Monthly Archives: April 2016

Anticipating the Return of Chametz

This week’s alumni dvar torah is by Judah Kerbel

As a child, I counted down as each day of Pesach passed, waiting for that moment when the ban on chametz would be lifted. As the end of Pesach drew closer, I felt increasingly relieved that I would be able to shed the burden of a more limited diet. And when Pesach ended, it was out the door to acquire chametz as soon as possible.

Eventually, I began to think more deeply and become critical of this attitude. What are we running to when we rush towards chametz? From an aggadic perspective, chametz is not only a halakhic prohibition on Pesach but also represents, symbolically, some of the worst of our character traits.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף יז עמוד א

ורבי אלכסנדרי בתר דמצלי אמר הכי: רבון העולמים, גלוי וידוע לפניך שרצוננו לעשות רצונך, ומי מעכב? שאור שבעיסה ושעבוד מלכיות; יהי רצון מלפניך שתצילנו מידם, ונשוב לעשות חוקי .רצונך בלבב שלם

Rabbi Alexandri, after praying [Shemoneh Esrei], said thus: Master of the Worlds, it is revealed and known before You that our will is to perform Your will. And who prevents us? The yeast in dough and our subjugation to foreign regimes. May it be Your will that You save us from their hands, and that we return to perform the statues of Your will with a complete heart.

Rashi explains that the “yeast in dough” is the yetzer hara, the evil inclination that rises in our hearts, that prevents us from serving G-d with a complete heart. This שאור, yeast, that symbolizes the evil inclination, is the same שאור that we are commanded not to possess or see on the seven/eight days of Pesach (Shemot 13:7, Devarim 16:4).

Likewise, Sefer HaChinukh (Mitzvah 117) writes that the reason why we may not have chametz on Pesach, nor may we sacrifice a mincha that has chametz, is because chametz symbolizes haughtiness, as yeast elevates itself. Additionally, dough that contains yeast takes a while to rise, and when we are engaged in serving G-d, we must be quick to perform the religious actions. Thus, chametz is a negative ingredient.

On top of the fact that chametz contains negative symbolism, in general, halakha teaches us not to see mitzvot as a burden. For example, the Tur (Orach Chayim 93) writes that one should wait a while after finishing prayers, so that it not be seen as a burden from which one is running. Perhaps, then, even if the prohibition of chametz expires at the emergence of three stars at Pesach, maybe we should wait to buy chametz, so that the mitzvah we had just performed not be demonstrably burdensome to us.

Yet, a fascinating practice of the Vilna Gaon provides a different perspective as to how we might treat chametz after Pesach:

מעשה רב הלכות פסח אות קפה

וביו”ט אחרון היה אוכל סעודה שלישית אף על פי שלא היה אוכל שלש סעודות בשאר י”ט מפני חביבת מצות אכילת מצה שזמנו הולך לו ובמוצאי י”ט היה משתדל לטעום חמץ וכן חדש באורתא נגהי תמניסר. והיה נמנע לאכול לאחר פסח מצה שיוצאין בה ידי חובתו בפסח וכ”ז להיכרא לעשיית המצוה שאין עושין אותה להנאה אלא מפני גזירת הבורא יתעלה שמו

On the last day of Pesach, he would eat a third meal even though he would not eat three meals on other yamim tovim because of his affection for the mitzvah of eating matzah, which is shortly departing. And on motzaei yom tov, he would try to taste chametz, and also chadash on the night of the eighteenth [of Nissan]. And after Pesach he would refrain from eating matzah with which one fulfills his obligation, and all of this is to give recognition to the fact that performing the mitzvah is not for pleasure but rather due to the decree of the Creator, blessed be He.

On a peshat level, the practice of the Vilna Gaon reflects an approach to halakha that does not draw out reasons for the commandments, and certainly the reasons do not impact the execution of the halakha itself. We perform every mitzvah out of love, in its proper time, but however good the mitzvah is, it does not transcend its proper time and place.

Yet, upon further reflection, I think the Vilna Gaon’s practice also illuminates the aggadic aspect to the prohibition of chametz. We have eight days in which we aspire to a certain spiritual level, and there is value in that. But perhaps we should not be aspiring to live our daily lives in such an extreme in which we always refrain from chametz. Eight days allows us enough time to reflect and recharge our desire to serve G-d wholeheartedly. Yet, we are human beings. On the verse ואנשי קדש תהיון לי – and you shall be a holy people to me – the Kotzker Rebbe said, “I have enough angels, but I need people, holy people.”

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 64a records a dramatic story in which the Anshei Keneset HaGedolah attempt to destroy the yetzer hara, after it was suspected that it was the yetzer hara that caused the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. And when they fasted and prayed that it be destroyed, a note fell from heaven that said “emet.” They catch a fiery lion which is an embodiment of the yetzer hara, and not only do they destroy. But what transpires is that even an egg for a sick person cannot be found, and they realize that they cannot request half-measures from Heaven, so the best they can do is blind the eye of the lion so that there is no yetzer for relatives.

For all of the problems that transpire due to the yetzer hara, our job as human beings, as אנשי קודש, is to wrestle with it. Embrace the challenge. As we return to chametz, we recognize that in fact, our yetzer hara also can be directed in positive ways to allow us to make contributions to the world. Pesach allowed us time to step back and take a sober accounting of the negative influences impeding our service of G-d. Yet our temporary abstinence should give us the strength to fully grapple with all of the challenges that mark the distinctive human experience, for which we were created to live.

Judah Kerbel (SBM 2015) is in his second year at RIETS and his first year at the Bernard Revel Graduate School, concentrating in medieval Jewish history.

