Cross-dressing in jewish law and the construction of gender identity

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This article reassesses certain assumptions concerning the conception of gender as a rigid binary structure within Jewish tradition, through the analysis of the scriptural ban on cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5), and its development within past and contemporary Jewish legal discourse. It proposes that the prohibition on cross-dressing has traditionally been interpreted in two opposing manners - an essentialist approach and a functionalist approach. Both options, from the early rabbinic literature down to the contemporary responsa literature, were seen as halakhically valid. Thus, the standard contemporary theology affirming a rigid gender binary as the sole halakhic truth represents just one hermeneutic option. This halakhic "truth"has served as a political device wielded against Jewish religious feminism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-68
Number of pages21
Issue number38
StatePublished - Mar 2021

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