Thursday, January 30, 2014

YUTorah on parashat Teruma

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Some thoughts on women wearing tefillin

As I understand it, the specific situation is a complex one, and we should be careful not to impugn the motives of the individual school administrators or the individual girls engaging in the practice. At the same time, one should not dismiss arguments from those opposing by virtue of the gender of the author ("mansplaining"). That is just an ad hominem. And also one should realize that in the current environment, such a position is going to be an unpopular one, and "shaming" those who propound the position as backwards and ignorant will not aid in arriving at a truthful conclusion.


1) The story about Rashi's daughters wearing tefillin is an urban legend. (See this article in the Jewish Action: What’s the Truth About…Rashi’s Daughters?)

2) What about Michal bas Kushis (or Michal bas Shaul)? She wore tefillin, after all! This is also the stuff of legend. Be honest, you non-chareidim. Do you think (a) that the historical Michal daughter of Shaul really wore tefillin and this is an oral history, or (b) do you think that it is a midrash which some rabbinic figure came up with, perhaps by close reading of some Biblical passage, and perhaps to teach some important lesson? When the gemara says that she wore them ולא מיחו בידן חכמים, the Sages did not protest, do you think that historically the Sages were around to protest or not protest?

Such a tenuous fable was not sufficient in Talmudic times to arrive at a definite halachic conclusion. Rather, the rabbis interpreted the halacha in light of the halachic system they had assembled before them.

That is what the Yerushalmi is doing in Eruvin 59a:

התיבון הרי מיכל בת שאול היתה לובשת תפילין אשת יונה היתה עולה לרגל ולא מיחו בידם חכמים.  רבי חזקיה בשם רבי אבהו אשתו של יונה היא שבה מיכל בת שאול מיחו בה חכמים.  

That is, Rabbi Abahu holds that (certain) instances of petur from tefillin also establish an issur to wear tefillin. Thus wearing tefillin at night, a time of petur, is also forbidden. And thus a woman wearing tefillin is forbidden. They object from this midrash, and they cavalierly rewrite the midrash. How do you know the Sages didn't object?! Since we know it is forbidden, say they objected.

But really, that is not the way halacha is established. Just like we don't establish women as dayanim on the basis of (misinterpreting) a pasuk about Devorah being a "shofetet" or women as mohalot on the basis of Tzipporah, in an emergency situation before mattan Torah circumcising her son. (Gemaras and Tosafot notwithstanding.)

3) Even if there is halachic basis for an action (at the same time that there is solid halachic precedent against the action), that does not mean that every praiseworthy action should be taken.

No, this is not (entirely) impugning the motives of women wearing tefillin, in a way that we do not subject men to such scrutiny when they accept some extra practice.

Rather, it is recognizing that historically, praiseworthy actions have been abandoned by the Jewish people in the face of outside groups co-opting it.

If I got up in shul and tried to establish that they publicly recite the Aseres Hadibros every day, people would object, I think / hope. Even though this was the practice in the Beis Hamikdash. Why? מפני תרעומת המינים. Rambam objected to standing up specifically when the Aseres Hadibros was read (though this is admittedly and unfortunately current practice).

They used to decorate shuls with foliage for Shavuot (and still do in my shteible), but the Vilna Gaon tried to get it nullified when Christians had a similar practice, and many shuls no longer do it.

Even though the avos offered sacrifices of matzeivos, because pagans did so, this practice was later Biblically rejected.

Certain actions which otherwise would not have been considered optimal were taken להוציא מלבן של צדוקים.

And like it or not, there are other current sects of Judaism which, in the interests of egalitarianism (and which believes that Orthodox Judaism has been treating women unfairly and unequally) has established the practice of women wearing tefillin.

If so, it is not a simple appeal to rare historical precedent or finding classical sources which permit or encourage it. Rashi's daughters, had they worn tefillin, did not do so when there was a competing sect promoting the wearing of tefillin. So too for Michal bat Shaul. So too the Rashba. Were the Rashba alive today, he would not just read the dry texts, but also realize that the same act hundreds of years ago does not have the same meaning as it has today, and he could very likely forbid.

