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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Women in Miracles (Part 2: Questions and Methodology)

One issue that needs to be addressed according to both the Rashbam and Tosafos is how אף הן gets around the fact that these mitzvos are still time dependent.  Women are certainly obligated to accept the sovereignty of Heaven and the unity of God, yet they are nevertheless exempt from reading shema!  What is the rationale for אף הן היו באותו הנס circumventing this issue?

What most disturbs us in this sugya is the position of the Rashbam.  What is the connection between the miracle being done through a particular woman, and women of all future generations being obligated in a mitzva that publicizes the miracle?  Are we trying to publicize that it was done by a woman?  Why is that even relevant?  How would men and woman doing the mitzva show that the miracle was done by a woman?

At this stage, we are going to largely ignore Tosafos' question on the Rashbam, of why it says אף (also), if woman were the עיקר הנס (the main part of the miracle).  There were two reasons for this.  Firstly, it seems like a weak question that is only based upon a particular language choice.  Secondly, the text of the Rashbam we have never actually says women were the עיקר הנס.  (It seems that Tosafos' version of the Rashbam did have that, but our's does not.)  We also thought our version made more sense as it is hard to believe that Yehudis was more essential than the Maccabees and the events in the mikdash.

As a final methodological point, we think that you can not begin to define the difference between the Rashbam and Tosafos, or explain how אף הן היו באותו הנס gets around the problem that these mitzvos are still time dependent (according to the Rashbam), before you can make make plain factual sense of the Rashbam's explanation.  

What does the fact that the miracle was done through a particular woman, have anything to do with women in general being obligated in the commandment of publicizing the miracle?

30 comments:

  1. How would men and woman doing the mitzva show that the miracle was done by a woman?

    What do you mean by this? Men are chayiv because it's like any other normal drabanan, it wouldn't matter if it was done by a woman or not.

    As a final point, we think the Rashbam's position forces us to reexamine our concept of publicizing a miracle. How can we understand the nature of publicizing a miracle in a way that gives sense to the Rashbam's explanation of אף הן היו באותו הנס?

    Why not take Matt is saying, that we should identify what the chisaron in this particular mitzva dzman that allows for "af hein..." to kick in to be mechayiv women? Is it too broad of a question?

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    1. 1) What we mean by "How would men and woman doing the mitzva show that the miracle was done by a woman?" is that everyone doing the mitzva together doesn't reflect specifically on women.

      You can answer that it does because men would have been obligated anyway, but this seems to us to be an awkward solution. An observer would have to use inference based upon abstract knowledge of halachic principles to infer that there is something special going on with women. It could work as an answer, but it's still difficult. In any event, it's not our main problem with the Rashbam.

      2) Good question. We changed the last two paragraphs in the post to indirectly answer this point. Thanks for the good question.

      "As a final methodological point, we think that you can not begin to define the difference between the Rashbam and Tosafos, or explain how אף הן היו באותו הנס gets around the problem that these mitzvos are still time dependent (according to the Rashbam), before you can make make plain factual sense of the Rashbam's explanation.

      What does the fact that the miracle was done through a particular woman, have anything to do with women in general being obligated in the commandment of publicizing the miracle?"

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  2. Can u say that the idea that a woman can obligate by her own actions of hatzala is really saying that the mechayev is the miracle of the process of the hatzala which took place through a woman but functioned for the whole Klal. The whole nation benefited from the providence involved in the process even though there was no direct involvement on their part.

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    1. Please clarify your idea and exactly how this answers the question.

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  3. The process of saving the Jews through the women(esther, yehudis ect...) was directed through providence. The women themselves did the action of hatzalah, but all the people of klal yisroel partook of that hashgacha(even though they weren't involved in the hashgacha first hand, they did benefit from that process.) Therefore it doesn't matter that the women did the actual neis, or it was done through them, because all of klal yisroel were affected by that process(indirectly.)

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    1. Are you trying to explain Tosafos or the Rashbam?

      If you are trying to explain the Rashbam, you need to clearly explain how the fact that the miracle was done through a particular woman, have anything to do with women in general being obligated in the commandment of publicizing the miracle?

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    2. I'm explaining rashbam.

      What I'm saying is that the women who caused the neis were guided by the hashgacha. They themselves were the only ones directly involved in the neis, however, women in general benefited from the hashgacha which guided those women in that neis, therefore they are chayiv in pirsum haneis.

      I think this is a secondary question. I explained in the previous post what I thought the machlokes was, and how "af hein" is not an issue even though it's a time bound mitzvah. According to rashbam the zman is not the essential cause of the mitzvah rather the neis itself is. Therefore there is no issue of it being a classical time bound mitvah. The reason why the rashbam presents this case as the neis, is because he holds that in order for something not to be a classical time-bound mitzva, the time itself has to be accidental to what's causing the mitvah.

