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Monday, September 19, 2011

Nitzavim, Devarim 29:10. Achievement Through Empowerment


There's a Chasam Sofer in this week's parsha that says two fascinating things.  I'm going to do an interpretive translation of what he says and we'll see where it leads.

1.  If a woman sends her husband out to learn, if she encourages him to be kovei'a ittim, and he goes out to a seder, and he wastes his time, then the woman has the complete schar of talmud Torah, and the man has nothing but the punishment for bittul Torah.  It's not her fault that he didn't learn:  she did what she was obligated to do.  In Olam Haba, she will shine with the brilliance of Torah, and he will be....what?  An empty cup of coffee?  A list of fantasy football stats?  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

2.  Michal bas Shaul held like Reb Yosef's hava amina, that eino metzuva v'osseh is greater than metzuva v'oseh.  She wore tefillin, as everyone knows from the Gemara in Eiruvin, and that was emblematic of her attitude about women and Zman Grama mitzvos.  She didn't want to be bothered to encourage or enable her husband to grow in Torah, because she was busy learning and doing and growing on her own.  This is why she had no children till the day she died: her tafkid was to enable others to learn, and by declining to engage in her specific function; the siyata dishmaya for her consonant ability to bear children was impaired.

One thing the Chasam Sofer says is that אין נחת לפניו באינו מצוויים ועושים.  I found that to resonate with the Baal Ha'Itur and the Yereim brought by the Rosh in RH 4:7, which is surprising since we in Ashkenaz pasken like the Rav'yah (brought in the Rosh) and the Ra'avad (in the beginning of Toras Kohanim by Semicha), who hold that whatever a man does has full mitzva significance by a woman.  (For an basic outline of some of these opinions, see here.)  I have to admit, though, that the Shaagas Aryeh in 106 also goes with that mehalach where he assers carrying a shofar through reshus harabim for a woman that needs to hear tekiyos.  Still, I think the Chasam Sofer is going even farther than characterizing it as mere כדי לעשות נחת רוח לנשים (Chagiga 16b).

The Chasam Sofer ends by saying that
והנה עד"ז יזדרזו הנשים לגדל בניהם לתורה כי לא יזכו ע״י אינו מצוה ועושה כטעותה של מיכל בת שאול
 אלא ע״׳ גידול בניהם


In the comments, it was pointed out that this restrictive role assignment can be difficult to bear.  Many women resent what seems to be an assumption of unfitness for intellectual tasks and an inferior role in public prayer.  It is clear, however, that role assignment is common in the Torah, and we are very serious about working within those roles.

For example:  Some families of the Leviim were assigned to guard the gates, an Honor Guard in the Beis Hamikdash.  Other families of the Leviim were given the responsibility of singing and playing instruments in the Beis Hamikdash.  These familial guilds were absolute and unchangeable, to the extent that if a Levi of the latter were to perform the former, he would be guilty of a capital crime- Erchin 11b,
 אמר אביי נקיטינן משורר ששיער בשל חבירו במיתה שנאמר (במדבר ג) והחונים לפני המשכן קדמה לפני אהל מועד וגו' והזר הקרב יומת מאי זר אילימא זר ממש הכתיב חדא זימנא אלא לאו זר דאותה עבודה:

It goes without saying that if a non-kohen were to perform certain avodos that require Kehunah, he would also incur a commensurate punishment.  

Why is this true?  Is the offense against the Korbanos?  Is it because he was pogeim the avodah?  No.  I believe it is because of his transgression of the division and assignment of Kohanim and Yisraelim, just as the previous case must be because he had no right to cross the line out of his particular role.  It is a din of  Poretz Geder, of bittul Mechitzos, of Basadeh Triefa. 


great unknown said...

We have here an indictment of Michal bas Shaul that implies that she will not be zocheh to tchiyas hamaisim, having no "noshim bameh zachyan".

In the weakness of my hashkafos, I wonder if the strong approach of the Chasam Sofer was influenced by his battles with haskala and rumblings of proto-feminism.

b said...

I also was taken aback at his criticism of Michal bas Shaul. It reminded me of the Gemara in Sanhedrin with Chavrin Menashe. But le'maiseh, he does say that she held like Reb Yosef's hava amina.

I am familiar with his battles with the Maskilim, although he was very respectful of Heidenheim. I never heard of any such battles with proto-feminism. But I know, based on the harebrained writings and shittos the feminists cite from historical sources, that they've always been around. And- Baruch Hashem my wife doesn't read this- from personal experience, I think that every Jewish family has to deal with it to some degree. They're just as smart as we are, although with slightly differing aptitudes and certainly less aggressive, and the fact remains that they are relegated to what is hard to deny is an inferior position.

great unknown said...

I read a ma'aseh in an Israeli publication about how the Chasam Sofer fought against the introduction of the shaitel. When an influential woman in his kehilla put one on, he put a klala on her; she died shortly after. At the funeral, he walked up to the aron and spit on it.

I wonder if there are any reliable sources for this story.

Chaim B. said...

