Description

The “woodstruck” (mukat ets) deed, a Hebrew document that officially records the accidental defloration of a young girl, appears in sixteenth-century Italy, in a block of deeds recorded by Jewish notaries in Rome, in a rabbinic responsum and in the record book of the Padua community. Prior to that, there is no record of such an instrument anywhere in Jewish history and literature, despite the fact that the frequency of accidental defloration must have been a constant. Moreover, the registers of the Jewish notaries of sixteenth-century Rome contain over a hundred such deeds for the sixteenth century alone. The appearance of the woodstruck deed seems to reflect the formalization and bureaucratization of Jewish life in the early modern era. An early sign of this development is the creation, in the fourteenth century, of a formal process of ordaining rabbis and granting them communal appointments. The early modern era also witnessed the emergence of new public institutions and the records of their regulations and activities. Henceforth public institutions, principally the Jewish community, intruded into the life of the individual, as details of his personal life and activities came into the public purview, and, theoretically at least, became subject to supervision and intervention. The woodstruck deed thus presents another example of the exposure of certain areas of daily life. This trend has been noted with regard to marriage and death. The woodstruck deed differs in that it represents the seizing of the initiative by the family, as it attempts to exploit the new public involvement in personal life to its advantage. Apart from the institutional context, the woodstruck deed offered parents a guarantee that their daughter’s honor would not be impugned if on her wedding night her husband discovered that she was not a virgin. There was nothing to compel the family to publicize the incident or the document, unless on the morning after the wedding the groom complained that he had not found his wife to be a virgin. The woodstruck deed may imply, therefore, that parents had reason to suspect that their daughter might engage in premarital sex, which could lead to an unwelcome scandal.

This presentation is for the following text(s):

  • Pahad Yitzhak (Isaac’s Fear) by Isaac Lampronti
  • Minutes Book of the Council of the Jewish Community of Padua 1577-1603
  • Responsum 137 of Rabbi Azriel Diena (1528)
  • Shtar mukat 'etz (Woodstruck Deed) by Judah b. Shabbatai (1544)

Click here to view the video.

Streaming Media

 
Media is loading

Start Date

23-8-2006 10:00 AM

Location

Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

 
Aug 23rd, 10:00 AM

The Woodstruck Deed The Documentation of Accidental Defloration among the Jews of Early Modern Italy

Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

The “woodstruck” (mukat ets) deed, a Hebrew document that officially records the accidental defloration of a young girl, appears in sixteenth-century Italy, in a block of deeds recorded by Jewish notaries in Rome, in a rabbinic responsum and in the record book of the Padua community. Prior to that, there is no record of such an instrument anywhere in Jewish history and literature, despite the fact that the frequency of accidental defloration must have been a constant. Moreover, the registers of the Jewish notaries of sixteenth-century Rome contain over a hundred such deeds for the sixteenth century alone. The appearance of the woodstruck deed seems to reflect the formalization and bureaucratization of Jewish life in the early modern era. An early sign of this development is the creation, in the fourteenth century, of a formal process of ordaining rabbis and granting them communal appointments. The early modern era also witnessed the emergence of new public institutions and the records of their regulations and activities. Henceforth public institutions, principally the Jewish community, intruded into the life of the individual, as details of his personal life and activities came into the public purview, and, theoretically at least, became subject to supervision and intervention. The woodstruck deed thus presents another example of the exposure of certain areas of daily life. This trend has been noted with regard to marriage and death. The woodstruck deed differs in that it represents the seizing of the initiative by the family, as it attempts to exploit the new public involvement in personal life to its advantage. Apart from the institutional context, the woodstruck deed offered parents a guarantee that their daughter’s honor would not be impugned if on her wedding night her husband discovered that she was not a virgin. There was nothing to compel the family to publicize the incident or the document, unless on the morning after the wedding the groom complained that he had not found his wife to be a virgin. The woodstruck deed may imply, therefore, that parents had reason to suspect that their daughter might engage in premarital sex, which could lead to an unwelcome scandal.

This presentation is for the following text(s):

  • Pahad Yitzhak (Isaac’s Fear) by Isaac Lampronti
  • Minutes Book of the Council of the Jewish Community of Padua 1577-1603
  • Responsum 137 of Rabbi Azriel Diena (1528)
  • Shtar mukat 'etz (Woodstruck Deed) by Judah b. Shabbatai (1544)

Click here to view the video.