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From: rhendel@king.mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Sun, 21 Jul 1996 20:46:41 -0400 Subject: Commandments women are free from: Rambams list:Rav Hirsch's reasons There have been a flurry of MJ on which commandments women are freed from and why. In particular [Gelb, V 24 #69] mentions 2 popular theories: (a) women are closer to time and hence need less time bound mitzvoth, (b) women must bring up a family and hence it is impractical to do time bound mitzvoth. I would like to briefly summarize Rav Hirsch's theory and comments. First however I take explicit note that the Rambam in Sefer hamitzvoth at the end of the "DO" commandments lists the 60 commandments that people are obligated to do nowadays under ordinary circumstances and lists the 14, women are exempt from. I reiterate this list below. Briefly: Rav Hirsch first notes that the usual way of explaining why women are exempt from mitzvoth---because it is a "do" that is time bound--- has more exceptions than cases it explains. Rav Hirsch suggests instead that a women is free from a commandment if it has the following four attributes: A) It is symbolic B) It occurs periodically C) The purpose of the symbol is to maintain our strength while living in a world with opposite values D) women have not traditionally participated in this maintaining of strength mentioned in D). Let me give examples: 1) TZITZITH (nUM 15:37-41, esp 15:39) strengthens men against the sexual temptations of the business world (since women usually are not there they don't need this extra symbolic reminder (though if they are there they are allowed (=encouraged) to wear them). 2-3)Similarly TEFILLIN OF HAnd and head strengthen us against the temptations of the outside world(e.g. Deut 11:16) 4) Perhaps CIRCUMCISION also should be listed as a Mitzvah designed to fight "temptations of the flesh" (Gen 17:11) to which men are exposed more than women. 5) SHOFAR apparently reminds us not to get caught in the thickets of life (GEN 22:13) towards which men are exposed more than women. 6) LULAV reprimands us to be accepting towards all "types of people" (the hard worker-- the lulav, the outstanding person--the ethrog, the tramp--the aravah..etc) and men are exposed in the business world to precisely this multiplicity, 7) SUCAH reminds us that we do not build our own house and protection but rather God does Lev 23:43--an obvious statement to men--the house builders. It is unclear to me why 8) SEFIRAH is in this group. I point out that if a particular woman(as happens) nowadays is in the business world then according to Rav Hirsch she needs the extra protection of these Mitzvoth and should do them. Finally I note that 9) Talmud Torah 10) Keriash Shemah (=talmud torah) and 11) Writing a Sefer Torah are Talmud torah commandments (women are exempt but not for the above reason). Similarly for 12) Duchanin and 13) Reproduction-and-land Conquest (Gen 1:28) --women are exempt because men are suppose to represent the community in matters of conquest and social organization. The 14th Mitzvah listed by the Rambam is Deut 24:5. I also point out (to explain clause D above) that e.g. if women helped encourage men to withstand temptations of the outside world (as happened in the exodus from egypt then they must commemorate that participation--and hence women are obligated in Matzah etc). I close by noting that many people think Rav Hirsch created more problems than he solved (but I think there are at least components of truth in his theory). I apologize if in attempting to cover so much ground in one posting I obscured some details which are important to some people Russell Hendel, rhendel @ mcs . drexel. edu