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CMTL Pesach To-Go

Pesach Resources from the Center for Modern Torah Leadership
From SBM alum Rabbi Jon Kelsen: Marah and the Torah of the Desert


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Maggid and the Missing Why

This week’s alumni dvar torah is by Dina Kritz

In the middle of Maggid, after discussing how to discuss the story of yetziat Mitzrayim, we finally begin telling the story itself, although in a very condensed form. We recite the same summary of events that farmers recited long ago while bringing their first crops to the Beit HaMikdash and expressing gratitude to G-d for their food. Instead of reading the first twelve chapters of Sefer Shemot, in which we find the story of the Exodus, we read a few verses which give a very basic outline of G-d’s actions. There are a number of key elements missing from this version of the Pesach story, but above all is the reason for our redemption. As we recall twice a day at the very end of Shema, G-d declares that he took us out for a specific purpose:

(אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלקים (במדבר טו:מא

I took you out of Egypt to be your G-d (Numbers 15:41)

We were saved from slavery so that we could be free to worship G-d. Even before learning the procedures for leaving Egypt and for celebrating our freedom every year, we received the commandment to live our lives by a Jewish calendar. The very dramatic story of the Egyptian firstborn sons dying and the Jewish people hurrying to freedom is sandwiched between instructions regarding how to celebrate Pesach and how to eat the Korban Pesach, immediately followed by the commandment to dedicate each Jewish firstborn son and animal to G-d.

However, our text at the Seder leaves out most of these commandments. We are reminded that we must tell the story of yetziat Mitztrayim every day, and that we must eat (or symbolize) the Pesach, Matzah, and Marror. According to the Haggadah, G-d freed us from slavery because He promised to always protect us, and because His covenant with Avraham guaranteed that we would be taken out of Egypt and brought to Israel.

The Seder night is not about recalling our daily religious responsibilities, other than the obligation to remember our freedom every day. Rather, it is about praising G-d for redeeming us. When we finish recalling the exodus and its related commandments, as well as our own freedom, we launch into songs of praise before concluding Maggid. “Not only did the Holy One, Blessed is He,” we declare, “redeem our forefathers, but He redeemed us with them as well…therefore, it our duty to thank, praise, glorify, exalt, honor, bless… [Him].”

Offering thanks and shira (songs of praise) to G-d is its own obligation. The Talmud teaches us (Sanhedrin 94a) that King Chizkiyahu’s only flaw was that he did not sing praises to G-d after being saved from the Assyrians. Indeed, Rabbi Tanchum teaches in the name of Bar Kapra that had Chizkiyahu offered shira, he would have become the Messiah. We cannot simply accept that miracles happen; we must thank the One Who performed the miracles for us. Our Seder version of the Pesach story is much shorter, but it gets the main points: G-d heard us crying out and took us out of Egypt with an outstretched hand. We must demonstrate to G-d that we understand what He did for us and that we understand what it means that He is our G-d before we get down to the rest of the commandments.

At the beginning of Maggid, we remind ourselves that every Jew in the world is obligated to spend this night telling the story of our freedom:

וַאֲפִילוּ כֻּלָּנוּ חֲכָמִים כֻּלָּנוּ נְבוֹנִים כֻּלָּנוּ זְקֵנִים כֻּלָּנוּ יוֹדְעִים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה מִצְוָה עָלֵינוּ לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם

And even if we were all wise, understanding, elders, and versed in the knowledge of the Torah, we would still be obligated to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt.

The goal of the Seder is not to become well-versed in this part of the Torah, but to remember and reflect on what G-d did for us. Only after we express our gratitude and awe can we be fully prepared to worship G-d. Perhaps one explanation (of many) for our use of the farmer’s summary of yetziat Mitzrayim is that instead of reciting the plain facts of Shemot, we are telling the version of the story intended to be told by a person who sees G-d’s outstretched hand up close and expresses gratitude for it. At the Seder, we are in the moment, focusing on the fact that G-d saved us. Like our ancestors, celebrating the “why” comes later, on Shavuot, but also every day.

Dina Kritz (SBM 15) is a senior at Brandeis University.

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Maimonides and Women’s Leadership: Part Ten

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

My discussion of the halakhic sources women’s leadership began with Rav Mosheh Feinstein’s famous reponsum regarding kashrut supervision.  In Part 3 I tried to demonstrate that Rav Mosheh was discussing a widow serving as the equivalent of the rav hamakhshir of a communal kosher agency, not as the onsite inspector of particular establishments.  I also noted that Rav Mosheh in the end decides that the entire issue of women’s leadership could be finessed in his case by making the widow formally subordinate to the halakhic decisions of a local rav.

This teshuvah of Rav Mosheh has become a go-to halakhic source for those seeking to expand women’s leadership, for one simple reason: its argument that Rambam’s extension of “a king – not a queen” to all mesimot is a minority position among the rishonim. On this basis it is easy to claim that most rishonim would see no halakhic barrier to women serving as religious council members, prime ministers, or synagogue presidents, and that the issues of serarah or mesimot would not bar women from being synagogue rabbis either.

In Parts 4-9 I expressed my disagreement with many elements of Rav Mosheh’s argument.  It should be clear that my analyses, if correct, open many other routes for permitting or encouraging women’s leadership of all sorts in our day, and I hope to develop those routes in the near future.

For now, however, I want to focus on the use of Rav Mosheh in this context by those who accept his basic analysis, and the broader issues that raises.  Is it legitimate to use a posek’s authority to support decisions that the posek explicitly rejected?  Let me sharpen that.  Is it legitimate to use the authority of a pesak to support decisions that the posek explicitly asserts would not follow from the arguments and conclusions reached in his or her pesak?

Let me say upfront that I think the correct answer to this question sometimes closely resembles yes.  This is because poskim often hedge their published teshuvot either because of humility (“I would not have the chutzpah to pasken if this were a matter of eshet ish et al”) or to avoid embroiling a specific psak in a broader controversy.

This responsum, and this issue, are interesting test cases, because critics immediately challenged Rav Mosheh’s assertion that his psak could be limited, and because he wrote a second responsum directly addressing the issue.

