Volume 8 Number 91
                       Produced: Tue Aug 24 23:22:03 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Halachic Change
         [Warren Burstein]
Time Dependant Mitzvoth
         [Danny Skaist]
Women and Mitzvot (2)
         [David Charlap, Kibi Hofmann]


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 93 02:29:32 -0400
Subject: Re: Halachic Change

Anthony Fiorino writes:

>though R. Berkovits correctly identifies halachah in
>galut as being more static, he fails to demostrate, in the absence of
>mikdash, malchut, or mashiach, how galut has ended.  The establishment of
>medinat yisrael has not ended galut, and in no way grants a new authority
>to contempporary pokim and in no way reverses "sof horaah."

I recently heard a series of lectures by Prof. Aviezer Ravitsky in
which he contended that the distinction between religious Zionism and
Haredism is that the latter insists that no state between galut and
geulah exists (he classifies the belief of the school of Rav Kook as a
form of Haredism in that itviews that the return to Zion necessarily
is the start of the geulah) while religious Zionism posits a state
that is neither galut nor geluah.

I don't intend to suggest that Ravitsky's definitions will be accepted
by everyone.  And please note that he does not use Haredi as a
pejorative, so please no one be offended.

I welcome comments on this matter, particularly whether mail-jewish
contributers find that the suggested test for religious Zionism vs.
Haredism matches how they define themself.

/ nysernet.org    


From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 93 05:49:36 -0400
Subject: Time Dependant Mitzvoth

>David Novak
>The real questions that we should ask are: Why is this form of reasoning
>not applied to women? Why are we expected to take the position of women
>as a given but we are allowed to reason halachically about the position
>of the hearing impaired, so that the halachic result changes with the

It has always been my opinion that women are exempted because the house
is the real center of Judaism and "home duties" performed by women are
too important to interrupt with ritual.

The problem of rationale vis a vie women is that given the rationale, as
a condition, many women will make the superhuman effort to perform the
mitzvoth, as well as do what they normally do.  Some will succeed and
others will try to match them and/or feel guilty about it.  Some
husbands will want to know why the neighbor's wife succeeded but his
wife can't/won't. etc.  etc. This is not a good situation!  A blanket
exemption for all women and girls, without given reasons, is the only
reasonable way out of this impasse.

Like the case of not learning on the evening of Dec 24th.  Started to
keep the Jews off the streets in Europe during a very dangerous evening.
The reasons given are very obscure, because if the real reason were
known Jews would take the chance and this would lead to loss of life.



From: <dic5340@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 93 13:34:58 -0400
Subject: Women and Mitzvot

David Novak <novak@...> writes:
>Recently, there has been extensive discussion in mail-jewish about the
>nature of the exemption of women from positive mitzvot that have a fixed
>time.  It has been strongly suggested, by several writers, that one
>should simply accept as a given that all women are exempted; that the
>rationale that women are exempted because of home duties is a post-facto
>rationale; that we must simply take the status of all women in this
>regard as a given and work from there.

Well, I did a bit of research into this last week.  Here's what I
found:  (Any errors are mine, any truth is from the Gemara)

There is a mishna in Gemara Kidushin (29a) that states that women are
exempt from positive time-bound commandments.  It also states that
they are obligated in negative and non-time-bound commandments.  It
also deals with the fact that fathers are obligated to teach their
children about doing mitzvot.

Anyway, the Gemara discusses this mishna at great length.  Many pages
later (sorry, I didn't write down the page), it describes the reason
for women being exempt.  It has nothing to do with family, and many
people here (especially non-Orthodox) may feel that it isn't much of
an explanation at all.

It's a "Hekeish" (generalization from a specific circumstance) from
T'Filin.  Because women aren't obligated in T'filin, and T'filin is a
time-bound positive commandment, women aren't obligated in any
positive time-bound commandments.

So, why aren't women obligated in T'filin?  Because the pasuk in the
Sh'ma about T'filin (...And you should bind them...) is next to the
pasuk for learning Torah, and women aren't obligated in learning

So why aren't women obligated in learning Torah?  Because it says that
you should teach it to _your sons_.  Which is read as your sons and
not your daughters.

