About Feed­ing Women of the Tal­mud, Feed­ing Ourselves 

Feed­ing Women of the Tal­mud, Feed­ing Our­selves is com­mu­ni­ty cook­book co-cre­at­ed with 129 Jew­ish women from around the world. 60 Rab­bis, Rab­bini­cal stu­dents, Jew­ish teach­ers, and emerg­ing thought lead­ers con­tributed to the Tal­mu­dic nar­ra­tives, and 60 female pro­fes­sion­al chefs and pas­sion­ate home­cooks con­tributed to the recipes. The addi­tion of this female-focused point of view to these women’s Tal­mu­dic sto­ries — which were record­ed and edit­ed by men — is a bright and encour­ag­ing tes­ta­ment to a mod­ern gen­er­a­tion of women engag­ing in Jew­ish learning.

Yehu­dit / יהודית

In Trac­tate Yeva­mot, the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud shares a sto­ry about Yehu­dit[1]

Yehudit’s hus­band, Rab­bi Ḥiyya, was con­sid­ered the great­est schol­ar in Rab­biYe­hu­dah HaNasi’s Acad­e­my and was known for his reli­gious ded­i­ca­tion and schol­ar­ship. It is recount­ed that all of his prayers were answered”[2]

Yehu­dit was the moth­er of two sets of twins: twin girls, Pazi and Tavi, fol­lowed by twin boys, Yehu­da and Hizkiya. The Tal­mud recounts that one of the two boys was born in the sev­enth month, and the sec­ond one was born in the ninth month of preg­nan­cy. Yehu­dit suf­fered from extreme­ly painful births.

Direct­ly fol­low­ing the birth of her fourth child, she changed her clothes to dis­guise her­self and went to her hus­band. Pos­ing as a stranger approach­ing him as a Rab­bi, she asked him a halachic ques­tion: Is a woman com­mand­ed to be fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply?” Not know­ing he was speak­ing to his own wife, he replied, no.” Fol­low­ing this exchange, Yehu­dit drank an infer­til­i­ty potion.

Many years lat­er, when Yehu­dit and Rab­bi Hiyya’s four chil­dren were ful­ly grown and renowned in their own right as Torah schol­ars, or as moth­ers to renowned Torah schol­ars, the actions that Yehu­dit took to pre­vent fur­ther preg­nan­cies were revealed. Rab­bi Hiyya told her that he wished she had giv­en birth to anoth­er set of twins.


Talmud.b. Yeva­mot 65b

יהודה וחזקיה תאומים היו אחד נגמרה צורתו לסוף תשעה ואחד נגמרה צורתו לתחלת שבעה יהודית דביתהו דר’ חייא הוה לה צער לידה שנאי מנא ואתיא לקמיה דר’ חייא ואמרה אתתא מפקדא אפריה ורביה אמר לה לא אזלא אשתיא סמא דעקרתא

לסוף איגלאי מילתא אמר לה איכו ילדת לי חדא כרסא אחריתא דאמר מר יהודה וחזקיה אחי פזי וטוי

Yehu­da and Ḥizkiyya, were twins, one was ful­ly devel­oped after nine and one was ful­ly devel­oped at the begin­ning of the sev­enth. Yehu­dit, the wife of Rab­bi Ḥiyya, had birthing pain, changed her clothes and came before Rab­bi Ḥiyya She said: Is a woman com­mand­ed fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply? He said to her: No. She went and drank an infer­til­i­ty potion.

Even­tu­al­ly the mat­ter was revealed. He said to her: If only you had giv­en birth to one more bel­ly for me. As the Mas­ter said: Yehu­da and Ḥizkiyya broth­ers Pazi and Tavi.


Yehu­dit’ s sto­ry is shared right after a sto­ry of anoth­er woman who came before Rab­bi Ami and request­ed divorce due to her husband’s inabil­i­ty to father chil­dren[3]. The Rab­bi tells the woman she is not oblig­at­ed to be fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply and there­fore has no legal right to demand a divorce. She coun­ters that she wants to have chil­dren so that she will have some­one to care for her when she is old to which Rab­bi Ami says that in her sit­u­a­tion, the Rab­bis can force the hus­band to grant her divorce.

This is fol­lowed by the sto­ry of Yehu­dit, a mar­ried woman with four chil­dren who wish­es to pre­vent fur­ther preg­nan­cies. The Rab­bis sup­port both women, whether they need inter­ven­tion in order to repro­duce, or to stop. There is a seem­ing para­dox at play: men are oblig­at­ed to repro­duce, and can­not do so with­out women; mean­while, women are not oblig­at­ed to have chil­dren at all.

Yehu­dit drinks some sort of root-based med­i­c­i­nal drink. In the Tal­mud, there are sev­er­al dis­cus­sions of this cup of roots”: a form of oral­ly con­sumed med­i­c­i­nal birth con­trol. On the issue of birth con­trol, the Tal­mud also shares a key state­ment that has been called, The Barai­ta of the Three Women” about spe­cif­ic women and the cir­cum­stances in which they are per­mit­ted to use birth con­trol.[4] 

From the posi­tion of Yehudit’s sto­ry in the Tal­mud, it seems that the Sages are shar­ing sto­ries about how deeply fer­til­i­ty impacts women (i.e. Yehu­dit), men (i.e.Rabbi Ḥiyya) and mar­riage rela­tion­ships. Yehudit’s sto­ry also points to a larg­er ques­tion of when Jew­ish law allows women (and men) to use birth con­trol. This issue of con­tra­cep­tion and Jew­ish law is an ongo­ing discussion.