      The fact that certain women did the neis, can be answered (as I just said), that all of the women in klal yisroel were affected/partook of the hashgacha involved in the process of the salvation(it was functioning for esther, yehudis ect directly and the women of klal yisroel indirectly). Thus they are also chayiv in pirsum.

      (I think the difference between tosfos and rashbam, is that according to rashbam these women were involved in the process or events leading up to the salvation, versus tosfos who is focusing on the actual salvation itself ie;the war against the greeks, the war on the 15th/16th of adar, and geulas mitzraim)

      The primary svara, I think for the rashbam's opinion, is the earlier post.

      I hope I'm clear.

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    3. Are women obligated because they benefited from the miracle OR because the miracle was done through them? If it is some combination of the two, you need to clearly explain what that relationship is, because as it stands, it seems like you are artificially putting them together.

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  4. Different thought: perhaps the reason why if particular women did the neis it causes other women to be chayiv, is because the highest form of pirsum is publicizing the neis WHERE it is being publicized by the person who it happened to.

    This would however be a problem, because what comes out is that there are 2 different halachik structures of pirsum-one for men, which is merely publicizing the neis, versus women, where it is publicizing the neis in an enhanced form because the neis was done through women themselves.

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    1. WHERE it is being publicized by the person who it happened to.

      to clarify: it happened to particular women, thus it is publicized by women...

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    2. Good approach. However, what is the connection between the particular woman who the nes happens to and all women of future generations?

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  5. What exactly is lacking in my formulation: I'm saying that women for all generations enhance the pirsum haneis because the neis was done to particular women. They are of the same gender thus it becomes more publicized. I'm not sure if I understand the question.

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    1. Are you saying that it publicizes: 1) the very fact that it was done through a woman. In which case, why is this a relevant fact that needs to be publicized? Why don't we just say that all people named Esther are obligated to read the megila in order to publicize that it was done through a particular person named Esther?

      or are you saying: 2) that it publicizes the miracle as a whole (or something else about the miracle)? In which case, please explain.

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  6. Similar to what Mio is saying:

    Women are not obligated in time-bound mitzvos. For whatever other reason they are removed from that category. But Holidays are still societal functions commemorating miracles and are chal upon the Klal; the particular method however is through the men of the Klal.

    In the case of Af Hein, women are included because the holiday as a commemoration of the neis would be deficient if it ignored the fact that they were a part of it. It is not through the normal method of time bound mitzvos which they are obligated which is satisfied through the men's performance but through the chiyuv of the am to reflect the neis.

    To answer your question on Mio more directly, the reason the mitzvah is not chal on women named Esther or something like that is because the commemoration of the neis requires a proper reflection of it. In these instances, women were aspects of the neis and more specifically as women (Mothers and Wives). The fact that the neis was apparent in these distinctly women-defined areas means that a pirsum by the men would be inherently deficient. The halakhic category of women is the way to bring out this dimension of the neis (not women named esther and Yehudis).

    How could men following the mitzvos of Purim reflect Esther's role as a wife as an essential aspect of Purim? How could men lighting candles bring out the neis of Yehudis? even though the war was a more essential dimension of the neis ignoring the story of Yehudis would be distorting or limiting the message.

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    1. I was reading over my comment and felt I should clarify. It looked like I was making a dichotomy between the obligation of the am and time bound mitzvos. This isn't what I meant.

      I mean that the obligation exists because of the miracle and that since it creates a time bound category (yearly obligations) the natural halakhic method of time bound mitzvos is extant. The entire am is fulfilling the obligation through the men's performance. That's why the women are obligated in these instances and the halakhic structure is altered - a purely man obligation would not properly express the neis. The obligation to reflect the neis is the overall obligation and the time-bound nature is the halakhic framework; therefore the underlying michayiv brings out an obligation to women as well as men.

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  7. RAZ/REF

    I'm not sure how to answer the first possibility in your previous question, but here are some thoughts which maybe useful.

    Having the neis occur through particular women, is essentially saying that the shem chag/moed(I'm not sure what the labels are for chanukah and purim)was established through these women. In the future however the only way to give a shem to the chag(for it to have substance)is to publicize the neis. Therefore women in klal yisroel establish the holiday through pirsum. There is another aspect to pirsum and establishing the day as a holiday, and that is the actual recognition of the miracle-that is done through the men(as they did not participate in the neis.)

