Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kumaz questions

The kumaz gets its first mention in this week's parsha, where it is one of the golden items donated to the Tabernacle.

וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים עַל־ הַנָּשִׁ֑ים כֹּ֣ל נְדִ֣יב לֵ֗ב הֵ֠בִיאוּ חָ֣ח וָנֶ֜זֶם וְטַבַּ֤עַת וְכוּמָז֙ כָּל־ כְּלִ֣י זָהָ֔ב וְכָל־ אִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֵנִ֛יף תְּנוּפַ֥ת זָהָ֖ב לַיהוָֽה׃
And they came both men and women as many as were willing hearted and brought bracelets and earrings and rings and [kumaz] all gold objects and every man that offered an offering of gold unto the LORD

And what is the kumaz?


Rashi on Exodus 35:22
A golden ornament worn against a woman's private parts. Our Sages explained the derivation of the name as kaan mokom zima ---"here is the place of lewdness."

Rashi on BT Ber 24a s.v. takhshitin she-bifnin
"Kumaz is the chastity belt of the vagina that they would make for their daughter. They would pierce the walls of the vagina like they would pierce the ears. The would insert it so that the men could not have sex with them.

Questions for discussion:
(1) Is Rashi saying two different things here? His first comment seems to be discussing some kind of jewelry, as the context would suggest. The other comments seems to be discussing some kind of tool.
(2) Rashi bases himself on the Talmud, and presumably a long line of interpreters who read kumaz as either a kind of genital jewelery, or a type of chastity piercing. Is this reading supported by archeology or other extra-biblical materials?
(3) What - if anything - does the fact that the ancient interpreters imagined chastity devices were common tell us about their own view of women?
(4) On Exodus 35:22 verse Rashi says the women were still wearing their jewelry when the men donated it to the Tabernacle, that is they were brought the jewelry to the Tabernacle while they were still on the women. (This is how Onkelos, and Rashi deal with the odd appearance of the word  on/עַל in our verse, and also creates a nice antithesis with the sin of the Golden Calf when the man also donated gold jewelry that women were, per the midrash, unwilling to give up)  The question: If Rashi believed the kumaz was a chastity piercing, how can he suggest the women were divested of it in public?

2 comments:

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