Thursday, November 30, 2006

Women and Talmud Torah VII

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

Here you want to click this link to look at this particular Tosefta in Berachos. A Tosefta is something that is part of the general collection of Tannaitic material, but which were not part of the Mishna- they are outside of the Mishna.

Look at the highlighted blue part.

In English:

    The Zavin and the Zavos, the Niddos (women during their menstraul period) and the Yoldos (women who gave birth) are permitted to read/ learn Torah and Mishna with Medrish Halachos and Aggados but Ba'al Kerin (men who have experienced seminal emissions and are still in a tamei state because of that) are not permitted to do any of these things. R' Yehuda mentions some more things that the Ba'al Keri cannot learn.

This is incredible! It says that women in a state of tumah may learn Torah! And there's nothing negative here. This Tosefta is operating on a Rabbinic level because it mentions ba'al keri and yet imputes no problem to learning Torah. The point is that we had already reached a time of Rabbinic takanos (because the law stating that a ba'al keri cannot learn Torah is a takana from Ezra) and yet women learning Torah is seen as completely fine here.

Now look at Berakhot 22a:

    דתניא (דברים ד) והודעתם לבניך ולבני בניך וכתיב בתריה יום אשר עמדת לפני ה' אלהיך בחורב מה להלן באימה וביראה וברתת ובזיע אף כאן באימה וביראה וברתת ובזיע מכאן אמרו הזבים והמצורעים ובאין על נדות מותרים לקרות בתורה ובנביאים ובכתובים לשנות במשנה וגמרא ובהלכות ובאגדות אבל בעלי קריין אסורים

(And in English)

    as it has been taught: 'And thou shalt make them known to thy children and thy children's children', and it is written immediately afterwards, 'The day on which thou didst stand before the Lord thy God in Horeb'. Just as there it was in dread and fear and trembling and quaking, so in this case too2 it must be in dread and fear and trembling and quaking. On the basis of this they laid down that sufferers from gonorrhoea, lepers, and those who had intercourse with niddoth are permitted to read the Torah, the Prophets and the Hagiographa, and to study the Mishnah, [Midrash]3 the Talmud,4 halachoth and haggadoth, but a ba'al keri is forbidden.5

So you see how the Gemara presents the same concept we just had in the Tosefta, but with a telling difference: look how it's only males mentioned here! The "sufferers of gonorrhoea, lepers, and those who had intercourse with Niddoth" are all referring to males in this section. It's a very interesting contrast to the Tosefta.

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