Re: your attempt to draw a parallel between gender roles and the role of kohein, levi -- we do not find (at least as far as I know) rishonim/achronim who attribute the division into kohein, levi, and yisrael roles to differences in ability or intellect. We do, however, find in pretty mainstream sources the division into gender roles explained as a function of men and women having different abilities and intellect potential. Those same explanations are often offered even today, irrespective of the fact that they may be perceived as chauvanistic and discriminatory.

I'm not disagreeing with the merits of your approach -- I like it -- but I don't think you will find too many early sources for it. I don't think that matters too much, because in terms of ta'amei hamitzvos it's all derush and there is little nafka minah anyway.

great unknown said...

The Netziv defines part of the differences among Kohain, Levi and Yisroel as in their abilities and approaches to Torah and Psak.

However, in this case, I apply a vort I told to Rav Sternhell Zatzal in Baltimore about thirty years ago, which he thought was very true. While the Jews never asked Hashem about what was written in the Torah before accepting it, nevertheless the goyim still have a ta'anah that Hashem never tested them with a mitzvah that was against their national character [referring to the gemora at the beginning of avodah zarah].

The answer is, He did. He gave the mitzvah of hagbail es haHar. Telling Jews that they had to stay within prescribed boundaries, and not stick their noses in where they don't belong, is a direct confrontation with the Jewish character.

Similarly here: the hierarchical or parallel groupings and boundaries, with their individual duties and privileges, are to force us to subdue this particular national middah. As the GR"A says in Mishlei. The purpose of life is to break the [negative part of] the middos.

Thus, the ta'am hamitzva presented here is relevant to everyday conduct. Unfortunately.

great unknown said...

one more "thought"
Rav Hutner [see Pachad Yitzchok Shvuos 8:2:8] says that the concept of b'Asara ma'amoros nivra ha'olam created the concept of categories and kavod.

Extrapolating, since the Bnei Yisroel are the neshama of the bria'ah and it's ultimate tikun, it may be reasonable to suggest that one of our primary purposes is to maintain categorization and hierarchy. And hence, the contrary is one of our bigger middos that could use improvement

Anonymous said...

Non Kohanim are punished for performing certain actions related to the Korbanot because of the pasuk in Bamidbar 18:7 and elsewhere. Are you asking why Hashem made that so?

וְאַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ אִתְּךָ תִּשְׁמְרוּ אֶת-כְּהֻנַּתְכֶם לְכָל-דְּבַר הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, וּלְמִבֵּית לַפָּרֹכֶת--וַעֲבַדְתֶּם; עֲבֹדַת מַתָּנָה, אֶתֵּן אֶת-כְּהֻנַּתְכֶם, וְהַזָּר הַקָּרֵב, יוּמָת.

Barzilai said...

I missed a few days because I was shepherding my youngest son through his engagement baruch hashem. We're moving toward the point where I don't have to use this pen name. In any case, in response to the most recent anonymous, yes. It is a clear passuk in the Torah. My point is that we find many examples of role assignment in the Torah. I was speculating that the severe punishment for a non kohen is based on his Poretz Geder, not on the fact that he was mechallel the avodah. Another example is the Rambam 3 Klei Hamikdash 10, that kohen that does levi's job also assur, though not chayav missah. Obviously, this is not a matter of higher/lower kedushaa, it's a matter of roles and poretz geder and bittul mechitzos. I was thinking about the rule that a mechusar begadim mechallel/missah, because he's a zar. I'm not sure if that supports or contradicts. In any case, yes. I'm looking for a theory, a hashkafa.

I know many yeshiva people won't like this. But look at the Mizrachi, the Ramban, and the Gur Aryeh by Kaasher zomama velo kaasher assa- a classic gzeiras hakasuv, and they all give reasons for it.

chaim b. said...

The vort on hagbel is ha'har is found in the Shem m'Shmuel in a few places his father's name.

The issue is not whether there should or should not be boundaries -- the issue is whether those boundaries are the sibas ha'issur in and of themselves or whether they are simanim of underlying intellectual differences. B is saying poretz geder is a sibah in its own right. I'm simply pointing out that if this thesis is correct, then all the rationalizations about women lacking intellectual ability to learn (found in many sources) as the reason to bar them from T"T are unnecessary.

B, If you are searching for ta'amei hamitzvos, I don't think saying gedarim are valuable as an end in themselves is enough. Why these precise boundaries? Why privilege kohanin?

great unknown said...

What I was suggesting is that the Ribbono Shel Olam created given categories, and certain groups were thereby generated that filled those ecolspiritual niches. Rather like the mitzva of "lo sigzol" created the concepts of property and theft.

Or more fundamentally, rather like the category of Yisroel was created with the bri'ah and Avrohom Avinu came along and filled that niche.

The difference is that while certain categories can be joined [geirus, shevet levi in the torah-learning aspect], others were one- time opportunities - ba aharon v'natlo, ba dovid v'natlo. This implies a unique characteristic of the group that cannot ever be acquired by an outsider. Except for Pinchas...who not only joined the kehuna but historically dominated it.

It could be that this is implicit in v'natlo...the category and the occupants merged to the extent that the spiritual b'koach of the category became completely subsumed in the b'po'el without leaving anything for an outsider to attach to.

But these speculations are approaching boundaries I shouldn't be crossing, so here I come to an abrupt stop.