Volume 28 Number 88
                 Produced: Tue Jun 22  7:31:14 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Hair Covering
         [Moshe Feldman]
Modest Dress
         [Janet Rosenbaum]
Shelo Asani Ishah
         [Robin E. Schwartz]
Women and Procreation
         [Yehuda Poch]
Women and Time-bound Mitzvot (5)
         [Joshua Hoffman, David I. Cohen, Wendy Baker, Richard Wolpoe,
Eli Clark]


From: Moshe Feldman <moshe_feldman@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 11:09:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Hair Covering

Micha Berger wrote regarding hair covering:
 << 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).  >>

I disagree.  The Arukh HaShulchan ruled that although women are required
to cover their hair, if they (as a group) do not do so, men may recite
brachot in their presence because the women's hair does not constitute
an ervah since it is not normally covered.

I explain the Arukh HaShulchan as follows: (1) Women are required to
cover their hair based on the pasuk "u'fara et rosh ha-isha" which is
explained in Ketubot 72a to mean that there is a prohibition ("azhara")
for them to go without hair covering.  (2) Consequently, this becomes
one of the "mekomot ha-m'chusim"--area of the body normally covered; the
halacha says that mekomot ha-m'chusim are considered 'ervah.  In fact,
this applies to areas of the body not halachically required to be
covered but that people in a certain locale cover.  See Maharam
Al-Shaker dealing with hair covering (quoted in the famous teshuva of
the Chatam Sofer on the subject)-- he says that "se'arot ha'yotzot chutz
litzmatan" (hair that comes out of the woman's covering) is OK provided
that women of the place commonly dress that way, but not if they don't.
(3) If women of a certain place ignore halacha and uncover their hair,
their hair is no longer mekomot ha-m'chusim and does not constitute
'ervah.  Nonetheless, this does not detract from the prohibition of
"ufarah et rosh ha-isha."

In fact, the entire discussion at Ketubot 72a does not refer to "se'ar
b'isha 'ervah," which is statement found in Tractrate B'rachot.  In
Ketubot 72a, hair covering seems to be a requirement of modesty (and
possibly one of showing that one is married), since it is listed in the
Mishnah along with spinning (wool) in the marketplace (which is a lack
of modesty).

Moreover, I find it difficult to contend that the only a reason a woman
must dress modestly is that she not be a source of "lifnei 'iver" for
the men.  Isn't tzniut supposed to be something innate?

Also a technical question: what if a woman is only among goyim (and we
assume, for argument's sake, that there is no issur for goyim to have
hirhurim [sexual thoughts])--would that mean that the woman may dress
immodestly?  I find that difficult.

Kol tuv,


From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 12:47:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Modest Dress

<Phyllostac@...> writes:
>  Men are not perfect - but neither are women. Women are human beings -
> not angels (malachim) - they have a yetzer hara too - not just
> men. Although women perhaps - from a distance - may seem to be less
> prone to certain aveiros (such as those involving fighting and
> violence), they are more vulnerable to certain other aveiros
> perhaps. Let us be wary of sweeping generalizations that portray all
> females as saints and angels, just by virtue of their gender.....

I have also read the rebuttal of "pedestal feminism" in benReuven's book
and was much heartened by it, as I would agree with you on the yetzer
hara of women.

Something I am confused about, though, is the differential treatment of
men and women with respect to modest dress.  While certainly it is true
(at least in modern times) that women's dress has more potential to be
immodest, this is not the only issue.  There seems to be an assumption
that women have less sexual distraction than men:

1.  From S"A, Orach Chayim 74, women may say brochos or pray even if
their hearts "see" their genitals, whereas men may not.  [One could
attribute this difference to the question brought in kol hayad
(b. Niddah chapt 2), but i think that would be fallacious, as the issue
here is surely not the risk of committing an act allowed in the case of
women and forbidden in the case of men, as surely it would be wrong for
anyone to interrupt prayer for even a permitted act.]

2.  Whereas no doubts are left whether a man may daven in the presence
of a woman with more than a tefach of normally-covered flesh showing, as
it appears throughout the literature, Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chayim 75,
letter 5 says that it's uncertain whether the reverse applies, as it's
implied that women have less erotic thought than men (Ketubot 64b).
[While it's impossible to ever make a comparison, it is certainly not
surprising that the rabbis were not privy to women's private thoughts in
the same way as they were men's.]

3.  Other sources which I haven't time to look up now make more
divergent rulings.  e.g., I think Rashba said that for a woman, the leg
should be concealed, but not so for a man.  Another source brought that
while an exposed tefach is nakedness for a woman, only the actual
exposure of genitals constitutes male nakedness.  I believe even an
exposed scrotum is not nakedness, according to this source.