Again, this is not to judge the motivations of the specific identified individuals involved. But the actual facts on the ground legitimately brings in the question of sectarianism, and maybe even a call to question motives in general.

posts so far for parashat Terumah


1. YUTorah on parashat Teruma

2. Is daber exclusively strong, harsh language? According to Baal Haturim, it implies conciliatory language.


1. Terumah sources, 2012 edition -- updated and improved.

2. I 'sleep', yet my heart waketh -- according to the Meiri, with an interesting Freudian interpretation of the poles of the ark.

3. YUTorah on parashat Teruma

4. Beating baby rams for the cover of the Mishkan -- Why doesn't Rashi suggest that that is what וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים means, if the Yerushalmi explains it in this manner? Rav Chaim Kanievsky asks and answers. And I give my own explanation.

5. Beating baby rams, continued -- Presenting the Chasam Sofer on that Yerushalmi about beating baby rams for the red-skinned ram hides for the Mishkan.

6. Multiple techashim in the time of the midbar -- Which then resolves the question of where the shoes in Yechezkel came from.

7. Oros Techashim as humorous words -- An interesting thought by Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

8. The trup on וְעָשִׂיתָ מִכְסֶה לָאֹהֶל -- Shadal generates the alternate cantillation, based on Rabbi Yehuda's position, mentioned in Rashi.


  1. Teruma sources -- further expanded. For example, many more meforshei Rashi.
  2. Why I am in favor of murex trunculus techelet. Part one and part two.
  3. Should one study secular subjects, independently of Torah Is the Maharsham correct that a talmid chacham should gain all secular knowledge from Torah, parallel to the menorah which was beaten out of one piece of molten gold?
  4. The extra vav that wasn't -- As it appears in Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Chizkuni. See also this earlier post, by the same title.
  5. How does Onkelos translate Tachash?  A strange word. Is it an animal or a color?
  6. How does *Rav Yosef* translate Tachash?  We saw in the previous post that sasgona is sky-blue. Did Rav Yosef, the expert Targumist, get this wrong? There are numerous other difficulties with the gemara, especially when compared with the parallel Yerushalmi. This post presents an admittedly extremely speculative reconstruction of the original sugya, in which a number of issues are resolved, and tala ilan becomes kala ilan.
  7. All who add, subtract --  How to understand a gemara in Sanhedrin, about a pasuk in parshat Trumah.
  8. The well of Miriam, miraculously growing acacia trees --  An interpretation from Baal HaTurim, of trees growing wherever they went, conflicts with a midrash that Yaakov needed to plant acacia (or rather, cedar) trees for the mishkan. Can we resolve the contradiction?

  1. Terumah sources -- revamped, with more than 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftarah.
  2. Are the Samaritans right about the spelling of תיעשה? Of course, it would not just be the Samaritans, but various masoretes masoretic texts as well. And it is possible that the malei spelling stems from misunderstanding a midrash.
  3. What was bothering Rabbi Yosef Ibn CaspiContinuing the conversation on a post in Mishpatim. How Rashbam differing from Chazal is not the same as Rashi differing from Chazal. And considering how Ibn Caspi onegrof would potentially argue with the conclusions of Chazal.

  1. Take for me -- part of the running commentary. What is the ultimate purpose of the mishkan? Why bother with gold and silver? Isn't this focus on externalities, and the golden statues of keruvim, at odds with the message at the end of parshat Yitro, where the altar could even be of earth, and where idols (perhaps imbued with a manifestation of a deity above) were disallowed?
  2. Terumah sources -- links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos, plus a whole slew of meforshim on the parsha and haftara.
  • The Mishkan Reflecting A Changed Relationship With Hashem
    • A midrash which resonates, with no additions from me. Morasha/Meorasa. Before marriage, the chasan must visit his father-in-law's house to visit his bride, but afterwards, she lives with him. See inside.
  • The Identification of Izzim
    • as goats' hair. Or perhaps as other sundry bright and intense dyes and cloths.
  • The Identification of Techelet
    • As blue or black. And how the Karaite approach of ignoring tradition for the meaning of color, trying instead to deduce it from analysis of the root, is extremely misguided. And the meaning of the Rambam's identification. And more.
  • Tekhelet as Black as Kohl?
    • Further analysis of Rambam. Kohl is kochal, a Biblical cosmetic. But what color is it?
  • Inside Like the Outside
    • From the somewhat dry material of the description of the mishkan, Chazal find homiletic gold. Just as the ark must be covered with gold inside and out, so must man. Learning Torah is not enough. One also has to be a moral and righteous person, with fear of Heaven, and in fact, Torah is just a means to that end - belief in, fear of, and service of Hashem.
to be continued...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mishpatim -- "Then his wife shall go out with him" -- when did she enter servitude?!

