YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
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Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
Over the past two weeks we have begun to analyze the issue of mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman, time-bound positive mitzvot. We learned that women are, as a rule, exempt from such mitzvot and that the source of this ruling is the mitzva of tefillin. The Gemara (34a) challenged this ruling based on the mitzva of dwelling in a sukka; despite the fact that it is a time-bound positive mitzva, the beraita finds it necessary to give an additional source to show that women are exempt. The Gemara offered two answers, both of which explain why one might have thought, if there was no additional source, that sukka is an exception to our rule. The gemara we will study today continues this theme. We begin on the third line of 34b.
But "seeing," which is a time-bound positive mitzva,
and the reason [women are exempt] is that the Merciful One wrote "your males" - to exclude women;
without that, women would be obligated!
It is necessary: it would have entered your mind to say
we should learn "seeing," "seeing" from [the mitzva of] gathering.
והרי ראיה, דמצות עשה שהזמן גרמא,
וטעמא דכתב רחמנא זכורך - להוציא הנשים,
הא לאו הכי נשים חייבות!
איצטריך: סד"א (סלקא דעתך אמינא)
נילף ראיה ראיה מהקהל.
The gemara brings up the mitzva of re'iyya (literally, "seeing"), also known as aliyya la-regel (pilgrimage); there is a positive mitzva incumbent upon all Jewish men to visit the Beit Ha-mikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem during the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot and to bring certain sacrifices. This mitzva is mentioned several times in the Torah, and it applies particularly to men: "Three times during the year shall all your men appear before the Lord, God" (Shemot 23:17). Aliyya la-regel is a time-bound positive mitzva, as it applies during specific times of the year. Therefore, it should be quite clear that women are exempt from the mitzva; why does the pasuk need to specifically state that it applies only to men? From the fact that the Torah finds it necessary to do so, it seems as though women would otherwise be obligated in the mitzva!
The gemara answers that with regard to this mitzva, just like sukka, one might have had reason to think that it would be an exception to the general rule that women are exempt from mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman: one might have presumed that women are obligated on the basis of a gezeira shava that connects the mitzva of re'iyya with that of hakhel (pronounced "hak-hel"), gathering the entire nation in Jerusalem once every seven years to hear a public Torah reading (Devarim 31:10-13). The Torah uses the word lei-ra'ot, "to appear" (ibid., v. 11), in the context of hakhel, and the same root word (yeira'eh) is used regarding aliyya la-regel (Shemot, ibid.). One might have thus assumed that just as women are obligated to take part in the mitzva of hakhel (Devarim, ibid., v. 12), they should also be obligated in the mitzva of aliyya la-regel. (As we mentioned last week, one cannot make up one's own gezeira shava. The Gemara (Chagiga 3a) does, however, make use of the gezeira shava mentioned here in our gemara to compare the two mitzvot regarding other details of their performance, which clearly indicates that this gezeira shava was legitimately received as part of the Oral Tradition. It would therefore have been reasonable to apply it to the obligation of women as well.) Therefore, it was necessary for the Torah to explicitly mention that women are exempt from aliyya la-regel.
We continue on the seventh line of 34b.
And regarding learning from tefillin to exempt;
we should [instead] learn from [the mitzva of] rejoicing [on the Festivals] to obligate!
Abayei said: "A woman - her husband makes her happy."
[Regarding a] widow what is there to say?
[The mitzva applies] to the one with whom she stays with.
ואדילפינן מתפילין לפטורא,
נילף משמחה לחיובא!
אמר אביי: אשה - בעלה משמחה.
אלמנה מאי איכא למימר?
The gemara now moves on to challenge the very basis of the rule that women are exempt from mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman. We gemara has already explained (34a) that the source for this rule is the precedent of tefillin, which is a time-bound positive mitzva from which women are exempt. Our gemara questions why we use tefillin as a paradigm for all time-bound positive mitzvot: why not use the mitzva of rejoicing on the Festivals, which includes women (Devarim 16:14), as the paradigmatic time-bound positive mitzva and learn from it that just as women are obligated in this mitzva they are obligated in all mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman?
The gemara explains that the very foundation of the question is faulty. The question assumes that women are fully included in this mitzva; that is not the case. The source of this discussion is Devarim 16:14: "You shall rejoice on your Festivals; you and your son and your daughter and your servant and your maidservant, and the Levite and the proselyte and the orphan and the widow that are in your gates." Although this verse clearly includes women in the celebration, it is addressed to the man of the house. The gemara explains that the mitzva is actually incumbent only upon him; he is required to rejoice and to cause the members of his household to rejoice as well, including the women. Since the woman herself is not obligated, this mitzva cannot be used as a source that women are obligated in mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman.
The gemara questions this conclusion: this applies to a woman who is married or otherwise a member of a man's household; what about a widow, who is not a member of a household headed by a man, but who is nevertheless mentioned explicitly in the pasuk? The gemara answers that even a widow is not personally obligated to rejoice on the Festivals; the mitzva is addressed to the men, and obligates them to make the members of their households rejoice, as well as others who are less fortunate, such as orphans and widows. Thus, the mitzva applies not to the widow herself but to whoever provides for her and facilitates her participation in the holiday celebrations.
