A look at the righteous lessons of Beruriah

Arthur Segal


A look at the righteous lessons of Beruriah

Shalom.

This article marks the end of my eighth year of being privileged to be part of the Bluffton Sun family. My thanks goes to our great readership, editor and longtime friend Lynne Hummell, and friend and former publisher B.J. Frazier.

Shalom can mean "hello," but also "farewell." With Bluffton growing under the fantastic leadership of Mayor Lisa Sulka, many new Houses of Worship have opened and it is time to share the faith column with the many new clergy in Greater Bluffton.

So, Shalom, and thank you!

We are learning about Judaism's famous Talmudic rabbis and their universal lessons.

This story is about Beruriah, the brilliant wife of Rabbi Meir. Considered a sage, Beruriah learned 300 laws from 300 rabbis on one day. (Tractate Pesachim 62b.)

Beruriah was praised by rabbis. Debating brilliant Rabbi Tarfon, the sages sided with her: "Bruriah has spoken correctly." (Talmud Bava Metzia 1:3) Beruriah had a sharp wit, with caustic jibes. (Tractate Eruvin 53b)

Husband Rabbi Meir, disturbed by drunken neighbors, prayed for their death. Beruriah said to pray for their repentance, and greet them kindly. His neighbors changed their ways. (Talmud Berachot 10a)

One Sabbath, when Meir was in the synagogue, their two baby sons died. Beruriah covered them, not saying a word. Meir returned, and Beruriah asked, "Something was left with me for safe-keeping. The owner has returned to claim it. Must I return it?" Meir said: "Of course. There is no doubt!''

"I didn't want to return it without your approval," replied Beruriah. She led Meir where their two sons lay in eternal rest. Meir wept bitterly.

Beruriah said: "Didn't you say the owner can claim his property? God gave and has taken; blessed be the name of God." (Talmud Berachot 48a) This verse is used at Jewish funerals today.

Talmud Avodah Zarah 18b reads that Rabbi Meir fled to Babylonia because of "the Beruriah incident." Beruriah disagreed with one rabbi's assertion that women are "easily seduced." (Talmud Kiddushin 80b)

To vindicate the maxim, a student was sent to seduce her. Initially resisting, Beruriah acceded to the student's advances. Shamed, Beruriah committed suicide and Rabbi Meir fled.

Another version says Meir and Beruriah fled after Romans executed her father, sold her mother into slavery and her sister to a brothel. Meir bribed the guard and rescued her sister. (Avodah Zarah 18a)

A tradition among some Jews to name their daughters Beruriah is an assertion of her righteousness.

Rabbi Arthur Segal is an international lecturer, author and teacher. RabbiASegal@aol.com or www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.org