Volume 28 Number 86
                 Produced: Mon Jun 21  6:57:51 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Mitzvah of Procreation (2)
         [Deborah Wenger, Yosef G. Bechhofer]
Women and Time-bound Mitzvot (7)
         [Wendy Baker, Zvi Weiss, Alexander Heppenheimer, Micha Berger,
Micha Berger, David I. Cohen, Gitelle Rapoport]


From: Deborah Wenger <dwenger@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 99 09:31:55 -0400
Subject: Mitzvah of Procreation

The recent lengthy discussion of mitzvot that women and men are
obligated to perform just raised another question in my mind, to turn
the discussion in a slightly different direction:

 If men (but not necessarily women) are obligated to perform the mitzvah
of procreation, what happens with infertile couples? Of course there's
the view that after 10 years, if a couple has not had children they
should divorce (from the story of Yitzchak and Rivka). But, in today's
world, testing can often (but not always) determine whether it's the
husband or the wife who is infertile.
 If it's the wife, does anyone still hold that there's an obligation for
a man to divorce her so he can marry a fertile woman? If it's the
husband, how can he fulfill the mitzvah - through adoption, for example?
Also, to what lengths should a couple go to try to have children, since
there are a number of halachically acceptable infertility treatments?

Just a little food for thought...

Deborah Wenger

From: Yosef G. Bechhofer <sbechhof@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 09:21:29 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Mitzvah of Procreation

> Louise Miller writes:
> >I will not attempt to jump into the subject of the general exemption of
> >women from time-bound mitzvot (collective sigh of relief,) except to
> >comment to Eli Clark that I believe that the reason women are exempt
> >from the mitzva of procreation is that pregnancy and child-birth are
> >potentially life-threatening events.

The Meshech Chochmo states this explicitly, I believe on the mitzva of
Pru u'Rvu, with great eloquence.

Interestingly, I just saw last night the Nishmas Avrohom quote a Posek
that says that women should not make Birkas HaGomel after giving birth
because one does not make HaGomel after danger encountered in the normal
fulfillment of a mitzva.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
<ygb@...>, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 08:21:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

> >>Women are exempt from periodically recurring symbolic commandments whose
> >>purpose is to remind the performer not to succumb to outside pressures
> >>when dealing with the outside world.

You have raised some interesting issues.  I can certainly follow the
reasoning that people who have little exposure to the outside world have
need of fewer protections, either actual or symbolic, form its dangers,
either physical or moral/spiritual.  If there is a class  of people
who are usually not in the outside world, there is good reason to exempt
them.  The problem is what happens when a class exempt because of reletive
seclusion from the outside world is no longer so secluded?  As more and
more women work outside of the home, even when raising children, don't
they need the symbolic protections that men have traditionally enjoyed?  
It seems that this attempt to explain the "reason" for women's exemption
from certain time-bound mitzvot falls apart under modern conditions.  As
the economic situation for many has changed, we must search for, either
other justifications or what?

Wendy Baker  

From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 19:45:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

> From: <Phyllostac@...>
> The above 'reason' mentioned,which some people nowadays are
> promulgating,is very questionable. According to that logic, one might
> conclude that non-Jews are on a higher spiritual level than Jews because
> they have less mitzvos.

 The comparison to the Non-Jew breaks down because it is accepted (at
leat in Kabbala) that there is a quantitative difference between the
soul of a Non-Jew and a Jew.  Thus, the performance of Mitzvot simply
does not benefit the non-Jew since his or her soul is not "able" to
benefit.  A similar idea is the one that we see that eating non-Kosher
food will *harm* the Jew wihle we have no record of any such harm
occuring to the non-Jew.  It is only when we cnmpare *Jews* that we can
say that the woman may be superior in "not needing" the time-dependent
Mitzvot because her soul (which is at least as "sensitive" as the male's
Jewish soul) has already reached a higher level of perfection.  As to
sources for the "higher level" of women -- try the Midrashic statements
that note that women did not worship the Eigel, that because of
righteous women, we merited Yetzias Mitzraim, that the women
*righteously* donated their mirrors to the Mishkan and it was *Moshe*
who had a problem of what to do about it...  It is unfair to impugn Jews
who are simply following the Gemara's formulation of the Birchot

> Secondly, this theology essentially
> puts men down (If you say that women are on a higher level, implied is
> that men are on a lower level). Why is it considered okay to put down
> men in such a manner by labelling them as inferior? 

