Uncovered: Kol Isha (The Voice of a Woman)

Posted by Nechama Goldman Barash on July 4, 2018
Topics: Sexuality and Sanctity Series, Self & Spirituality, Uncovered, Sexuality, Sexuality, Women's Issues

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In this podcast we will look at the complicated topic of Kol Isha or the voice of a woman as representing a source of sexual temptation. As we will see, the traditional approach today which is to prevent women from singing in public or private spaces is actually an innovative approach that reinterprets the rabbinic sources that dominated from the Gemara until the 17th century. We will try to understand why this approach is perceived as the most legitimate one and whether there is a way to return to tradition and allow women to sing.


The series Uncovered look at three major topics that often restrict women’s presence in traditional Jewish communities: Dress, Hair and Voice. The famous Talmudic statements that “the leg of a woman is nakedness”, “the voice of a woman is nakedness” and “the hair of a woman is nakedness” are often presented at face value but in fact, as the series will uncover, the Talmudic conversation is centered around the laws of saying Shema and do not reverberate outward into a greater conversation anywhere else in the Talmud with one fairly minor exception. However, those statements became the platform for modern halakhic and religious discourse on women, modesty and sexuality and can be perceived as empowering or suffocating depending on where and how the conversation is unpacked. Suffice to say, it is never a neutral conversation. In this series we will try to understand the larger picture before beginning to look at the rabbinic sources that structure the conversation.

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About Nechama Goldman Barash

Nechama teaches Rabbinic Literature, Women and Judaism, Medical Ethics, Prophets and Bible at Pardes. She made aliyah from Philadelphia over 20 years ago after graduating from Stern College. She studied for three years in Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute and finished a master’s degree in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, with a thesis on the Beautiful Captive Woman in the Eyes of Chazal. She teaches at a variety of Israeli institutions and is also a graduate of Nishmat’s Yoetzet Halacha program. Click here to read more.

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