In the beginning of parashat Mishpatim, we see the following law:

ג  אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא; אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא, וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ.3 If he come in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he be married, then his wife shall go out with him.
ד  אִם-אֲדֹנָיו יִתֶּן-לוֹ אִשָּׁה, וְיָלְדָה-לוֹ בָנִים אוֹ בָנוֹת--הָאִשָּׁה וִילָדֶיהָ, תִּהְיֶה לַאדֹנֶיהָ, וְהוּא, יֵצֵא בְגַפּוֹ.4 If his master give him a wife, and she bear him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.

What does it mean that his wife goes out with him? When did she go into servitude? According to established halacha only a minor girl can be a maidservant. Thus the (perhaps midrashic) explanation that this means that the master is obligated in her support during the duration.

To bolster the idea, I would note that the function of pasuk 3 is as the general principle spelled out in more detail in pasuk 4. That is, there is a different type of wife his master may give him, namely a slavewoman. Such a woman is not his real wife but just functions as a breeder for permanent slaves. And so he must leave this wife, and by explicit extension, his children, to his master. However, if he comes in to servitude with a wife already, any children born to him during this duration are his own and are not slaves. And his wife is obviously his wife.

It is still not absolutely precise, since it gives the implication that in the duration of his servitude, his wife has the status of slave. But it might be argued that it is precise enough to convey the intended point. That she doesn't leave him, but is part of the eved's household, during which she gets support, and so she accompanies him as would be entirely expected.

If so, the midrash might be argued to be the peshat as well.

Shadal takes a different tack towards peshat and derash, and Written Law and Oral Law, and writes:

"If he be the husband of a wife -- according to the peshat, his wife also comes with him into the household of the master, and works in the house. And this would be correct regarding one who sells himself, for he is able to be sold together with his wife. However, according to the position of Rashi and some of Chazal, who explained this parasha regarding one [a thief] who was sold by Bet Din, it is not correct that the wife should be sold for the sin of her husband who stole. And therefore they said "now who brought her in that she should go out? Rather Scriptures is informing that one who acquires a Hebrew servant is required in sustaining the fellow's wife and children." And all this is to increase to trait of chessed and rachamim in Israel.

And also regarding one who sold himself, the Chachamim [J: rather than by Biblical fiat] did not permit that the woman comes to the household of the master, but rather they required the master to support her and her children, while she stayed in her own home, with her handiwork for herself and not for the master -- so rules the Rambam. (However according to the Ramban the master takes the handiwork of the wife and children, yet she is still is in her own home and does not come to his house to work his work.)

And therefore, upon the pasuk (Vayikra 25:41):
מא  וְיָצָא, מֵעִמָּךְ--הוּא, וּבָנָיו עִמּוֹ; וְשָׁב, אֶל-מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, וְאֶל-אֲחֻזַּת אֲבֹתָיו, יָשׁוּב.41 Then shall he go out from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.

which without a doubt speaks about one who sells himself because of his poverty, Rabbi Shimon said (and Rashi brings him down) that "if he be sold, who sold his children?!" However, the Torah, just as it permits a father to sell his minor daughter, so too permits that he sells himself together with his wife and minor children.

And behold it is known that in days of old the father was ruler upon the members of his household and their lives were in his hand (as is apparent from the words of Yehuda, "Take her out and burn her!"). And the Torah cancelled from him this rulership and did not permit the death of the Ben Sorer UMoreh except via the decree of the judges. And so too the sale of the wife and chldren, the Written Torah permitted it, and it was forbidden in the Oral Torah. And further they added (Kiddushin daf 20) that the master cannot assign him a Canaanite maidservant [to procreate with to produce more slaves] unless he already has a wife and children, and this (like the words of my student Moshe Kohen Porto) is because it is not fitting that he father slaves for his master prior to his fulfilling the mitzvah of piryah verivyah and produce children to establish his name in Israel."

An interesting approach, in which Oral Law, or perhaps Rabbinic law, functions as a series of further ordinances and reforms on top of the Written Law, extended ideas, values and approaches already present in the Written Law. Perhaps as society progressed?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

YUTorah on parshat Mishpatim

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