While I agree that the pedestal feminist explanation of TBPC exemption
is inadequate, such statements are not entirely without basis.

Janet Rosenbaum
Cambridge, MA


From: Robin E. Schwartz <schwartz@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 11:42:53 +400
Subject: Shelo Asani Ishah

I think that the issue of the differing brachos for men and women has
always been approached from the wrong angle. Why is it that women say
"she-asani kirzono?" It seems to me quite simple: Women are born
complete. Unlike men, their physical form doesn't require a tikun(bris
milah).  If anything, this could more easily be seen as anti-men. Women
are, physically, inherently superior, since we don't need to have our
baser instincts (symbolized by the orlah) removed in order to be
"kirtzono." I'm always surprised that this explanation is never cited,
since it seems quite clear to me. (Men, then, are thanking Hashem for
making them as they are, even with the need for Milah).


From: Yehuda Poch <yehudap@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999 15:13:44 +0300
Subject: Women and Procreation

Regarding the thread of the obligation of women to procreation:
Did anyone ever consider the following possibility?

The commandment of procreation was given before woman was created.
Thus, it is commonly assumed that women are not obligated by this
mitzva, despite the fact that it is NOT a time-bound commandment.

However, when woman was created, she was created as a "help-meet
opposite him", or an "opposite helper".  There is an element necessary
for procreation that only women can provide.  It is a commandment for
men to procreate.

Taking all these into account, has anyone ever considered whether women
are in fact obligated in procreation by the statement of their purpose
as "help-meet opposite him", and that since they are necessary for
procreation, they are required to do it as well?

I know it's a stretch, but something to think about nonetheless.

Yehuda Poch


From: Joshua Hoffman <JoshHoff@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 09:12:29 EDT
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

I think that it is precisely because of the fact that attempted
explanations of the ratonale for the exemption of women from time-bound
mitzvos is so elusive and subject to societal conditons that the Torah
Temimah said we should view it simply as a gezeiras hakosuv.

From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 08:58:54 EDT
Subject: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

 Jay Rovner in Vol 28 #80 presents the distinction between male and
female obligations in mitzvot as based on idealized sociological
criteria, the ideal society from the view point of halacha being the
norm in Talmudic times.
	It is hard for me to believe that such a major distinction in
halachah was so narrowly focused on that particular era, and current
practice is simply "minhag avosaynoo beyadaynu".
	Another problem with this theory is the principle that "One who
is commanded to perform a mitzva and does so gets a greater reward than
one who does a mitzva act voluntarily". If the exemption of women from
certain mitzvot is based solely on sociological considerations, then the
halachic system is cheating them. However, if (as I posted earlier) the
distinction is based on the halacha's purpose in helping humans become
more "Kadosh", or God-like, then, we can see that men need the greater
reward, to get them to a place where women are inherently.
	David I. Cohen

From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 12:27:41 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

In reply to Micha Berger's post regarding women's innate bodily sense of
time and niddah, I still have a question regarding post-menepausal women
and married men.  In the first case, the bodily sense of time is no
longer operative and in the second, married men, I am sure, are acutely
aware of time in reference to niddah.

Wendy Baker 

From: Richard Wolpoe <richard_wolpoe@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 12:59:19 -0400
Subject: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

>>From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...> 
 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.  David I. Cohen<<

>>From: Gitelle Rapoport <giteller@...> 
 But how can either idea resonate with contemporary Western (and
increasingly, more non-Western)r child care) to perform as many of these
mitzvot as possible? Gitelle Rapoport<<

Perhaps the Westernization and urbanization process has served to
desensitize women from their natural proclivity to be more acutely aware
of time?

Rich Wolpoe 

From: Eli Clark <clarke@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 15:58:00 -0400
Subject: Women and Time-bound Mitzvot

Jay Rovner has written a long and learned defense of his position that
the positive commandments from which women are exempt can be explained
in terms of the assignment by Halakhah of women to the private sphere --
chastity, family home -- while the masculine sphere is public and
assertive.  Notwithstanding his copious references, however, I find his
approach and conclusions fundamentally flawed.

First, for space reasons, Jay (if I may call you that) does not address
any of the positive time-bound commandments which women are obligated to
perform.  But any global explanation must take account of the exceptions
to the rule as well as the rule.  For example, if lulav is excluded
because it relates to the cultic-liturgical sphere (which Jay classifies
as public), one wonders why women are obligated in the slaughtering of
the Paschal sacrifice.

