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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Women in Miracles (Part 1: Facts)

The gemara on the top of Psachim 108b states:
אמר ר' יהושע בן לוי נשים חייבות בארבעה כוסות הללו שאף הן היו באותו הנס
Women are obligated in the 4 cups because they too were in the miracle.  Similar gemaras state the same reason for their inclusion in the obligations of Chanuka candles and reading the megila.   Tosafos here explains that we would have otherwise excluded women, as all 3 are positive commandments that are dependent on a particular time, in which they are not usually obligated.  (Even though these 3 are all of Rabbinic origin, the Rabanun formulate mitzvos in a similar manner to the Torah.)

The Rashbam explains further:
שאף הן היו באותו הנס. דאמר במס' סוטה (ד' יא:) בשכר נשים צדקניות שהיו באותו הדור נגאלו וכן גבי מקרא מגילה אמר הכי משום דעל ידי אסתר הוה וכן גבי חנוכה
The reason women are obligated, is that the miracle was done through them.  The redemption from Egypt was a reward of the righteous women of that generation; Purim was done through Ester; and Chanuka was done through Yehudis.

Tosafos in Megila 4a quotes the Rashbam's opinion (which he has slightly differently), rejects it, and then gives his own opinion:
פירש רשב"ם שעיקר הנס היה על ידן בפורים על ידי אסתר בחנוכה על ידי יהודית בפסח שבזכות צדקניות שבאותו הדור נגאלו וקשה דלשון שאף הן משמע שהן טפלות ולפירושו היה לו לומר שהן לכך נראה לי שאף הן היו בספק דלהשמיד ולהרוג וכן בפסח שהיו משועבדות לפרעה במצרים וכן בחנוכה הגזירה היתה מאד עליהן 
Tosafos argues that the reason women are obligated is that the miracle was also done to them, in so far as they were saved by the miracle too.  Tosafos justifies this interpretation based on the phrase "אף הן" (women were also), which implies that women are included secondarily. Since according to the Rashbam, women were primary, it should have left out the word "also".

How do the Rashbam and Tosafos understand the halacha of  אף הן היו באותו הנס?  How should we approach an understanding of the issue?


  1. (It's possible the rishonim ask this somewhere: why are women not included in succah if they too were protected by God in the midbar-in a miraculous fashion?)

    But in general the question is on the rashbam, why should it matter if certain women aided in the redemption-why should that be mechayev all women?

    Why should the idea of "they too were in the neis" matter. If anything, the question from succah might show that it doesn't matter that they were in the neis?

    1. Good question on Rashbam.
      See Psachim 108b tosafos "hayu..." for your sukkah question.

    2. also see sukkah 28a-b re: women in mitzvat sukkah

  2. Also it's a strange lashon tosfos uses-he says that the women were decreed to be killed ect.. emphasizing that aspect, but not the fact that they were saved from a neis. It's an interesting emphasis,though I might be over reading.

    What about the mitzvos of korban pesach: it seems from the gemara in pesachim 91B that women are chayiv in korban pesach NOT because of the neis(the chinuch says the chiyuv of korban pesach is to remember the neis) but because of something else(I haven't gone through the gemara carefully. Why should this be so?

    1. 1. Tosafos is explaining the general statement of the gemara of "af haim..." differently than Rashbam. Thus the emphasis.

      2. Again, see Psachim 108b tosafos "hayu..."

  3. Two questions:

    First one is similar to Mio's. In general, the halacha is that women are petur from mitzvos asai sh'hazman grama. It's very nice that they were involved in these mitzvos somehow but how does that result in a violation of this general rule.

    Secondly, the machlokus sounds almost factual. Was the reason why the Jews were redeemed because of these women or were they merely included in the decrees against the Jews?

    I think the move to make in answering both questions is that they are not arguing over factually what the role of women were in these mitzvos. To a certain degree I'd imagine both of their answers are true. Rather, they are understanding the general rule of women being petur in mitzvos asai sh'hazman grama differently and will therefore have different requirements necessary for an exception. According to one understanding of this rule it is necessary for women to have been the cause of the neis. According to the other it suffices if they were included in the decrees against the Jews.

    1. Good questions. It's a possible approach that "they are understanding the general rule of women being petur in mitzvos asai sh'hazman grama differently". See if you can work it out.

  4. Matt thanks for the tip.

    I thought the following: normally a mitzvas aseh shazam grama is where the time exists in a pre-existing human category ie; day time for tefillin. Here however the holidays are times which were brought on by a neis, so really it's not a classical zman grama mitzvah, rather it is a neis which causes a zman which causes a mitzvah.

    The problem is however that at the end of the day it is a zman grama, pesach does cause 4 cups, whether or not it is a natural time period or not. So therefore the approach would be that somehow the holiday is not essential in causing the mitzvah, and that it exists only as a time frame for the mitzvah to be performed.

    Rashbam holds that the holiday is accidental to the neis that caused it. How so? Because according to Rashbam the process of the hatzhala by esther ect. is what caused the holiday; however that process didn't take place during the actual days of the holiday. So the zman of the holiday is accidental and thus not an essential cause of the mitzvah therefore it is not like daytime for tefillin.

    According to tosfos the zman is essential because the yeshua took place during those time periods. However it's not like tefillin in that it is really the neis that causes the chiyuv mitzvah. Even though the time of the holiday is essentially connected to the neis, the time is not like the daytime of tefillin, in that by tefillin it is ONLY the time which causes the mitzvah, and not some exterior factor like that of pesach and the yeshua.

    1. Clarification for tosfos: What I mean to say is that both the zman and the neis are causing the mitzvah. Here the mitzvah takes place during the holiday, and the holiday is on these particular days because of the neis which took place on these days. A normal zman mitzvah is where the cause is only the time itself.

      They're argument is what exactly is the nature of this particular zman mitvah that is caused by a neis, such that there is no problem of it being a zman mitvah. According to tosfos so long as the time and an exterior factor are the cause then it is not a classic zman mitzvah-thus the case of tosfos.

      according to rashbam the zman has to be an accidental factor that causes the mitzvah for it not to be a classic zman mitzvah, thus his case.


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