 Saying that men are on a "lower level" does not put anyone down.  There
is a "flip side" -- *If* they "work hard", they can rise *above* the
level of women who are "already there".  This is in parallel with the
idea that Angels are at a very high level but humans can "rise" above
them WITH HARD WORK.  We do not knwo why G-d chose to create Angels --
who are "stable" nor do we know why G-d chose to create different
"types" of human beings (Jewish, non-Jewish, male, female)...

>  Men are not perfect - but neither are women. 

 But perhaps, because of what they do NOT seem to be "prone to" is why
they were exempted from certain areas.

>  Even if it seems politically correct and useful to counter attacks, one
> is not permitted to distort the Torah viewpoint. Let us remember-'the
> road to gehennom is paved with good intentions'.

 Agreed. But I think that the above-mentioned notion can be supported
within Torah...


From: Alexander Heppenheimer <Alexander.Heppenheimer@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 14:52:11 -0600
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

Mordechai (Phyllostac) commented on my recent post about the exemption of
women from some mitzvos:

>>women are on a higher spiritual level than men, and therefore need fewer
>>mitzvos to bring themselves closer to G-d.
>The above 'reason' mentioned,which some people nowadays are
>promulgating,is very questionable. According to that logic, one might
>conclude that non-Jews are on a higher spiritual level than Jews because
>they have less mitzvos.
>I suspect that certain religious people, after being accused of being
>anti-female for a long time, due to things like the blessing 'shelo
>asani isha', have creatively developed a whole new theology...

Rather than burden everyone with a lengthy answer, I'll refer you back
to MJ 28:10 and later issues, where this whole idea was extensively
discussed in several excellent posts. (The question about Jews
vs. non-Jews was raised in issue #15 and answered in #19.) Suffice it to
say that the idea of women's spiritual superiority has been conclusively
shown not to be a "creative new theology" developed in response to
feminist objections, but a genuine Torah concept that can be found in
the writings of the Maharal of Prague, R' Chaim Vital, R' Samson Raphael
Hirsch, and others.

Kol tuv y'all,

From: Micha Berger <micha@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 08:08:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

In v28n78 Eliyahu Teitz <EDTeitz@...> writes:
: The other, more obvious difference between positive mitzvos and hair
: covering is that hair covering is a prohibition, and women are not
: exempt from time-bound prohibitions.

An even more pronounced difference: The prohibition isn't on women!
"Sei'ar b'ishah ervah" says that the prohibition is on men, that a man
may not look at a woman's hair. The fact that women cover their hair is
derivative of that, to comply with "lifnei iveir" (not leading another
to sin).

Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 16-Jun-99: Revi'i, Korach
<micha@...>                                         A"H O"Ch 328:18-24
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Eruvin 96b
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 4

From: Micha Berger <micha@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 08:43:06 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

An expansion on the idea of R' Hirsch, as quoted by Dr. Hendel.

RSRH adresses the question of why the rule about time-bound obligations
has more exceptions than examples. He provides a second criterion --
it's only those time-bound obligations that "remind the performer not to
succumb to outside pressures", and then provides a reason why (which
Russel explained and embellished quite nicely).

While RSHR explains this second peice of the puzzle, he does not address
the question the of why time-bound commandments in particular.

I'd like to suggest an alternative to the "too busy childrearing" idea
that's been tossed around here already.

In addition to symbolizing strength in the face of the outside, these
commandments also serve to reinforce a particular relationship to
time. Women relate to time inherently differently than men for
anatomical reasons. Perhaps the lesson about time that men are supposed
to take away from performing these rituals is taught to women by their
own bodies, and they therefore don't need this kind of mitzvah.

Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 17-Jun-99: Chamishi, Korach
<micha@...>                                         A"H O"Ch 328:25-31
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Eruvin 97a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Kuzari III 25-28

From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 22:56:40 EDT
Subject: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

Recent posters have either tried to justify the fact that women are not
obligated in time connected mitzvot (z'man grama) either because a)
societal norms dictate that the women's priorities should be domestic,
thereby being prevented from fulfilling mitzvot that demand scheduling,
or b) that women are superior beings and therefore are in need of less
mitzvot to obtain the same spiritual level as men.
	I think the second formulation makes some sense, but is stated
in terms that are too global to make much sense. Besides the questions
previously posed (if less mitzvot mean a higher spiritual level, then
non-Jews with only 7 mitzvot are on an even higher level), one must ask,
why the distinction is only by positive mitzvot (women are obligated in
all negatives), and why pick out mitzvot that have a time component?
	I heard the following about 30 years ago, and I am therefore
sorry that I can say it in the name of the one who taught me, or cite
his sources, so take it for what it is worth:
	The time bound mitzvot are unique in that a common purpose of
all of them (in addition to the reason behind each one individually) is
to bring kedushah into our use of time. For example, tefilla could be at
any time. By specifying specific times for tefilla, we treat the element
of time with holiness. Shabbat is the paradigm of taking time and
infusing it with holiness. Time becomes a critical factor in time bound
mitzvot for the very purpose of teaching the worth of time. It is in
this specific area that men need mitzvot while women don't, because
biologically women are far more attuned to the nuances of time than men
will ever be. They have an innate sense of time, and therefore less need
to have mitzvot train them. A possible proof: the one time bound mitzva
that women are uniquely and specifically commanded and for which they
have ultimate responsibility in performance is hilchot niddah, which, of
course, is the one time bound mitzva that speaks to the core biological
time cycle of women. (Other time bound mitzvot that women are commanded
to do, such as matza at seder, lighting Chanukah lights etc.  are given
as exceptions to the general rule for various reasons. Niddah is not
treated as an exception.) The one mitzva of niddah teaches women
sanctity of time that we men will never understand. Therefore, men
require the other time bound mitzvot.
	With this understanding, we can understand the morning brachot
("shelo assani isha, who has not made me a woman" and sheasani kirtzono,
who has made me according to His will") differently. The men's bracha is
thankful for giving men the possibility of performing more mitzvot,
while the women's recognizes that in at least one respect they have been
created closer to the essence (the ultimate "will") of Hashem.
	I know this may all sound like apologetics, but it makes sense
to me and it all seems to fit. I await the replies.

Kol Tuv,
David I. Cohen

From: Gitelle Rapoport <giteller@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 13:27:58 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

A couple of off-the-top-of-my-head questions to Jay Rovner and Russell
Hendel re their interesting analyses of women's exemption from
"time-bound" and other mitzvot:

The notions that the exemption is based on women's preferred absence
from the public sphere and/or the related lack of "pressures from the
outside world" may have made sense from the rabbinic point of view and
from the sociological perspective of centuries of Jewish history. But
how can either idea resonate with contemporary Western (and
increasingly, more non-Western) women whose place in the public sphere
and outside world seems assured, to the point that there is no going
back to the old men-in-public/women-in-private situation?
Interestingly, as Rabbi Saul Berman pointed out in a speech at the
Midwestern Women in Orthodoxy conference last year -- the reality today
is that the majority of observant Jewish women voluntarily perform the
majority of the mitzvot from which they are technically exempt(with
significant exceptions that it would take too long to discuss here).
Could it be that once the sociological situation changes, women simply
take on more of these mitzvot anyway? Taking it a step further, should
we davka encourage women (especially women without current
responsibilities for child care) to perform as many of these mitzvot as

Gitelle Rapoport


End of Volume 28 Issue 86