Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Women and Talmud Torah I

As I realize this topic is of interest in the blogosphere, I have decided to create a series, entitled 'Women and Talmud Torah' about precisely that. The posts will be aimed at being relatively short, and though I may post them in quick succession, I will have a sum-up post later on which will link to all those in the series.

None of this information is my original thought, rather, it is information I have been given by my learned, entertaining, fascinating and fantastic Halakha teacher, Rabbi Kenneth Auman. Should I say anything that is wrong or inconceivable, you will please consider this to be my mistake, having nothing whatsoever to do with him. will be a considerable resource for anyone who plans to follow these posts.

Now, let us begin.


Please look at Kiddushin 29b.

    ללמדו תורה: מנלן דכתיב (דברים יא) ולמדתם אותם את בניכם והיכא דלא אגמריה אבוה מיחייב איהו למיגמר נפשיה דכתיב ולמדתם איהי מנלן דלא מיחייבא דכתיב ולימדתם ולמדתם כל שמצווה ללמוד מצווה ללמד וכל שאינו מצווה ללמוד אינו מצווה ללמד ואיהי מנלן דלא מיחייבה למילף נפשה דכתיב ולימדתם ולמדתם כל שאחרים מצווין ללמדו מצווה ללמד את עצמו וכל שאין אחרים מצווין ללמדו אין מצווה ללמד את עצמו ומנין שאין אחרים מצווין ללמדה דאמר קרא ולמדתם אותם את בניכם ולא בנותיכם

From this passage we learn a rule: All those who are commanded to learn are commanded to teach, and all who are commanded to teach are commanded to learn.

But a woman is not obligated to teach, so she does not have to learn. This is based on the verse in Deuteronomy (11:19)

יט וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת-בְּנֵיכֶם, לְדַבֵּר בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ.
19 And ye shall teach them your children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

The actual word in this verse that is loosely translated as "children" is bnaichem meaning "male children" or "sons." The Gemara makes much of this, explaining that the verse states "And ye shall teach them" (and also hinting to, "And they shall learn") to the males, but not to the females. As it succinctly states in the Gemara, "bnaichem and not bnoseichem" meaning "your sons and not your daughters." Since the sons are included/ specified in the verse, with regard to their being taught, they are also obligated in learning. Since the daughters are not mentioned at all, we must conclude they are not obligated in teaching or learning Torah.


Anonymous said...

I see things like this all the time, where words like "banim" or "b'neichem" are used to exclude women. I've always thought that when referring to both men and women in Hebrew, we use the masculine form of the word. So I don't understand how this excludes women-- even if it did include women, we'd say "b'neichem."

Maybe I'll find out after reading the next three parts.

Anonymous said...

It could be that the law was pre-existing, and the rabbis came up with the "banim" argument simply as a kind of mnemonic or memory device.

Or it could be that in these particular cases, you can tell from close reading that "banim" just means men.

In many places in the Torah, it is clear that both men and women are implied by a "male" verb - but this may not be EVERY case.