The sta­tus of women in any soci­ety is con­nect­ed to their con­trol over their fertility.

The sto­ry of Yehu­dit demon­strates the ten­sion around female fer­til­i­ty: for women them­selves, for their part­ners, and in reli­gious and civ­il law.

By includ­ing Yehudit’s sto­ry, the Gemara gives her female expe­ri­ence legit­i­ma­cy. She faced unex­pect­ed health con­se­quences in child­birth, name­ly extreme pain. This suf­fer­ing impact­ed her so deeply that direct­ly fol­low­ing the birth of her fourth child, Yehu­dit want­ed to pre­vent fur­ther preg­nan­cies. She dis­guised her­self as anoth­er woman” before her hus­band, a reli­gious author­i­ty, for a legal rul­ing on their case.[5]

The Gemara points to the ten­sion at play for this cou­ple by also giv­ing space to her husband’s expe­ri­ence. Rab­bi Hiyya is able to be objec­tive in relay­ing the law to his wife pre­cise­ly because the real­i­ty of his per­son­al impli­ca­tion is obscured by her dis­guise. Per­haps lack­ing con­fi­dence in her husband’s capac­i­ty to sup­port her deci­sion, or know­ing he want­ed more chil­dren, Yehu­dit took the deci­sion alone. Despite the fact that Yehudit’s final choice was legal­ly allowed, her deci­sion mak­ing process exclud­ed her hus­band. When Rab­bi Hiyya finds out that she took a fer­til­i­ty potion, he final­ly shares his feel­ings of regret and his wish that he had had more children.

Today, there is still on-going debate in many coun­tries and reli­gions regard­ing if and how women may con­trol their own fer­til­i­ty: under which cir­cum­stances is it per­mis­si­ble and what meth­ods are allowed.

Yehudit’s sto­ry shows an endur­ing truth: it is essen­tial that women have the reli­gious and civ­il legal right to access safe meth­ods of birth con­trol. These rights can only be secured when women’s lived expe­ri­ences exert a fun­da­men­tal influ­ence on laws gov­ern­ing their bod­ies — this requires women to be con­sult­ed and to par­tic­i­pate as lawmakers. 


  • The com­mand­ment to to be fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply” applies to men and not women. What do you think this means today?
  • Yehu­dit was able to make her own deci­sions because she under­stood the law. To you, what are the most impor­tant issues or aspects of fer­til­i­ty law today?
  • What fac­tors affect nego­ti­a­tion and deci­sion mak­ing about fer­til­i­ty in rela­tion­ships today?

Kenden Alfond 

Nour­ish­ing Womb Tonic

This recipe is to heal Yehudit’s womb. It is use­ful for every female who wants to nour­ish and sup­port their womb with a nat­ur­al herbal approach.

This sim­ple recipe brews a high­ly nutri­tive tea for the repro­duc­tive organs. These herbs are safe to drink dai­ly for ton­ing the uterus, pro­mot­ing blood flow to the pelvic floor, aid­ing diges­tion, and calm­ing the ner­vous system.

The med­ical herbs and plants which ease painful men­stru­a­tion, and sup­port moth­ers and babies through­out the birth and postpartum.

These med­i­c­i­nal herbs and plants can be pur­chased online from rep­utable herb shops. Herbs can be stored in an air­tight con­tain­er out of direct sun­light for up to one year. I rec­om­mend buy­ing at least 2 – 4 oz. of each herb to make your own blend.


3 parts net­tle leaf

2 parts red rasp­ber­ry leaf

2 parts tul­si leaf and flowers

1 part hawthorne leaf, flower and berry

1 part milky oats tops

0.5 part rose

0.5 part cin­na­mon bark

Prep Time: 8 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Serv­ing Size: 32 oz. Quart Jar


Teapot with a strain­er or 32 oz. glass jar

Fine Sieve


3 table­spoons of herb blend


  1. Make the herbal tea blend by com­bin­ing each herb and store in an air­tight glass container.
  2. Boil 1 quart of water
  3. Add 2 table­spoons of the herbal tea blend to a 32 oz jar
  4. Pour boil­ing water over the herbs
  5. Cov­er and let steep for 25 minutes
  6. Strain into your favorite mug and enjoy
  7. Enjoy 3 – 5 cups per day. Safe for dai­ly use. Safe for preg­nant and nurs­ing women.

Han­nah Jacob­son-Hardy is a Com­mu­ni­ty Herbal­ist at Sweet Birch Herbals based in Ash­field, MA devot­ed to con­nect­ing peo­ple with the land through med­i­cine mak­ing projects and workshops.

[1] Yehu­dit is also men­tioned in Talmud.b. Kid­dushin 12b:1. in a halachic debate about the valid­i­ty of mar­riage in a failed engage­ment of ear­ly adolescence.

[2] Sefaria, Resources Rab­bi Chiyya”

[3] Talmud.b.Yevamot 65b:17

[4] Tal­mud. b. Yeve­mot 12b

[5] Sim­i­lar to the sto­ry of Tamar in the Hebrew Bible, Yehu­dit dis­guis­es her­self in order to obtain right­ful con­trol over her own fer­til­i­ty. Gen­e­sis 38:13 – 30.

Kenden Alfond is a psy­chother­a­pist who began Jew­ish Food Hero because she was look­ing to con­nect with oth­er Jew­ish peo­ple who care about healthy food and mod­ern Jew­ish life. Jew­ish Food Hero aims to cre­ate a pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ty of mem­bers from all over the world who want to bond over recipes and Jew-ish stuff.