Second, his analysis assigns each mitzvah activity to a sociological
"sphere."  If he is correct that the underlying rationale for a woman's
exemption from a particular commandment is sociological, then one would
expect to find a consensus (more or less) on what is included in a
woman's sphere as it was defined in the society in question (in our
case, Roman Palestine and the Babylonian  communities of the same
period).  Instead, we the sources reflect much diversity of opinion.

As Jay himself notes, some sources indicate that women are obligated in
tzitzit.  The same is true for sukkah (Sifra, to Emor 24:42).  We also
find, in contrast to other sources, opinions that women are exempt from
simhah (rejoicing) on the festivals (Kiddushin 34b), matzah (Yerushalmi,
Kiddushin 1:7) and the Paschal sacrifice (Tosefta, Pesahim 2; cf.
Pesahim 91b).

Explaining women's exemption from Torah study, Jay classifies Torah
study as a public activity and defends that classification by citing
>m. jaffee, "the oral-cultural context of the
>talmud yerushalmi: greco-roman rhetorical paideia, discipleship, and the
>concept of oral torah" in: P. schaefer (ed.), The talmud yerusshalmi and
>graeco-roman culture (tubingen, 1998), pp.27-61).

But we are not concerned with Torah study as practiced by the Amoraic
sages; we are concerned with Torah study as a univeral obligation for
Jewish males.  (By analogy, we are all obligated to follow the laws of
our society, but not to engage in the legislative process.)  On this
issue, the Talmud makes clear that the bare recitation of shema fulfills
the obligation, and such recitation does not involve oral debate.  Of
course, Torah study was necessarily largely oral in that period, but
that suggests that, for the majority of Jews not engaged in scholarly
disputation, Torah study was probably limited to memorization and
review.  Finally, I believe the only halakhically mandated example of
public Torah study is "hakhel," and women are obligated in that
commandment.  [Hakhel involved the public teaching of Torah by the king
to the nation and occurred at the end of the jubilee cycle.]

Strangely, Jay applies his analysis to a list of 14 commandments he
attributes to Rabbi Saul Berman.  In fact, the list is Rambam's and is
problematic, as R. Berman himself points out.  R. Berman notes that
Rambam omits six time-bound commandments in which women are obligated.
Moreover, Rambam's list is presented in the context of sixty "mitzvot
hekhrehiyyot" (obligatory commandments) that apply to all Jews at all
times; yet this classification should exclude both the priestly blessing
and the king's obligation to write a Torah.

Indeed, it is the fact that a woman cannot serve as a king that accounts
for her "exemption" from the latter commandment.  The exclusion from
kingship could be explained as rooted in sociology, but I think it is
bizarre to lump serving as a king and reciting shema in the same
category of public, assertive behavior.  Likewise, the exclusion of
women from the priestly blessing is linked to the broader rule that
tribal affiliation passes from father to son; as a result, a woman has
no such affiliation and cannot be classified as a priest.  Neither can
I, but for very different reasons.

Jay writes:
> tefillin are clearly linked with talmud torah and the exemption for both
>go together in the beginning of the classic sugya on kiddushin 34a.

Yes, but the classic sugya in Kiddushin starts with tefillin as the
paradigm of exemption then analogizes to other commandments, in fact,
ALL the other commandments.  It is strange therefore to explain the
tefillin exemption by extension.

>as for the omer, i
>have not investigated it; it is not liturgical in the sense of public
>liturgy inasmuch as arvit was not obligatory in mishnaic times;

I do not understand this comment; halakhically, counting the omer is not
linked in any way to the recitation of ma`ariv .

>re: the requirement of women to tefillah (petitionary prayer): since women
>were not taught berakhot in mishnaic times, and, e.g., r. akiva does not
>require one who cannot recite the shemoneh esreh (prayer was also oral)
>to say that form of tefillah, it is unreasonable to assume that women
>would have been required to recite it as their mishnaically enjoined
>responsibility to tefillah.

I do not know on what you base your assumption, but the Mishnah,
Berakhot 3:2 states that women are obligated in prayer, mezuzah, and
birkat ha-mazon.  However one chooses to reconcile this text with the
general level of education of women in that period, the Mishnah clearly
assumes the obligation could be fulfilled.  Note too that a baraita
(Berakhot 45b; cf. Arakhin 3a) assumes that women are able to recite

I agree with Jay that a knowledge of the sociological context can be
helpful in interpreting Talmudic sources, but, in my experience, the
attempt to impose an exclusively sociological analysis upon the Talmudic
literature (e.g., L. Ginsberg's The Pharisees) inevitably results in
oversimplification, reductionism and failure.

Kol tuv,

Eli Clark 


End of Volume 28 Issue 88