Rabbi Meir Amsel, a veteran from the losing side of the battle regarding women’s suffrage in Israel, wrote in HaMaor (available on that while he agreed with Rav Mosheh’s desire to help the widow fill her husband’s position, he was afraid that the argument regarding Rambam would embolden those who wished to promote women’s leadership, and specifically lead to women presidents in Israel and synagogue presidents in the US.  Rabbi Amsel then goes to great lengths to challenge Rav Mosheh’s analysis; some of his arguments anticipate my analysis thus far, and others I find much less convincing.  To Rabbi Amsel’s great credit, as the editor of HaMaor he published (and likely solicited) Rav Mosheh’s response in the very same issue, immediately after his critique, without responding further himself, and let readers make up their own minds.

Rav Mosheh reprinted that response as Igrot Mosheh YD 2:45. Here is a translation of the excerpts I see as relevant to our discussion here – readers are of course encouraged to read it in its entirety, and the Hebrew of the excerpts is appended.

Further in the matter of a woman receiving a hashgachah appointment:  To his honor my dear friend the great rabbi and gaon Rabbi Meir Amsel shlita, editor of the monthly HaMaor:

Regarding Your Honor’s apology for not agreeing with my words – I don’t know why you need to apologize.  Certainly everyone needs to clarify the truth according to their mind, whether for stringency or leniency, even if one is a student opposing the reasoning of one’s teacher, all the more so for others who are not students of that teacher.  See my book Igrot Mosheh OC 109 where I have dealt with this at some length.  And if your intent is to apologize for perhaps saying harsh things regarding me – everyone who knows me knows that thank G-d I am distant from G-d forbid being particular with any human being, let alone with a Torah scholar. Therefore, I will write only to the substance of the issue.

What Your Honor wrote that in terms of my responsum, in that I raised a difficulty regarding Rambam’s invalidation of women for all mesimot, that in my intellectual poverty I know no source for his words, and also that it seems to me that not everyone holds like this –

a stumbling block emerges from this, that they will appoint women as president in Israel –

we are not responsible for the practice of the government there, which owing to our many sins is in the hands of deniers and heretics who give no consideration at all to our opinions.  Even if everyone held like Rambam, and even if it were explicit in the Gemara and even in the Written Torah – they would not give it consideration, just as they give no consideration to all the Torah prohibitions, including the strictest and those most explicit in the Gemara and Scripture, and thus it turns out naturally that there is no stumbling block from what I have written.

As for the concern lest they appoint women in synagogues in our country America –

it is also not plausible that a stumbling block will emerge from what I have written, as the synagogues and institutions that practice in accordance with the path of Torah will not act without the hora’ah of a qualified Rav, and so it will turn out naturally that for this the position of Rambam is sufficient to prevent the appointment of a woman, and for those who have strayed from the path of Torah, even if this were a clear prohibition and explicit in the Torah they would not pay attention to this, and we are not responsible for them.  So it turns out naturally that there is G-d forbid no stumbling block from the clarification of the halakhah that that I wrote, that not everyone concedes to Rambam, and they erred who objected that it was a stumbling block.

. . .

It also seems clear that we are obligated to clarify the law even if there is a concern that a stumbling block will emerge from this according to some mistaken fools, as is explicit on Bana Batra 89 regarding that which R. Yochanan ben Zakkai said: “Woe to me if I say, woe to me if I don’t say”.  They asked:  Did he say or not say? and R. Shmuel son of R. Yitzchak answered that he did say, based on this verse of Scripture: “For the paths of Hashem are straight, and the righteous walk in them, but the violators will stumble in them”, and clarification of the law even for leniency is a great obligation included within learning Torah, which is itself a good path for the righteous.  But in truth there is no stumbling block here, as I have written.

. . .

The kal vachomer that Your Honor said on his own from the invalidation of a queen to invalidate all other mesimot is nothing, and it has no flavor nor aroma, and all logic says exactly the opposite.  But hat relevance is there here to judging on the basis of mere speculative rationales?  This is not the way of the scholars of Torah.

Bottom line: Even though there are many rishonim who hold like Rambam, but Rashi, Tosafot, Rosh, Ran, and Ramban disagree, and it seems reasonable that Rashba also holds that way, but certainly in practice one should be strict in accordance with Rambam and those who agree with him since it is a dispute among our greats . . .  Therefore, for a great need, for the sake of the widow and her children’s living, it would be relevant to rely on those who disagree with Rambam as in all disputes among the greats, but I have found a practical way to fulfill even the position of Rambam, and it turns out naturally that we are obligated to use that practical way as it turns out naturally that there is no need to rely on those who disagree with Rambam . . .

So Rav Mosheh explicitly stated that his psak would not permit women to be appointed as synagogue presidents, for example.  On the other hand, he makes clear that according to his analysis most rishonim would not support the claim that such appointments are per se forbidden.  Fundamentally, he thinks that allowing a poor family to support itself is a great need; allowing women to be appointed to positions of communal leadership is not a great need.

My conclusion, therefore, is that it is legitimate to claim Rav Mosheh’s authority on this issue for any purpose that one considers to be as important as Rav Mosheh considered the livelihood of a poor widow and her children.

