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From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu> Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 21:00:55 -0400 (EDT) Subject: Some comments on Commandments women are free from Several posters commented on why women are exempt from Mitzvoth (e.g. Eli Clark v28n71, Jay Rosner v28n67, Sheldon Meth, Yisrael Maydad etc). While many good points have been made there seems to be some fundamental confusions outstanding. I also wanted to present Rav Hirsch's theory on these matters which fits most facts. 1st) A General principle having NOTHING to do with women is that if you are involved in one mitzvah you are exempt from others--e.g. the original law is that you don't have to daven maariv on your wedding night since you are busy thinking about how to make your wife happy (a Biblical commandment--Rambam Shma 4:1--Rambam mentions further prerequisites---see also Shma 2:5--"A person involved in a community errand is exempt from Shma"). Thus the reason that Yisrael Maydad was exempt from Shmah while taking care of his children in the hospital while his wife delivered was because of a SPECIFIC situation. (This should not be confused with the statement that women NEVER say Kriath Shmah because they are USUALLY involved with bringing up children--it is only when you actually have something to do that you are exempt). 2nd) Most people are unaware that not all halachic principles are handed to Moses at Sinai. Thus Chazal tried to GUESS the criteria for birds to be Kosher---it was only the LIST of BIRDS that was given to us (Lev 11). The principles were good inferences. In a similar manner we know thru traditions which commandments a women is free from. Chazal attempted to find some underlying unity to them--but this is only a man made attempt. 3rd) IT was Rav Hirsch who pointed out that there are MORE EXCEPTIONS than AGREEMENTS to the principle "WOMEN ARE FREE FROM TIME BOUND POSITIVE COMMANDMENTS". Eli Clark already brought some examples: Women are exempt from Tefillin, Succah but liable to prayer and Shabbath. Why? Again this is a question on Chazal's attempt to find a unifying prinicple. 4th) Rav Hirsch therefore tried to find his OWN UNIFYING principle. Rav Hirsch's principle is as follows: >>Women are exempt from periodically recurring symbolic commandments whose >>purpose is to remind the performer not to succumb to outside pressures >>when dealing with the outside world. Thus Tefillin (normally worn all day)reminds people to be honest when working in the outside world. The Shofar reminds us to wake up, leave the outside world and return to God. Succah reminds us not to depend on our own roofs when we deal with the business world but rather to depend on God. By contrast, Passover although periodic and symbolic has nothing to do with withstanding outside pressures. Its purpose is to remind us of the exodus (in which women were saved)!! Similarly, Shabbath is to remind us that God owns the world (and is independent of whether we are in the business world or not because we can't do anything in the house either). 5th) Note that Women are free from certain commandments that SYMBOLIZE steadfastness when exposed to the pressures of the outside world. They are only SYMBOLS. Hence it is reasonable to exempt the CLASS of people that is usually not in the outside world from these commandments. Since they are symbols it is not relevant whether they are ACTUALLY there or not---all that is relevant is whether they are usually there. Hopefully I have raised some interesting issues in this very short introduction. I would seriously invite further discussion. I believe we can learn discover new things. Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA RHendel@ mcs drexel edu Math & Comp Science Drexel Univ http://www.shamash.org/rashi/