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34a: Positive Time-Bound Mitzvot (2)

Rav Michael Siev

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Last week, we studied the Gemara's initial discussion of the general parameters of women's obligations in mitzvot: they are exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot (mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman), while they are obligated in positive mitzvot that are not time-bound (lo ha-zeman geraman) as well as all prohibitions (mitzvot lo ta'asei). The gemara quoted a beraita that enumerated examples of mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman and she-lo ha-zeman geraman. These examples, while they are the subject of some debate, can help us clarify the full import of the concept of mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman.

One of the beraita's examples of a time-bound mitzva is the mitzva of tzitzit. The Gemara (Menachot 43a) rules that the mitzva of tzitzit does not apply at night. This is based on the fact that the Torah commands, regarding tzitzit, that we shall see them and they shall remind us to do the mitzvot (Bamidbar 15:39); since one is able to see clearly only by day, the mitzva applies only by day. As the commentators point out, that ruling is the basis of our gemara's ruling that tzitzit is a mitzvat asei she-hazzeman geramah. However, there is a debate about the parameters of the exemption at night: the Rambam (Hilkhot Tzitzit 3:7) writes that, simply, whenever one wears a four-cornered garment by day, he is obligated to wear the fringes known as tzitzit, but when he wears it at night, he is exempt. If this is the case, we certainly understand why tzitzit is considered a mitzvat asei she-hazzeman geramah.

However, Tosafot on our sugya (s.v. U-tefillin) claim, as do some other early comentators, that this not the intent of the gemara in Menachot, and that the obligation in tzitzit depends on the type of garment under discussion: one need not attach tzitzit to a garment that is worn at night, even if one happens to be wearing it during the day; conversely, a garment that is typically worn by day must have tzitzit attached even if one wants to wear it at night. If this is the case, Tosafot wonder, how can tzitzit be considered a mitzvat asei she-hazzeman geramah; after all, it applies constantly, day and night, to the garments which are obligated in tzitzit! Tosafot answer that since time plays a role in determining whether or not the mitzva applies to begin with regarding a particular garment, tzitzit is still considered a mitzva asei she-hazzeman geramah. In their view, the category of "time-bound positive mitzvot" includes not only mitzvot that must be fulfilled at specific times, but also any mitzva which is impacted in any way by time.

Practically, the Shulchan Arukh (OC 18:1) mentions both opinions regarding the mitzva of tzitzit. Therefore, we are machmir (stringent) for both opinions: we will not allow men to wear four-cornered garments without tzitzit unless it is a garment worn specifically at night and it is also nighttime; in such a circumstance, everyone would agree that one is exempt from the mitzva. At the same time, one only makes a berakha on tzitzit if one wears a garment normally worn by day and it is daytime; in this case, everyone agrees that one is obligated. If one wears a nighttime garment during the day, or a daytime garment at night, one would need to make sure that there are tzitzit strings attached, but would not make a berakha.

There is also a discussion among the commentators regarding the list of positive mitzvot that are not time-bound which are mentioned in the beraita. Tosafot (s.v. Ma'akeh) point out that all of the mitzvot on the list - building a fence around one's roof, affixing a mezuza to one's doorposts, returning lost items and chasing away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks - are prohibitions that have positive mitzvot attached to them. Thus, for example, the Torah (Devarim 22:8) requires: "When you build a new house, you shall make a fence (ma'akeh) for your roof; then you shall not put blood in your house, should anyone fall from it." To build a fence around one's roof is a mitzvat asei, positive command; the complementary mitzvat lo ta'asei warns one not to bring guilt upon his home by creating unsafe conditions there. Since women are obligated in all prohibitions, women are certainly obligated to build a fence around their roofs, as failure to do so will result in their violating a prohibition; what, then is the significance of their exemption from the positive mitzva of building a fence? 

Tosafot answer that, in fact, there are some slight differences between the positive commands and prohibitions associated with the mitzvot on our list. It is therefore necessary for the beraita to inform us that women are obligated in positive mitzvot that are not time-bound, as that clarifies that women are obligated even when the prohibition does not apply. For example, Tosafot claim that the warning "You shall not put blood in your house" applies only if one builds a house without a fence on the roof. If there had been a fence which has fallen down, or if one intends to build a fence but never gets around to it, the prohibition does not apply, but the positive command does.