 .עוד בענין אשה להתמנות דהשגחה מע”כ ידידי הרב הגאון מוהר”ר מאיר אסמעל /אמסעל/ שליט”א עורך ירחון המאור

הנה מה שמתנצל כתר”ה מה שהוא סובר דלא כדברי איני יודע למה הוא צריך להתנצלות הא ודאי שכל אחד צריך לברר האמת לפי דעתו בין לקולא בין לחומרא אף כשהוא תלמיד נגד סברת רבו וכ”ש לאחרים שאינם תלמידיו. ועיין בספרי אגרות משה חאו”ח סימן ק”ט שהארכתי בזה קצת. ואם כוונתו להתנצל במה שאולי בלשונו הטיח דברים כנגדי הנה ידוע לכל המכירים אותי שב”ה אני .רחוק מקפידא ח”ו על שום אדם וכ”ש על ת”ח. ולכן אכתוב רק לעצם הענין

 -הנה מש”כ כתר”ה שמצד תשובתי בזה שהקשתי על הרמב”ם שפוסל נשים אף לכל משימות שלא ידוע לי בעניי מקור לדבריו, וגם שמשמע לי שלא כו”ע סברי כן

-יוצא מכשול שימנו נשים לפרעזדענט במדינת ישראל

אין אנו אחראין להנהגת המלכות דשם שהיא בעוה”ר אצל כופרים ומומרים ואין מתחשבים עם דעותינו כלום ואף אם כו”ע יסברו כהרמב”ם וגם היה מפורש בגמ’ ואף בתורה שבכתב לא היו מתחשבים מזה כמו שלא מתחשבים עם כל איסורי התורה החמורים ביותר והמפורשים בגמ’ ובקראי וממילא אין שום מכשול מזה

-ולשמא ימנו אשה להבתי כנסיות שבמדינתנו אמעריקא

נמי לא שייך שיוצא מזה מכשול, דהבתי כנסיות והמוסדות שמתנהגים ע”פ דרך התורה לא יעשו בלא הוראת רב מובהק וממילא סגי לזה גם שיטת הרמב”ם שלא למנות אשה, ולאלו שסרו מדרך התורה הרי גם אם הוא איסור ברור ומפורש שבתורה לא ישגיחו ע”ז ואין אנו אחראין עליהם. וממילא נמצא שליכא שום מכשול ח”ו מברור ההלכה שכתבתי שלא כו”ע מודו להרמב”ם וטעות הוא  ביד אלו שערערו לומר שהוא מכשול

. . .

עוד נראה ברור שמחוייבין לברר הדין אף אם יש לחוש ליציאת איזה מכשול לאיזה טועים ושוטים כמפורש בב”ב דף פ”ט על הא דאריב”ז אוי לי אם אומר אוי לי אם לא אומר איבעיא להו אמרה או לא אמרה ופשיט ר’ שמואל ב”ר יצחק אמרה ומהאי קרא אמרה כי ישרים דרכי ה’ וצדיקים ילכו בם ופושעים יכשלו בם וברור הדין אף לקולא הוא חיוב גדול מלמוד התורה שזה עצמו הוא הלוך טוב לצדיקים. אבל האמת שאין בזה שום מכשול כדכתבתי

. . .

והק”ו שאמר כתר”ה מעצמו מפסול מלכה לפסול גם לשאר משימות אינו כלום ואין לזה לא טעם ולא ריח והסברות אדרבה להיפוך אבל מה שייך לדון בסברות בעלמא שלא זהו דרך חכמי התורה

 סוף דבר אף שיש הרבה ראשונים הסוברים כהרמב”ם אבל רש”י ותוס’ והרא”ש והר”ן ורמב”ן פליגי ומסתבר שכן סובר גם הרשב”א ובודאי למעשה יש להחמיר כשיטת הרמב”ם ודעימיה כיון דפלוגתא דרבוותא הוא . . . ולכן לצורך גדול בשביל חיות האלמנה ובניה היה שייך לסמוך על החולקים על הרמב”ם כבכל פלוגתא דרבוותא אבל מצאתי עצה לקיים גם שיטת הרמב”ם וממילא מוכרחין לעשות כהעצה שהרי ממילא ליכא צורך לסמוך על החולקים . . .

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Maimonides and Women’s Leadership: Part Nine

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

Many Tosafists cite a Yerushalmi as proof that women cannot be judges, but they cite it in very different ways.  Some claim the Yerushalmi has two Biblical derivations, and some only one; if there is one, it’s not clear which; and if there are two, it’s not clear whether both disqualify women in the same way.

While no Tosafist both cites the Yerushalmi and rules that women can be judges, several non-Tosafists cite the Yerushalmi and yet treat that position as viable, if incorrect.  Our question is whether the Tosafists who ruled that women can be judges might have had either a different text or else a different interpretation of the Yerushalmi.

The standard printed editions of the Yerushalmi (Venice and Vilna) also contain multiple versions of this sugya, in three different tractates: Shavuot (4:1), Sanhedrin (3:9), and Yoma (6:1).  These variations likely generated the varying citations in Tosafot.  For example: The version in Yoma contains two derivations for women’s exclusions from judgeship; the others contain only one derivation.

Let’s understand these texts in their own terms, and then explore whether one or more of them might be compatible with the Tosafistic position that women can be judges.

I provide a composite edition of the Yerushalmi at the end of this installment, with Shavuot as the base text (A), and preserving only the variants from Yoma (B) and then Sanhedrin (C) that I see as potentially significant.  But I want first to present interpretations in translation of a necessarily reconstructed text.

Here is the most likely structure of the first part of the Yerushalmi, as I see it; please note that this is not the way some standard commentaries see it.

A beraita argues that the number 2 = the word שני\ם is superfluous whenever the Torah uses a plural, and therefore must come to teach that the two in question need to be equal/highly similar.  Several examples are brought..

Rav Chagai poses a challenge based on this exegetical principle from the verse ועמדו שני האנשים.  He assumes that the phrase refers to litigants, and if so, there should be a mandate that litigants be highly similar.  But this is not so! The Torah commands us to be careful when judging converts and orphans, and this refers (even or especially) to when they are in litigation with non-converts or non-orphans.

Therefore (it is not clear whether Rav Chagai is still speaking), the שני of ועמדו שני האנשים is superfluous, and cannot be explained as teaching necessary similarity.  Instead, it must be intended to create a link to another שני in the Torah.  That link transfers the אנשים, which excludes women and minors, from here to there.

But where are “here” and “there”?  “There” must be a place where שני is written but אנשים is not written.  The only viable candidate is על פי שנים עדים.  So the impact of the gezeirah shavah is that the exclusion of women is transferred from here to testimony.  But where is “here”?