The commentators debate the precise implications of our gemara regarding women's obligation in the mitzva of rejoicing on the Festivals. Rashi (s.v. Ba'alah) explains the gemara as we have above, that women are actually not included in the obligation at all; it is a mitzva that applies to men, who are obligated to make sure that women also rejoice. However, many other commentators (see Rambam, Hilkhot Chagiga 1:1, with Kesef Mishneh; Ritva and Tosafot on our sugya) seem to understand that women are actually obligated to rejoice on the Festivals. However, the main means to achieving this state of happiness is through offering special sacrifices that are brought on the holidays. Women are not obligated to bring their own sacrifices; they rejoice by partaking in the sacrifices offered by their husbands or those who provide for them. Nevertheless, the mitzva of rejoicing on the Festivals still cannot be used as a paradigm for other mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman, since those other mitzvot would not involve any third-party participation in the mitzva.
We resume with the gemara on the tenth line of 34b.
And we should learn from [the mitzva of] gathering!
[We do not learn from gathering] because matza and gathering are two verses that come together,
and all [cases of] two verses that come together do not teach.
If so, tefillin and seeing are also two verses that come together, and do not teach!
They are [both] necessary, for if the Merciful One had written tefillin and had not written appearing,
I would have said we should learn "seeing," "seeing" from gathering;
and if the Merciful One had written seeing and had not written tefillin,
I would have said compare tefillin to mezuza; [therefore, they are both] necessary.
If so, matza and gathering are also [both] necessary!
For what are they needed?
It would have been good if the Merciful One had written gathering and had not written matza;
I would have said we should learn "fifteen" "fifteen" from the Festival of Sukkot;
but the Merciful One could have written matza and not needed gathering,
and I would say: dependants are obligated, women how much more so!
Therefore they are two verses that come together, and they do not teach.
משום דהוה מצה והקהל שני כתובים הבאים כאחד,
וכל שני כתובים הבאין כאחד אין מלמדים.
אי הכי, תפילין וראיה נמי שני כתובים הבאים כאחד, ואין מלמדים!
צריכי, דאי כתב רחמנא תפילין ולא כתב ראיה,
הוה אמינא נילף ראיה ראיה מהקהל;
ואי כתב רחמנא ראיה ולא כתב תפילין,
הוה אמינא אקיש תפילין למזוזה; צריכא.
אי הכי, מצה והקהל נמי צריכי!
בשלמא אי כתב רחמנא הקהל ולא כתב מצה;
ה"א (הוה אמינא) נילף חמשה עשר חמשה עשר מחג הסוכות;
אלא ניכתוב רחמנא מצה ולא בעי הקהל,
ואנא אמינא: טפלים חייבים, נשים לא כל שכן!
הילכך הוה להו ב' כתובים הבאים כאחד, ואין מלמדים.
The back-and-forth in this gemara is complicated, and requires concentration. The gemara at the top of 34a mentioned three of the exceptions to the rule that women are exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot: eating matza on the first night of Pesach, rejoicing on the Festivals and hakhel (gathering). The gemara on 34b has already explained why rejoicing on the Festivals is unsuitable as a paradigm for other mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman. Our gemara now moves on to hakhel: why use tefillin as the paradigmatic time-bound positive mitzva rather than hakhel?
The gemara answers that hakhel and matza are "two verses that come together," and as such we cannot use them as paradigms for other mitzvot. The intention of this rule seems to be that if the Torah had intended for a particular mitzva to serve as an example from which to learn the details of other mitzvot, it would have been sufficient to mention that detail in the context of just one mitzva. From the fact that the Torah had to mention a detail with regard to two mitzvot, it seems that neither one was intended to serve as an example for other mitzvot. Since the Torah teaches that women are obligated in the time-bound positive mitzvot of hakhel and matza, it seems that women's obligation in such mitzvot is actually the exception rather than the rule.
The gemara questions the application of this principle to the issue of mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman. After all, tefillin and re'iyya are two time-bound positive mitzvot from which women are exempt; why not argue that the fact that the Torah finds it necessary to exempt women from both of these mitzvot shows that, as a rule, women are obligated?
The gemara answers that the exemption of women had to be mentioned regarding both tefillin and re'iyya, as we could not have learned their exemption from one mitzva from their exemption from the other; therefore, the fact that this law is mentioned in regard to both mitzvot does not indicate that they are poor sources for general policy. The gemara explains: had the Torah mentioned women's exemption from tefillin but not from re'iyya, one might have though that women are obligated in re'iyya based on a gezeira shava from hakhel, as we have explained above. Therefore, the fact that women's exemption from re'iyya is made clear does not indicate that tefillin would not be an acceptable model, but is necessary due to an external reason to suspect that the general rule we learn from tefillin does not apply. Similarly, had the Torah mentioned the exemption of women only in the context of re'iyya, one might have thought that women are obligated in tefillin despite the fact that re'iyya is a good model for other mitzvot, due to the juxtaposition of tefillin with mezuza (as we explained last week).
The gemara questions whether the same logic could not be applied to matza and hakhel; perhaps it was necessary to mention women's obligation in both of those mitzvot as well, in which case we have no proof that these mitzvot are not good paradigms for other mitzvot. This works only in one direction, however: had the Torah mentioned that women are obligated in the mitzva of hakhel, we would not have been able to extend that rule to matza also, based on the possibility of learning that women are exempt based on a gezeira shava between Pesach and Sukkot (as we explained last week). However, if the Torah had mentioned only that women are obligated in the mitzva of matza, and intended that to be a general rule, it would have been unnecessary to teach us the same rule regarding hakhel. Therefore, the fact that the Torah teaches us that women are obligated in the mitzva of hakhel indicates that this is the exception rather than the rule.