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IMMA SHALOM:

Wife of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and sister of Gamaliel II. Of her early life but little is known. She was probably brought up under the care of her brother, and is therefore sometimes cited as his daughter (, Sanh. 39a; see Rabbinovicz, "DiḲduḲe Soferim," ad loc. and 90b et seq.); and she received an education befitting the sister of a nasi and a daughter of the family of Hillel the Great. That she put her accomplishments to use is seen from the anecdotes preserved in rabbinic lore. On one occasion she heard a skeptic taunting her brother: "Your God is not strictly honest, or He would not have stolen a rib from sleeping Adam" (Gen. ii. 21). "Leave him to me," said Imma Shalom; "I will answer him." Turning to the skeptic, she requested him to summon a constable. The skeptic inquired: "What need hast thou for a constable?" "We were robbed last night," she answered, "of a silver cruet, and the thief left in its place a golden one." "If that is all," exclaimed the skeptic, "I wish that thief would visit me every day!" "And yet," retorted Imma, "thou objectest to the removal of the rib from sleeping Adam! Did he not receive in exchange a woman to wait on him?"

Imma Shalom's marriage with Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was blessed with extraordinarily handsome children (Ned. 20a). In spite of Eliezer's avowed antagonism to the education of women, he thoroughly appreciated his wife's intellectual gifts. He not only passed on to her some traditions ('Er. 63a), but even obeyed her in matters ritualistic. After the rupture between her brother Gamaliel and her husband she feared that the complaints of so great and wronged a man as Eliezer would be answered by Heaven, and that the wrong done him would be visited on her brother; she therefore requested her husband not "to fall on his face," that is, not to offer a prayer (such as Ps. vi. 10 or xxv. 19) for deliverance from enemies (see Taḥanun). Eliezer complied with her request, of which she reminded him at the proper time each day. One morning, however, she did not do so, and found him in the midst of the prayer; she sorrowfully exclaimed, "Cease, thou hast killed my brother!" Not long after Gamaliel's death occurred. Asked by Eliezer what had led her to expect such dire consequences, she stated that there was a tradition in her family that while all other gates of prayer are sometimes closed the gates for the cry of oppression are never closed (B. M. 59b).

Imma Shalom survived both her husband and her brother. She dutifully tended the former in his last moments, although his disposition had become soured (Sanh. 68a). A story is told of a mock suit between Imma Shalom and her brother, in which the pretensions of a certain judge were exposed. The judge (the Talmud calls him "philosophos") appears to have been a Jewish Christian who boasted of his honesty and impartiality. Imma Shalom presented him with a golden lamp, and then brought a suit against her brother for a share in their father's estate. The judge favored her claim. Gamaliel protested on the ground of the provision "in our Law"—"Where there is a son, a daughter inherits nothing" (see Num. xxvii. 8 et seq.); but the judge replied, "Since your people have come under foreign government the law of Moses has been superseded by other writings, which rule that son and daughter inherit alike." Gamaliel then presented him with a Libyan ass and renewed his protest. Then the judge reversed his previous decision, saying, "I have read further in those writings, and there it is written, 'I came neither to take away from the law of Moses nor to add to the law of Moses' [comp. Matt. v. 17], and in that law it is written that where there is a son a daughter inherits not." Imma Shalom thereupon exclaimed, "Let thy light shine as a lamp" (comp. Matt. v. 16), in allusion to her gift. But Gamaliel said, "An ass came and upset the lamp" (Shab. 116a et seq.).

Bibliography:
  • Zirndorf, Some Jewish Women, pp. 139 et seq:
S. S. M.
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