The texts give us two candidates: ועמדו שני האנשים and וישארו שני אנשים במחנה.  However, since this explanation is offered as a response to the apparent superfluity of שני in ועמדו שני האנשים, that must be the correct “here”.  That gives us a literary location – it still doesn’t tell us what “here” is about.

In context, ועמדו שני האנשים seems to refers to litigants: ועמדו שני האנשים אשר להם הריב.  However, the Bavli deems this impossible because a beraita from the House of Rabbi Eliezer asserts השוה הכתוב איש ואשה לכל דינים שבתורה – which, you will recall, was the Bavli evidence Tosafot brought for the position that women can be judges!  If the Yerushalmi shares this assumption, perhaps the verse refers to judges.  On this understanding, ועמדו שני האנשים is the source of women’s exclusion from judgeship, and the exclusion of women from testimony is then derived from that (although the manner is opaque).

This fits well with the versions of the text that read הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה.  מעתה אין האשה מעידה.

Or it might be that ןעמדו שני האנשים refers to witnesses, and the exclusion of women from judgeship is derived from testimony = על פי שנים עדים via (unspoken) the Mishnah in Niddah, as per the Bavli.

This fits well with הרי למדנו שאין אישה דנה. מעתה אין אשה מעידה.

Or It might be that the verse refers to witnesses, and that afterward an (unspoken) derashah is made extending the derashah to וישארו שני אנשים במחנה, which is the source for the exclusion of women from judgeship.

This might fit with הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה ולא מעידה.

Here is the most likely structure of the second part of the Yerushalmi, as I see it; please note that this is not the way at least some standard commentaries see it.

R. Yose son of Rabbi Bun offers an alternative answer to the same underlying problem: Why does the word שני appear in the phrase ועמדו שני האנשים? He contends, however, that the verse is not intended to teach an exclusion of women. Rather, he argues, we should return to the basic interpretation of the other extraneous שני’s in the Torah, namely that they are intended to mandate similarity/identity among the relevant 2.  It is true that the litigants need not be the same – one can be a widow and another married, etc, – but you must treat them the same.  You cannot have one stand and one sit, allow one to speak extensively but cut the other short, etc.

If this structure is correct, R. Yose son of Rabbi Bun does not have any derashah at all excluding women from judgeship.  The Tosafists who rule that women can be judges could simply be following his position.

Here is the text of the Yerushalmi according to my reconstruction.


שבועת העדות נוהגת באנשים ולא בנשים


;שעירים” – מיעוט שעירים שנים. מה ת”ל “שני”? שיהו שוין”

כבשים” – מיעוט כבשים שנים. א”כ, מה תלמוד לומר “שני”? שיהו שניהן שוין”

צפרים” – מיעוט צפרים שנים. אם כן, מה ת”ל “שתי”? שיהו שניהן שוין”

חצוצרות” – מיעוט חצוצרות שתים. א”כ, מה ת”ל “שתי”? שיהו שתיהן שוות”

:התיב ר’ חגיי קומי ר’ יוסי

!?והכתיב “ועמדו שני האנשים” – מיעוט אנשים שנים, ומה ת”ל “שני”? שיהו שניהן שוין?! והכתיב “לא תטה משפט גר יתום” – הרי גר דן עם מי שאינו גר, יתום דן עם מי שאינו יתום

?”א”כ, למה נאמר “שני

:מופנה להקיש ולדון הימינו גזירה שוה

נאמר כאן שני ונאמר להלן שני

מה שני שנאמר להלן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטנים אף שני שנאמר כאן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטנים

.הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה.  מעתה אין האשה מעידהA

הרי למדנו שאין האשה מעידה.  מעתה אין האשה דנהB

הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה ולא מעידהC

ר’ יוסי בי ר’ בון בשם רב יוסף

נאמר כאן שני ונאמר להלן שני

מה להלן על פי שנים עדים אף כאן על פי שנים עדים

?”א”כ, למה נאמר “ועמדו שני האנשים

שלא יהא

,אחד עומד ואחד יושב, אחד שותק ואחד מדבר, אחד מדבר כל צורכו ולאחד אומר לו קצר דבריך

.כנגד אחד מאריך פנים וכנגד אחד מעיז פנים

This, however, was not the version in front of those Tosafists who use the Yerushalmi to reject the position that women can be judges.  I say this with confidence because they explicitly cite their version as utilizing the verse וישארו שני אנשים במחנה to exclude women from judgeship (in either the first or second section), and my reconstructed version of the sugya has no necessary place for that verse.

If I am correct, then, the Tosafist position permitting women to judge was later rejected because a new version of the Yerushalmi spread.  I tend to think that the later version arose from a scribal error – which שני אנשים was being used in the derashah?  For my contention here to matter, I need only create a reasonable doubt that the Tosafists were aware of the Yerushalmi and had valid reasons for nonetheless holding that women can be judges.

It remains to be seen whether, according to the Tosafists who reject the opinion that women can be judges, וישארו שני אנשים במחנה excludes women from anything beyond judgeship. Similarly, it remains to be seen whether that verse, or some other verse, might exclude women from classical semikhah even according to the position that women can be judges, and if so, whether the exclusion applies to anything other than judgeship.

To the best of my knowledge of these questions, none of these questions is discussed directly by rishonim.  However, Chatam Sofer reconciles the Tosafists with the Yerushalmi by saying that the Yerushalmi excludes women only from judging capital cases; RAMO Choshen Mishpat 37:22 says that many communal positions “are like judges” (although his language can easily be read as specifically including women); and Sifri to Devarim 1:13 takes the exclusion of women from some forms of leadership as so obvious that the Torah would not waste words mentioning it.  (This Sifri may be a valuable place to begin a more ideological analysis.)

