The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought

Indiana University Press  2018


Mara H. Benjamin contends that the physical and psychological work of caring for and rearing children, for centuries the province of women, is theologically fruitful but a largely unexplored terrain for feminists. Attending to the constant, concrete, and urgent needs of children, she notes, necessitates engaging with profound questions concerning the responsible use of power in unequal relationships, the transformative influence of love, human fragility and vulnerability, and the embeddedness of self in relationships and obligations. Benjamin focuses on how parents and children negotiate these issues as Jews and how these relationships advance Jewish theological, ethical, and existential inquiry.

Viewing child-rearing as an embodied practice, Benjamin’s theological reflection invites a profound reengagement with key Jewish theological thinkers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas. Her contemporary feminist stance forges a convergence between Jewish theological anthropology and the demands of parental caregiving.

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