    ((This might be comparable to let's say thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is given substance as a holiday when Americans celebrate it through rituals such as a thanksgiving meal ect.(even though they did not originally cause the holiday). Thanksgiving would not be established if everyone in China started celebrating what happened centuries ago here in America, it would just be bizarre. There is however another aspect to thanksgiving besides the ritualistic performance(wtvr that be ie turkey eating ect..)and that is the recognition of some sort of miracle from God. That is essential for the day to have a substance, but that can happen through anyone. People all over the world can recognize the significance of TG and appreciate what it stands for even though they don't live in America.))

    @Michael Zoldan-are you saying the performance of the mitzvos of these days is done only through men? because women do the 4 cups. I'm not following you completely on your idea.

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    1. Mio-
      We think the analogy is incorrect. "Af Hein" does not exclude men. Certainly, Mordechai, the Maccabim, Moshe and Aharon were also major players in the nes. Thus, it would be more analogous to a segment of Americans (men, for instance) celebrating TG. Would that be so bizarre? Wouldn't that "establish" the day of TG? If not, please explain why?

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  8. I'm saying that when the Klal is obligated in a time bound mitzvah the natural obligation is on the men. when there is a dimension of a time bound mitzvah which cannot be brought about through men, the halakhic structure must shift to properly express the idea. If women were "Af Hein", they must be included. As I understand it, women drink the 4 cups because of the principle of Af Hein.

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    1. @michael In these instances, women were aspects of the neis and more specifically as women (Mothers and Wives). The fact that the neis was apparent in these distinctly women-defined areas means that a pirsum by the men would be inherently deficient. The halakhic category of women is the way to bring out this dimension of the neis (not women named esther and Yehudis).

      I'm not following this. How do we know "women were aspects of the neis and more specifically as women(mothers and wives)?

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    2. Michael-
      We agree with Mio's q. Who says the "womenly" aspect is significant?

      Even if it were, why couldn't this aspect of the nes be publicized through men reading the megilla for instance?

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  9. Perhaps one could say that there is kiyum of pirsum hanes for the tzibbur. And it is this kiyum of pirsum hanes for the tzibbur that is lacking if women are refraining from lighting. In this way, even the lighting of men is affected by the fact that women aren't lighting.

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    1. While that's an interesting idea for explaining why women are obligated, how does that fit into the gemara's reason of אף הן היו באותו הנס (according to the explanation of either the Rashbam or Tosafos)?

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    2. At least according to Tosafos, since the whole tzibbur (including women) benefited from the nes, the kiyum of pirsum would be lacking if part of the tzibbur refrained from publicizing the miracle. In other words, it would lack in the demonstration of the fact that the miracle benefited all Jews (men and women included).

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    3. It's a reasonable approach for Tosafos. The Rashbam is the tough position here...

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  10. Let me try this: Perhaps the fact that the nes was specifically brought about through women tells us something about the nes; namely, that it is not God's hashgacha alone that resulted in the salvation, but it was about through man's (or, in this case, woman's) actions. According to the Rashbam, the mitzvah is not just to publicize the miracle with respect to God's intervention alone, but it is also to emphasize man's role in bringing about the hashgachas Hashem. Since, in these cases, perfected women played a major role in bringing about the Hashgachas Hashem, the pirsum Hanes (with regards to man's role) would be lacking if they refrained from lighting.

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  11. And according to Tosafos, the pirsum Hanes is only with respect to God's role in the Hashgachas Hashem. Now, we could go further and explain how af hein gets around zeman grama, but perhaps that is the approach.

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    1. It's a very good approach, as the perfection of the individuals who brought about the miracle is certainly a critical factor that is worthy of being publicized. However, we have two questions:

      1) Was the perfection of these women really a feminine perfection, or was it simply human perfection in individuals who happened to be woman? If it's the latter, then it seems difficult to understand why this perfection obligates women to perform the mitzva (as opposed to people who share some other arbitrary characteristic with these individuals).

      2) You said "Since, in these cases, perfected women played a major role in bringing about the Hashgachas Hashem, the pirsum Hanes (with regards to man's role) would be lacking if they refrained from lighting."

      Why does this follow? Couldn't men (via reading the megila) publicize the perfected women's role in the miracle without the average woman being involved in the mitzva?

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    2. I would add, though, that it is interesting that it was a woman who brought this about. One would not think that it is a normal characteristic of women to play such a prominent role in the salvation of the Jewish people. It is more in line with a man's nature to take charge and display the courage that was demonstrated by these women. So it was not a feminine perfection at all. Actually, it was specifically because these women acted so "unwomanlike" that the Jewish people were saved from destruction.

      I realize that this does not address your questions; if anything, it may strengthen them. However, I do not believe that the fact that these were women is arbitrary. Chazal made it a specific point to highlight the fact that these women acted in this manner.

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  12. Excellent questions..I have some thoughts, but I will think about it some more over shabbos. Looking forward to your thoughts as well...

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