Three last sources must be mentioned.  Kiryat Melekh to Rambam Hilkhot Melakhim 1:5 cites Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5 as saying נשים פסולות להוראה; however, these words are placed in the mouth of Shimshon’s father Manoach, and therefore may very well be satiric (and/or unrelated to halakhic hora’ah). Kiryat Melekh also mentions Kohelet Rabbah to Kohelet 2:8, which translates שדה ושדות as   דיינין זכרים ודיינות נקבות with full approval.

Finally: To conclude on a note of mystery, and perhaps conspiracy.  Mossad Horav Kook’s Otzar HaAggadah, under the heading אשה, p. 88, #165, reports that Yerushalmi Sotah 6:5 contains the phrase אשה דנה.  Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a Halakhah 5 in Chapter 6 of Yerushalmi Sotah, and I have searched unsuccessfully for many years for an alternate location.  Most recently I noticed that footnote 166 is labeled שם שם, or ibid; the source it cites turns out to be in 7:1.  All this is most curious.  If anyone finds the text Otzar HaAggadah refers to, or alternatively has an explanation of how the Otzar HaAggadah came to include an imaginary source in a fictional location, I would very much appreciate hearing from you.

In the next installment of this series, I hope to summarize what we’ve done so far, and to begin at least outlining the work of translating our learning into practical contemporary halakhah.



שבועת העדות נוהגת באנשים ולא בנשים


שעירים” – מיעוט שעירים שנים. מה ת”ל “שני”? שיהו שוין”

כבשים” – מיעוט כבשים שנים. א”כ, מה תלמוד לומר “שני”? שיהו שניהן שוין”

צפרים” – מיעוט צפרים שנים. אם כן, מה ת”ל “שתי”? שיהו שניהן שוין”

חצוצרות” – מיעוט חצוצרות שתים. א”כ, מה ת”ל “שתי”? שיהו שתיהן שוות”

התיב ר’ חגיי קומי ר’ יוסיA

התיב ר’ חגיי קומי ר’ יוסהB

התיב ר’ חגיי לר’ יוסאC

“והכתיב “ועמדו שני האנשיםA

והא כתיב ועמדו שני האנשים אשר להם הריב לפני ה’ מעתה אנשיםB

והכתי’ ועמדו שני האנשים מעתהC

!?מיעוט אנשים שנים, ומה ת”ל “שני”? שיהו שניהן שוין

-“והכתיב “לא תטה משפט גר יתום

!?הרי מצינו גר דן עם מי שאינו גר, יתום דן עם מי שאינו יתום, אלמנה עם בעולת בעלA

והרי מצאנו גר דן עם מי שאינו גר יתום דן עם מי שאינו יתום אלמנה דנה עם מי שאינה אלמנהB

הרי גר דן עם מי שאינו גר יתום דן עם מי שאינו יתוםC

?”א”כ, למה נאמר “שני

:מופנה להקיש ולדון הימינו גזירה שוהA

אלא מפנייא להקיש לגזירה שוהB

“נאמר כאן “שני”, ונאמר להלן “וישארו שני אנשים במחנהA

נאמר כאן שני ונאמר להלן שניB

מה להלן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטנים, אף כאן אנשים ולא אנשים ולא קטניםC

מה שני שנאמר להלן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטנים אף שני שנאמר כאן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטניםA

מה להלן אנשים ולא נשים אף כאן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטניםB

הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה.  מעתה אין האשה מעידהA

הרי למדנו שאין האשה מעידה.  מעתה אין האשה דנהB

הרי למדנו שאין האשה דנה ולא מעידהC


ר’ יוסי בי ר’ בון ר’ הונא בשם ר’ יוסיA

ר’ יוסי בי ר’ בון בשם רב יוסףB

נאמר כאן שני ונאמר להלן על פי שנים עדיםA

“נאמר כאן ‘שני’ = “על פי שנים עדים”, ונאמר להלן ‘שני’ = “וישארו שני אנשים במחנהB

נאמר כאן שני ונאמר להלן שניC

מה להלן על פי שנים עדים אף כאן על פי שנים עדיםA

מה שני שנאמר להלן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטנים, אף שני שנאמר כאן אנשים ולא נשים ולא קטניםB

אם כן למה נאמר שניA

?”א”כ, למה נאמר “ועמדו שני האנשיםB

שלא יהא

אחד עומד ואחד יושב

אחד שותק ואחד מדבר

אחד מדבר כל צורכו ולאחד אומר לו קצר דבריך

כנגד אחד מאריך פנים וכנגד אחד מעיז פנים

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Tzora’at: The Exception that Proves the Rule of Objectivity in Halakhic Experience

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

Many of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s most famous quotes emphasize the objectivity of Halakhah. By objective he means that it is capable of producing the same experience in just about every Jew (or perhaps every Jew of the same gender; the Rav is curiously silent about the significance of gender in his major philosophic works. See for example the interpretation of Genesis 1-4 in Lonely Man of Faith, which makes the existence of different genders vital but provides no clue as to how the genders differ). The Rav argued that religion must be objective in order to be worthy of intellectual study, and to enable community.

However, some promoters of Mishpat Ivri (the discipline of understanding halakhah so that it can function effectively as law in modernized societies) use these Rav quotes to argue that Halakhah insists on bright-line rules and precisely defined measurements in order to give laypeople the capacity to make decisions on their own. To my knowledge this idea appears nowhere in the Rav. But it is nonetheless stimulating and attractive.

The starkest antithesis to both ways of understanding the Rav may be found in the laws of tzora’at (a psycho-spiritual disease almost but not entirely unlike leprosy). Here the Torah emphasizes over and over again that the halakhic consequences of tzora’at depend entirely on the judgment of the kohen to whom the disease is brought. “The decree of Scripture is that the tum’ah of negaim and their taharah occur only at the word of the Kohen” (Rashi to Vayikra 13:2). Even worse, the kohen makes his determination on the basis of color, which is perhaps the paradigmatic subjective experience, with perception of color depending on individual physiology, cultural interest, and chromatic context. Here the Torah seems to revel in subjectivity. But is tzora’at the raw material from which we should generate halakhic theory, or is it the exception that proves the rule?

