Collective narratives that have been received by a society as part of its culture are based on and respond to prevalent norms and values. Whether they conform to or criticize existing conventions, collective narratives are created within a cultural historical context that should be reconstructed as a point of departure for interpretation. In this article I focus on “The Shining Robe”, a story incorporated in Hibbur Yafeh MeHa’yeshua authored by Rabbi Nissim Gaon of Kairouan (first half of the 11th century). The choice of this story is intriguing due to its foreign nature and its departure from the gender norms that prevailed in Ashkenaz, compared to the gender norms that were prevalent in the Jewish-Muslim context. I argue that the response that this story evoked in Ashkenaz, whether explicit or implicit, made it necessary to cross cultural bridges between Kairouan where it was created and the cultural context where it was received. I refer to the Judeo-Arabic version of Hibbur Yafeh in comparison to its translations-adaptations in Ashkenaz dated to the 13th-16th centuries. These adapted versions are briefly compared also to its parallel in Provence, translated from the Judeo-Arabic.
Thus it says in MS Parma2269: “And so of that woman and others like her comes the verse ‘A woman that fears the Lord she shall be praised’ for every woman that loves God loves her husband and she who denies her husband denies God . . .”
MS Parma2269fol. 73b.
K. AliSexual Ethics and Islam Feminist Reflections of Qur’an Hadith and Jurisprudence (Oxford: One World2006) 39-42.