The Ramban has a different view. In his opinion, whenever there are parallel positive and negative commands, one of them is the main command and the other simply reinforces that original mitzva. The status of the main mitzva determines whether or not both mitzvot apply to women. Thus, for example, there is a positive mitzva to return lost items, and an admonition not to ignore such items. Clearly, the main mitzva is to return a lost item, while the prohibition just further strengthens that requirement. Therefore, both the asei and the lo ta'asei are determined based upon the asei; in this instance, it is not time-bound, and therefore women are obligated. Had the positive mitzva been time-bound, women would have been exempt even from the prohibition that goes along with it. On the other hand, in a situation in which the prohibition is the main mitzva and there is a positive mitzva that reinforces it - such as the positive command to rest on Shabbat and Festivals, which reinforces the prohibition of forbidden labor on those days - it is the prohibition that determines the status of both, and women are obligated even in the positive mitzva, despite the fact that it is time-bound.

Back to the Gemara

We resume after the two-dots about a third of the way down on 34a.


And [from] time-bound positive mitzvot women are exempt:

From where do we [learn this]?


Learn from tefillin: just as tefillin - women are exempt,

so all time-bound positive mitzvot - women are exempt.

And tefillin is learned from Torah study:

just as Torah study - women are exempt,

so too [regarding] tefillin - women are exempt.


And compare tefillin with mezuza [and say that women are obligated in tefillin, just as they are obligated in mezuza]!

Tefillin is compared to Torah study in the first section and the second section,


tefillin to mezuza - in the second section is not compared.

And compare mezuza to Torah study!

Do not let [this suggestion] enter your mind,


for it says: "So that your days will be long;"

do men need life [but] women do not need life?

ומצות עשה שהזמן גרמא - נשים פטורות:


גמר מתפילין: מה תפילין - נשים פטורות,

אף כל מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא - נשים פטורות;

ותפילין גמר לה מתלמוד תורה,

מה תלמוד תורה - נשים פטורות,

אף תפילין - נשים פטורות.

ונקיש תפילין למזוזה!

תפילין לתלמוד תורה איתקיש בין בפרשה ראשונה בין בפרשה שניה,

תפילין למזוזה - בפרשה שניה לא איתקיש. 

ונקיש מזוזה לתלמוד תורה!

לא סלקא דעתך,

דכתיב:למען ירבו ימיכם;

גברי בעי חיי, נשי לא בעי חיי?

The gemara here questions how we know that women are in fact exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot. The source for this concept is tefillin: just as tefillin is a time-bound positive mitzva and women are exempt, women are exempt from all time-bound positive mitzvot. The source for the fact that women are exempt from tefillin itself is a hekeish, a comparison of laws based on their being juxtaposed in the Torah. The Torah (Devarim 6:7) instructs us to teach Torah to our children, and immediately afterward mentions the mitzva of tefillin (ibid., v. 8). We can therefore compare the laws of these two mitzvot: just as women are exempt from Torah study, they are exempt from the mitzva of tefillin. The gemara does not tell us how we know that women are exempt from Torah study, for it has already done so on daf 29b: the Torah (Devarim 11:19) commands one to teach Torah to one's sons; this implies that one need not teach Torah to one's daughters.

The gemara questions why we compare the laws of tefillin with those of Torah study; why not compare tefillin to mezuza, which is a mitzva that women are obligated to fulfill? This question refers back to the Devarim 6, which is where tefillin is juxtaposed with Torah study, and it may be helpful to look in a Chumash or siddur (this section is the first paragraph, or parasha, of keri'at shema). In that section, the Torah mentions Torah study, then the mitzva of tefillin, and immediately afterward the mitzva of mezuza. Why compare tefillin to the immediately preceding verse, which mentions Torah study, and not to the pasuk that immediately follows the mitzva of tefillin, which teaches us the mitzva of mezuza?

The gemara answers that tefillin is juxtaposed with mezuza only in that section; however, there an additional place where tefillin is juxtaposed with Torah study. In Devarim 11 (vv. 18-20, which is part of the second paragraph of Keri'at Shema, ibid. 11:13-21), the Torah mentions first tefillin, then Torah study, and then the mitzva of mezuza. In that parasha, the mitzva of tefillin is juxtaposed only with Torah study and not with mezuza; thus, it makes sense to compare the rules of tefillin with those of Torah study rather than those of mezuza.

