In Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy,” a gifted young woman desperately wants to study Torah. “Her head was full of Talmudic disputation, questions and answers, learned phrases. Secretly, she had smoked her father’s long pipe.”1 Traditional Jewish society, however, condemns such ideas: centuries of rabbinic decision making has dictated that women are to be forbidden the study of Torah. The hunger for Torah, like pipe smoking in public, is for men alone:

Yentl knew she was not cut out for a woman’s life. She couldn’t sew, couldn’t knit. She let the food burn and the milk boil over; her Sabbath pudding never turned out right, and her challah dough didn’t rise.2