For Schreber himself this feminization apparently did not imply castration; for Freud, of course, it did.
54 Cf. an analogous point in Modleski 95.
55 "The structural linguistics that still underlies much post-structural analysis - signifier/signified - is simply allegory all over again. And it will always reproduce precisely this problem. Without the penis as signifier, we'd never know a phallus, so the dominant fiction requires taking penis for phallus. The same fiction, as allegorical metaphysics, requires we distinguish between them, or there would be nothing recognizable as meaning apart from signifiers" (Luxon).
56 See my "Jewish Masochism" for discussion. In a fascinating recent article, McNamara has analyzed broad shifts in the structuring of gender in European Christian culture of the twelfth century as, in part, the products of a power struggle between married men and celibates. In general, it is clear that if McNamara's persuasive argument is right, certain forms of misogyny are virtually impossible for a society that completely disallows celibacy as a valorized life-choice, for men and women. She writes: "Separation [of the clergy in the twelfth century] from women reinforced the dislike and fear fostered by monastic polemic. We are so accustomed to thinking of the medieval clergy as violently abusive toward women that we have missed a chronological subtlety. Clerical misogyny reached a crescendo between the mid-eleventh and the mid-twelfth centuries. The struggle to separate men from women caused reformers to rave against married priests and, by implication, the whole sexual act. Sermons, pastoral letters, public statements of all sorts depicted women as dangerous and aggressive, poisonous and polluting" (8). Such conditions generally did not occur in Jewish society. Of course, however, not all results of universal marriage were positive from a feminist perspective. For more on this issue see Carnal Israel 227-46.
57 Gleason has recently described Roman society as one "where an intensely competitive ethos made it difficult to grant another man success. The relationship between performers was definitely a zero-sum game" (xxiii), and she is speaking of rhetorical competitions in the Antonine age. Sister Verna Harrison informs me that at about the same time, the Desert Fathers used the metaphor of athletic competition to describe their vying with each other in ascetic prowess. Just as eros could be turned to good effect rather than being suppressed, so could thymos as well, according to them. It is that very possibility that is being advanced and contested in our talmudic text at one and the same time. See above n. 55.
58 For a similar critique of rabbinic callousness to women from within the Talmud, see Boyarin, Carnal 146-50.
59 When I have presented this text orally on several occasions listeners have proposed that there ought to be a symbolic connection between Resh Lakish's statement that the weapon is completed by being plunged into water and his own history as revealed in the story, but I have not ever been able to work out such an analogy in a way that makes sense to me.
60 For a very interesting discussion of the specific ideological function of the figure of Rabbi Eleazar here, see Culmen 28-29.
61 The Palestinian Talmud, in the text referred to above, n. 41, presents a much more sanguine view of rabbinic "combat." There, Rabbi Yohanan himself describes himself in the temporary absence of Resh Lakish as "one hand clapping."
62 It remains an open question to what extent "the phallus" is indeed an adequate term for describing Roman male sexuality and masculinity altogether. Richlin would suggest that it is, but other classicists demur. Frame Zeitlin has remarked to me that the usual opposition to penis is uterus and not vagina, and the general paradigm for describing female "lack" is not penetrability but has to do with her contribution to procreation. On the other hand, Richlin has gathered an impressive collection of representations of male sexuality via the assaulting penis, a representation that can legitimately be called phallic. At any rate, I think a good case can be made that the Rabbis represented Roman maleness as aggressively phallic, which raises, once again, the important theoretical question of the stereotype. The term, "phallus," has become a cipher for such a congery of significations that it needs serious semantic re-analysis if it is to do any historical work for us at all. I think that this remains a worthwhile project, at least heuristically.
63 I emphasize "ideally" to make clear that I am not claiming that Jewish men necessarily behaved differently from other men but that there were different cultural ideals at work, which may even sometimes have had a referent in "reality." For the continuity between medieval and classical ideas about maleness, see Bullough 31.
64 "Real men - that is, representative Arthurian heroes - don't have bodies" (Kinney 49). For quite a different - but not entirely irreconcilable - reading of the same text, see Dinshaw.
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I wish to thank Virginia Burrus for being a true colleague. Since discovering how closely related our two current projects are - almost like fraternal twins - we have been exchanging drafts. This paper, so enriched by our friendship, is thus dedicated to her. Parts of this essay have been benefited by important critiques from Chava Boyarin, Caroline Walker Bynum, Stephen. Greenblatt, Erich Gruen, David M. Halperin, Sister Verna Harrison, Menahem Kahana, Natalie Kampen, Molly Levine, Ann Middleton, Patricia Cox Miller, Miriam Peskowitz, Amy Richlin, Susan Shapiro, and Brent Shaw. As always, Froma Zeitlin is an indispensable, critical friend. I have been spared embarrassing errors of fact and judgment by all of these readers. Whatever such remain were put in or stubbornly left in after their readings. This paper has been delivered as a lecture at Columbia University in the Fall 1994 and at the GTU, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins Universities in the Spring of 1995.
DANIEL BOYARIN is the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and a member of the Departments of Near Eastern and Women's Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent books are Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture and A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (both U of California P). This article will form a chapter of his present project, Judaism as a Gender: An Autobiography of the Jewish Man (U of California P, forthcoming).
Gale Document Number: GALE|A18018442