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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Women in Miracles (Part 4: More Svara)

We are going to try to learn Tosafos as agreeing with the Rashbam about the main idea of publicizing a miracle, and only differing in a particular of that obligation.  This difference leads Tosafos to reject the Rashbam's approach to explaining אף הן היו באותו הנס, and to suggest their own approach.  In this post, we will clarify the approach of the Rashbam and discuss Tosafos' argument with the Rashbam.  (We will discuss Tosafos' own approach in the next post.)

The Rashbam maintains that the chain that perpetuates the information about the miracle is one continuous chain which is begun with those who witnessed the miracle and continued by succeeding generations.  Although the specific form of this publicizing has varied at the different stages in history, the underlying involvement in maintaining the memory of the miracle is one continuous activity of the nation, and the historical information being transmitted has never changed.  The mitzva merely gave a particular concrete form (reading megilla, lighting candles, drinking four cups of wine) to that which was being done beforehand in a more informal manner.

The key to perceiving the unity between the publicizing of the miracle that the original woman did, with the activities that we do nowadays, is to look at the information that is being transmitted in each stage.  The specific form that the message is transmitted through has been standardized (i.e. lighting a menora as opposed to the words of Yehudis telling a story), but the information content that is being transmitted is identical, and hence it is one chain of transmission.

Since it is one involvement throughout the generations, the group which is obligated to perpetuate this chain is the same at all stages of the institution.  This group is defined as all those people who were carriers of the message from the first woman until the modern era.  Since women had to be involved in the initial stage (because of their unique role), the concretization of this pirsumei nisa in the mitzva must also apply to women as well.  The mitzva is simply a standardization of the form in which the future transmission of the information continues.  The chain predates the mitzva, and the chain of necessity includes woman.

Tosafos argues that the transient obligation of pirsumei nisa upon those who witness the miracle is distinct from the permanent obligation of future generations.  The creation of a formal structure to the transmission of the information presents a clear break from the informal transmission of the message up until the institution of the mitzva.  Tosafos postulates that there is an essential difference between a chain of transmission where there is no structured form to the message, and a chain of transmission with a definite and fixed form.

Those who witnessed and were involved in the miracle publicized it to their generation in any way that was most effective.  Additionally, they also set up an independent mitzva which has a definite form for the purpose of publicizing it to all future generations. As such, the fact that women were directly involved in the miracle and in its initial transmission is irrelevant with respect to the form that the mitzva le'doros takes on.  While the information content of the two transmissions are identical, the form of the transmissions are different, and as such, they are not one chain.  Those involved in the initial transmission of the miracle (men and women) are not necessarily identical with those who constitute the chain of transmission in the future.

Why then, according to Tosafos were women included in the Rabanan's formulation of the mitzva le'doros, contrary to the ordinary pattern of mitzvos in which women are exempt from time bound mitzvos?  Tosafos explains because women too were saved/redeemed by the miracle.  What is the idea behind this answer and how does it get around the fact that ultimately, the mitzva is still time bound?


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