Having established that Torah study and mezuza are juxtaposed in Devarim 11, the gemara questions why we should not compare the laws of mezuza to Torah study and learn that women are exempt from the mitzva of mezuza. The gemara explains that the pasuk after the mitzva of mezuza (v. 21) states that one who follows the mitzvot will merit long life; this implies that mezuza is a particularly important factor in securing this reward. It would not make sense to assume that such a mitzva would apply to men and not women.

We resume eight lines from the bottom of 34a.


But sukka which is a time-bound positive mitzva,

as it says: "You shall dwell in huts for seven days;"


the reason [women are exempt] is that the Merciful One wrote "ha-ezrach"

to exclude women;

without that, women would be obligated!


Abayei said: "It is necessary:

it would have entered your mind to say that since it says 'you shall dwell in huts,'

dwell - similar to the way you live,

just as living is man and his wife,

so too sukka [applies to] - man and his wife."


Rava said: "It is necessary:

it would have entered your mind to say we shold learn fifteen-fifteen from Chag Ha-matzot (Pesach):

just as later (regarding Pesach) women are obligated,


so too here women are obligated.

It is [therefore] necessary."

והרי סוכה, דמצות עשה שהזמן גרמא,

דכתיב: בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים;

טעמא דכתב רחמנא האזרח -

להוציא את הנשים,

הא לאו הכי נשים חייבות!

אמר אביי: איצטריך,

סלקא דעתך אמינא הואיל דכתיב: בסוכות תשבו,

תשבו - כעין תדורו,

מה דירה - איש ואשתו,

אף סוכה - איש ואשתו.

ורבא אמר: איצטריך,

סד"א (סלקא דעתך אמינא) נילף חמשה עשר חמשה עשר מחג המצות,

מה להלן נשים חייבות,

אף כאן נשים חייבות.


The gemara here questions how the mitzva to dwell in a sukka during the Festival of Sukkot fits in with the rule that women are exempt from mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman. The gemara alludes to a beraita that is fully explained in Massekhet Sukka (28a). The Torah (Vayikra 23:42) teaches that "kol ha-ezrach," "every native," is obligated in the mitzva of sukka. The beraita explains that had the Torah simply written that every ezrach (native) is obligated, we would have understood that all Jews are obligated to perform this mitzva. However, the Torah states that kol ha-ezrach is obligated; the extra letter hei, which qualifies, implies that only a specific type of native is obligated, namely men.

Our gemara quotes this teaching and questions its necessity: sukka is a time-bound positive mitzva, as it applies only during the seven days of Sukkot. If women are exempt from all such mitzvot, why do we need a special source to prove that they are exempt from sukka?

The gemara quotes two answers, which explain that one would have thought that sukka is different than other time-bound mitzvot, and that one is therefore obligated in sukka despite the general rule; therefore, the source of "ha-ezrach" is necessary. Abayei explains that this hava amina, initial thought, would have occurred to someone due to one of the unique features of the mitzva of sukka. The Torah (ibid.) instructs one to "dwell" in a sukka, and the gemara learns that this dwelling must be comparable to the way one normally lives in his permanent home. Since husband and wife generally live together, one might have though that the mitzva of sukka requires a husband and wife to dwell together in the sukka. It is therefore necessary to have a specific source that teaches that women are exempt from the mitzva of sukka.

Rava has a different suggestion: one of the rules of Biblical exegesis is gezeira shava, that when one word or phrase is repeated in two different contexts, we can compare the laws of the two situations. (Pesachim 66a teaches that one cannot make up one's own gezeira shava; it must be received in a tradition from Moshe Rabbeinu. On the other hand, a kal va-chomer, which we discussed last week, can be derived independently. There is a debate about whether other types of derashot, such as hekeish, must be received as a tradition.) There is a gezeira shava that connects Pesach and Sukkot based on the word "fifteenth" that appears regarding both; Pesach begins on the fifteenth of Nisan, the first month (Vayikra 23:6), while Sukkot begins on the fifteenth of Tishrei, the seventh month (ibid., v. 34). Based on this gezeira shava, the Gemara (Sukka 27a) learns that one is obligated to eat in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot; after that, if one wants to eat he must do so in the sukka, but one is not obligated to eat. This parallels the mitzva of matza: one is required to eat matza on the first night of Pesach; after that, one is not obligated to eat matza, but if one wants to eat a meal (which implies eating bread), matza is the only way to do so. One might have though that this gezeira shava would teach that just as women are obligated in the mitzva of matza despite the fact that it is a time-bound positive mitzva, they are also obligated in the mitzva of sukka. The word ha-ezrach is therefore necessary to teach that women are exempt.


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