Thursday, November 30, 2006

Women and Talmud Torah VI

(Material by Rabbi Kenneth Auman, presented by Chana. All mistakes are my fault.)

Now we come to a very strange Gemara. This is in Sotah 21b.

Please look at the following:

    אומר בן עזאי חייב אדם ללמד את וכו' ר' אליעזר אומר כל המלמד את בתו תורה מלמדה תיפלות: תיפלות ס"ד אלא אימא כאילו למדה תיפלות א"ר אבהו מ"ט דר"א דכתיב (משלי ח) אני חכמה שכנתי ערמה כיון שנכנסה חכמה באדם נכנסה עמו ערמומית ורבנן האי אני חכמה מאי עבדי ליה מיבעי ליה לכדרבי יוסי בר' חנינא דא"ר יוסי בר' חנינא אין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שמעמיד עצמו ערום עליהן שנאמר אני חכמה שכנתי ערמה א"ר יוחנן אין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שמשים עצמו כמי שאינו שנאמר (איוב כח) והחכמה מאין תמצא: רבי יהושע אומר רוצה אשה וכו': מאי קאמר הכי קאמר רוצה אשה בקב ותיפלות עמו מתשעת קבין ופרישות

(and the English)

    HENCE DECLARED BEN AZZAI: A MAN IS UNDER THE OBLIGATION TO TEACH … R. ELIEZER SAYS: WHOEVER TEACHES HIS DAUGHTER TORAH TEACHES HER OBSCENITY. Can it enter your mind [that by teaching her Torah he actually teaches her] obscenity! — Read, rather: as though he had taught her obscenity. R. Abbahu said: What is R. Eliezer's reason? — Because it is written: I wisdom have made subtilty my dwelling,1 i.e., when wisdom enters a man subtilty enters with it.

    And what do the Rabbis2 make of the words 'I wisdom'? — They require them in accordance with the teaching of R. Jose son of R. Hanina; for R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: Words of Torah only remain with him who renders himself naked3 on their behalf; as it is said: 'I wisdom have made nakedness my dwelling'. R. Johanan said: Words of Torah only remain with him who makes himself like one who is as nothing, as it is said: Wisdom shall be found from nothing.4

    R. JOSHUA SAYS: A WOMAN PREFERS etc. What does he intend? — He means that a woman prefers one kab and sensuality with it to nine kab with continence.

The Gemara here says, "Teaching Torah is like teaching tiflus?" Could this be possible?! No, but rather k'ilu, it's LIKE tiflus but it is not really tiflus.

Rabbi Abahu says, "What does this mean?" It's written, "I am wisdom; I am together with slyness.:" The smarter you are, the easier it is to scam people! (As in, if women learn Torah, it'll be easier for her to commit sins.)

R' Yosi bar Chanina says in order to really learn Torah, you need to be naked (or free) of all other obligations.

Rabbi Yochanan adds that women would rather have their husband at home and less income than the other way around.

There's a Rashi here that appears very strange (although the entire Gemara seems strange! Why should it be that if women learn Torah, there'll have an easier time committing sins, but for men this doesn't apply?) The Rashi is on the words "Rotzeh Isha b'Kav u'Tiflus," and it states:

    The woman would rather have less income but have her husband around on a regular basis (specifically referring to her sexual relationship with him), therefore, it's not good that she should learn Torah.

What's the relation between the two? It's perplexing. We conclude simply that this seems to be very strange.

Now, just to clarify, this mishna is operating under the assumption that women are exempt from Talmud Torah (because of the verse in Deuteronomy referencing "beneichem" and not "benoseichem"). You'll also notice that this Gemara has not distinguished between Torah she'bikhtav (the Written Torah) and Torah she'Ba'al Peh (the Oral Torah.)

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