Definitions of Power

The Torah


Menstruation and Power

Yom Kippur

The Western Wall


The Bible



Religious Sites

Marriage, Divorce, and Power

The Priesthood

Mission Statement

This section of the Religion 91 & 491 website for Kenyon College discusses power issues related to blood and gender topics in Judaism and Christianity. Here we explore various topics raising questions about power, or lack of power, in Christian and Jewish traditions. For example, the Torah and the Bible are the foundations of Judaism and Christianity, encompassing the most powerful teachings of each tradition respectively. Study of the Torah and Bible and access to each is important in understanding access to power within the religious traditions. We also chose to study the Western Wall in Judaism and some sacred spaces of Christianity to examine the physical sites of religion which are charged with spiritual power. The exclusion of women at parts of the Western Wall in Jerusalem specifically shows the inequality of space allotted for Jewish women. Symbols of power, such as Lilith and saints, are important for creating possibilities of change and re-imagination of power in both Judaism and Christianity. These symbols are possible mechanisms for developing greater power and gender equality (see also the Gender sites). Other topics explored in the section relating to power issues are menstruation laws, Yom Kippur, priesthood, and religious leaders.

In our project, we found that power is a crucial element in both Judaism and Christianity and is interwoven in practice, teachings, and rituals. More specifically, often times blood laws and attitudes are related to power or lack of power for women. Power is not static and can be manipulated and interpreted depending on the symbol or area of the tradition. However, some ideas are less malleable than others. Studying different aspects of Christianity and Judaism can allow for new perspectives and thus new definitions of power.

--Beth Bogner, Timothy Bearman, and Rebecca Ray (1999)

--Rebecca Grimes, Amelia Johnson, Charles Lynch, Emily Murray, David Stephens (2000)