Yerushalmi Niddah (end of Chapter 2) offers a striking hava amina and then contrast.

?’ראת על הכר – מהו שתהא נאמנת לומר ‘כזה ראיתי’ או ‘כזה

:רבי בא בשם רב יהודה רבי חלבו רבי חייה בשם רבי יוחנן

ראת על הכר – נאמנת לומר ‘כזה ראיתי או ‘כזה’, ותני כן: נאמנת

?יכול כשם שהיא מראה כתמה, כן תהא מראות נגעים

“תלמוד לומר: “והובא אל אהרן הכהן או אל אחד מבניו הכהנים

If a woman saw (colors on a) cushion – is she believed to say ‘I saw (a stain) like this’ or ‘like this’?

Rabbi Ba in the name of Rav Yehuda; Rabbi Chelbo and Rabbi Chiyya in the name of Rabbi Yochanan:

If a woman saw (colors on a) cushion – she is believed to say ‘I saw (a stain) like this’ or ‘like this’.

Perhaps just as she shows (a color analogous to) her stain, so too she should show her negaim?

Scripture writes “It must be brought to Aharon the kohen or to one of his sons the kohanim.”

The Yerushalmi notices that negaim are parallel to niddah/zavah in that they involve halakhic rulings based on colors. It reasonably suggests that the standards for determining color should be the same in both areas. So just as in niddah/zavah we allow a woman to report her color experience to the posek, rather than requiring the posek to see the stain directly, so too we should allow the person afflicted with tzora’at to show the kohen a color that they experience as matching their nega rather than compelling them to expose their skin. (It may be that the hava amina is raised regarding women who have tzora’at because having a male kohen stare at a woman’s skin seemed inappropriate.)

The Yerushalmi concludes that niddah/zavah and negaim are not parallel; the Torah requires the kohen to see the nega directly. But why aren’t they parallel? Philosophically, if the laws of negaim welcome subjectivity by making the law depend on whether something has been seen by the kohen rather than on whether it exists objectively, why can’t we allow the kohen to rely on someone else’s subjective experience?

I think a broader and deeper contrast may be involved here. The core of the laws of niddah/zavah is the counting of days, and the Torah tell us “She counts lah” (Vayikra 15:28), which the Rabbis understood to mean that “She counts for herself,” meaning that we trust the woman when she asserts that the correct number of days have passed.

In other words, the laws of niddah empower the object of the law to become an autonomous legal subject, whereas the laws of tzora’at compel the object of the law to become the legal object of another human being. Thus it makes perfect sense that the legal subject of niddah/zavah law can interpose her subjective experience even when–lacking training as a yoetzet halakhah–she is compelled to ask someone else for a legal ruling, while the object of tzora’at law has his or her legal fate determined by the undiluted subjective experience of the kohen, even if that means obligating a woman to expose her skin to a man, just as Miriam’s tzora’at was immediately visible to her brothers.

Another detail of hilkhot tzora’at may also reflect how central the kohen’s subjectivity is to the law. Sifra understands “one of his sons the kohanim” to mean “any one of his sons the kohanim,” including those who are physically blemished. Rabbi Yosef Polak and others have argued that the exclusion of physically blemished kohanim from the Temple service reflects their status as klei hamikdash, Temple furniture, in other words the complete irrelevance of their individual personalities to their work. With regard to tzora’at, however, their subjectivity is vital, and so there is no reason for external physical characteristics to affect their qualifications.

Now the story of Miriam teaches us that tzora’at is a consequence of speaking lashon hora. I suggest that an underlying evil of lashon hora is that it imposes the speaker’s view of another human being on both the listener and the object of speech. It deprives the listener of the opportunity to make an unmediated judgment, and the object of the opportunity to present themselves as they would like to be seen. The Torah responds by compelling the speaker to undergo the experience of complete dependence on someone else’s subjective perception.

Tzora’at is a punishment; therefore it must be an exception to how halakhah should be experienced rather than the rule. The Torah’s ideal is for human beings to bring every element of their subjectivity to full expression within the objective framework of the law; halakhah provides the context rather than the content of religious experience.

This is a shift from the Rav, but I’m not sure how radical a shift. Halakhic Man, being uninterested in psak, expresses his subjectivity through his subjective formulation of the objective law, through chiddushei Torah. This allows him to believe that the experience of the law is objective. My argument is that the servant of Hashem expresses subjectivity through the experience of the law. The religious actor may therefore believe that the content of the law is objective.

In the manner of the Rav – lehavdil – I suggest that we should not see these visions as opposed. Our task is rather to live them in dialectical tension. Halakhic life should enable us to express every aspect of both our intellectual and our spiritual subjectivity, with the caveat that we should be very cautious about expressing them simultaneously.

We should also note, and perhaps draw strong practical conclusions from, the Ribono shel Olam’s choice to teach the importance of halakhic self-determination in the context of women’s experience, and specifically in the context of niddah/zavah.  

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Maimonides and Women’s Leadership: Part Eight

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

As the Tosafists see it, the Talmud Bavli has evidence both ways as to whether women can be judges; the Biblical example of Devorah says they can; a Yerushalmi says they can’t.

No Tosafist cites Sifri in the context of this issue.

No Tosafist who cites the Yerushalmi rules that women can be judges, and no Tosafist proposes any method of reconciling the Yerushalmi with this position.

The Tosafists collectively present four possible outcomes.

  1. All women can be judges
  2. Devorah was a judge, but nonprophetesses can’t be judges
  3. Devorah was a judge, but people voluntarily accepted her authority to judge
  4. Devorah was not a judge, but rather a teacher of law.