But we could say that women are obligted in T'filin, since Mezuzah is
also next to it in the Sh'ma, and women are obligated in Mezuzah.  The
answer is that Mezuzah is only next to T'filin in the first paragraph
of Sh'ma, not the second, while learning Torah is next to it in both

So why don't we exempt women from Mezuzah as well?  Because it is said
that putting up Mezuzot will be rewarded with long life, and we would
not deprive women of such a reward.

It goes on to cite examples of non-time-bound mitzvot that women are
exempt from (like procreation), and time-bound mitzvot that women are
obligated in (like Shabbat), and states that this is not a
contradiction - but it is a general rule with a few exception to it.

The methods used in this train of logic (sentences next to each other,
the Hekeish, etc) are all established ways of learning Torah.  We read
them every morning as part of Rabbi Yeshmuel's 13 methods for learning
Torah.  They may not agree with modern logic, but Torah isn't meant to
be learned with modern logic.

Anyway, this is the reason that the Gemara gives for women being
exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot.  The reasons of taking care
of family are supporting reasons, but not the core reason.

And even if it was the core reason, there is a principle involved
where when the rabbis make a Gezeira or Takkana (prohibition) for the
people, it applies across the board, not for small groups of
individuals.  Which is why women without families to take care of are
still exempt.

From: Kibi Hofmann <hofmanna@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 93 08:17:50 -0400
Subject: Re: Women and Mitzvot

David Novak in #86 says:

> If the points stated above are correct, I hope that someone can explain
> the status of the "deaf" in halacha.  Women, after all, are not the only
> group who are excluded from the obligation of time-bound positive
> commandments.  The "deaf" are another such excluded group. 

Is this true? I thought cheresh ("deaf-mute") was exempt from ALL the
mitzvos, not just the time bound ones.

> 								 As I
> understand it (and I would appreciate seeing whatever references are
> available) contemporary psak holds that this exemption only applies to
> those who, by reason of their hearing loss, cannot communicate at all.
> In other words, the halachic process has seized upon the rationale for
> the exemption, and only those individuals who fit the rationale are
> exempted from the mitzvot in question.

I don't think it is just a contemporary thing. The gemara itself makes
distinctions between a regular cheresh and "cheresh hamedaber v'aino
shomea" [one who talks but cannot hear]. I don't have a list of
references but the subject does come up at the beginning of third perek
of Brochos which I am learning now.

It seems that the reason women are exluded is one posuk quoted by a
recent contributor (sorry I can't remember who). The reason for the
exclusion of "cheresh, shoteh v'koton" [deaf-mute, imbecile and minor]
is usually taken (in early sources like the gemara) to be a reason for
exclusion because of a lack of "da'as" ["understanding" isn't exactly
right, but it will do]. So if a deaf person can demonstrate da'as, as
they can do more so now than in the past, then they are treated
differently from the classical cheresh. In the old days it was an
exeptional individual who could function fully despite deafness.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. However, even then the
individual would have been considered as they are now - each case on its
own merits.

> The real questions that we should ask are: Why is this form of reasoning
> not applied to women?

Because there is a different reason why women are exempted.

> 			 Why are we expected to take the position of women
> as a given but we are allowed to reason halachically about the position
> of the hearing impaired, so that the halachic result changes with the
> times?

The halacha does not change with time! The situation may change so that
the halacha is dealing with a different situation. If a deaf person is
now in the position where s/he can develop full da'as then they are no
longer the kind of people excluded from the mitzvos.  If women are more
independent than they once were, you cannot change a posuk which says
they are exempt. Until you prove that the reason for the exemption is
because of the "old-time" status of women (which you CAN prove for a
deaf person), you can't say the halacha should apply differently now.

>  Isn't it this type of disparity that leaves some women feeling
> so uncomfortable that they would rather switch (to a women's tephila
> group) than fight?

If women are deliberately misinformed that the laws change for everyone
except them then I wouldn't be at all surprised if they decide that
Judaism is a very sexist religion, and just "out to get them". It is
important for all "sides" to know what they are talking about so that
they can establish some sort of framework within which to work.
Otherwise we all just stumble around in the dark, calling each other

Kibi Hofmann


End of Volume 8 Issue 91