It seems clear that some Tosafists ruled that women can be judges.  Ritva and Sefer haChinnukh each present this as the Tosafist opinion, albeit one they disagree with; Tosafot Bava Kamma 15a seems to hold this way; Rabbeinu Avigdor haTzarfati to Parashat Mishpatim, in the middle of the most comprehensive Tosafist discussion of the non-Yerushalmi evidence I have found, writes

ומ״מ פסקינן דאשה כשרה לדון

Nonetheless, we rule that a woman is valid to judge.

Why wasn’t this position rejected, or at least challenged, on the basis of Sifri?

I see four prima facie options.

  1. They were unaware of Sifri saying מלך ולא מלכה, and thought women could be queen.
  2. They were aware of Sifri saying מלך ולא מלכה, but did not extend it to any position beyond queen.
  3. They were aware of Sifri and extended it beyond queen, but did not see judgeship as falling under that extension.
  4. They were aware of Sifri, thought it prevented women from being dayyanim, and chose not to cite it.

The first and last of these options seem implausible to me.  Tosafists quote Sifri in numerous other places, and every version of Sifri I am aware of includes מלך ולא מלכה.

Options 2 and 3 are reasonable.  We noted in our discussion of Rambam that the extension to כל משימות does not appears anywhere that is conclusively before Rambam.  However, a number of Sifri manuscripts and early citations contain an extension to פרנס על הצבור.

Michael Appel very helpfully shared with me his work on the Sifri manuscripts; all errors and especially oversimplifications are my responsibility(.  In brief, it seems there are two key versions:

מכאן שאין ממנים פרנס על הצבור אלא אם כן מאחיך הוא

מכאן שאיש ממנים פרנס על הצבור ואין ממנים אשה פרנס על הצבור

There is at least one ms. In which the text cuts off after the first פרנס על הצבור.  Now in some handwritings a ש is the combination of an ע and a ן, which makes it easy to confuse איש and אין.  It seems entirely reasonable that the אין version was dominant in Tosafist Ashkenaz, in which case their Sifri contained no reference to an extension of מלך ולא מלכה.  Now academic scholars privilege an ms. that has איש, and my amateur guess is that איש can become אין more easily than the reverse, but I don’t think this would be enough to dismiss the text I attribute to the Tosafists as an error, and option 2 remains possible.

But I think it is also reasonable to argue that the Tosafists did not see the term פרנס as encompassing judges, but rather limited it to people responsible for making practical policy judgments.  Option 3 is therefore viable as well.

What, however, about the Yerushalmi?  Were the Tosafists who paskened that woman can be judges unaware of this text?  If so, does their position lose all halakhic weight on the ground that it was a טעות בדבר משנה, (which can be translated as an error made out of ignorance of a relevant precedent)?

This question is fascinating and important, but I think it can still be evaded in our case.  Classifying something as a טעות בדבר משנה requires a demonstration that otherwise competent decisors were unaware of the relevant text and would have changed their minds had they known it.  It is plausible in our case that the Tosafists did not know the Yerushalmi, but Sefer HaChinnukh 77 suggests otherwise.

ומכל מקום

כל זה שאמרנו שאינן דנות

הוא כדעת קצת המפרשים

,וכדעת הירושלמי, שכן נמצא שם מפורש

,אבל לדעת קצת מן המפרשים כשרות הן לדון

.ואמרו כי מקרא מלא הוא שנאמר (ו)היא שופטה


all we have said regarding women not judging

is in accordance with the opinion of some of the commentators

and the opinion of the Yerushalmi where this position is found explicitly,

but according to some of the commentators they are valid to judge

and they say that this is a full-on verse, as Scripture says “she judged”.

Sefer HaChinnukh clearly believes that the position validating women judges survived awareness of the Yerushalmi, although he concludes that evidence and logic support the position that women cannot judge.  It seems that he understood these Tosafists as holding that obvious peshat in Tanakh can overcome a Yerushalmi.

With some hesitation, I will add the following point, recognizing that it comes from a field beyond my qualifications.  Professor Yisrael Ta-Shema famously argued that the German Jewish culture out of which the Tosafists emerged was heavily influenced by the Yerushalmi, which would weaken my argument from Sefer HaChinnukh.  However, Dr. Haym Soloveitchik now contends that Professor Ta Shema’s position was incorrect.

However, it is also possible that these Tosafists had an alternative understanding, or better yet, an alternate text of the Yerushalmi, which did not rule out women judges.

Looking at the Tosafistic citations, it becomes immediately clear that the Yerushalmi is cited in different ways.  Here is Tosafot Niddah 50a:

ובירושלמי פוסל אשה לדון

אית דילפי מועמדו שני אנשים שני מעל פי שנים עדים

ואית דילפי מוישארו שני אנשים במחנה

And in the Yerushalmi it invalidates a woman to judge

Some derive [this] from “The two men will stand” – “two” from “on the mouth of two witnesses”;

And some derive [this] from “and there were left two men in the camp”.

Tosafot Gittin 88b also claims that there are two derivations, but subtly changes what is derived:

מיהו בירושלמי דיומא (פ”ו) יש

מעתה דאין אשה מעידה אינה דנה

אית דילפי מועמדו שני אנשים שני מעל פי שנים עדים

.ואית דילפי מוישארו שני אנשים במחנה

However, in Yerushalmi Yoma there is

Since it is now established that a woman cannot testify, she cannot judge.

Some derive [this] from “The two men will stand” – “two” from “on the mouth of two witnesses”;

And some derive [this] from “and there were left two men in the camp”.

In this version, both derivations relate to testimony, and inability to testimony proves inability to judge.  Both derivations thus support the reading of Mishnah Niddah as excluding women from judgeship.

A third version found in many Tosafists includes only the line “Since it is established that a woman cannot testify, she cannot judge.”

A fourth version cites only a single derivation.

There are also combinations of the third and fourth version, and of course many obviously corrupt versions.

We will see in our next installment that the versions cited by Tosafot are paralleled by different versions found in the Yerushalmi itself.


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