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8 Elul 5763

Women & Talmud


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

Question:
What halachic sanction is there - if any - for women to learn Gemara? I recently met someone whose duaghter attends a school where they "have shiur" daily. He claims that this is not only permissible, but desirable, according to Rav Soleveitchik. The Rambam, however (according to whom the Rav would pasken) forbids Talmud learning by women.

Answer:
There has been much written on the subject. A widely accepted opinion is that a woman whose learning strengthens her Jewish faith and/or observance should study those parts of the Talmud that help her in this. For example, it is as essential for a woman as a man to be well versed in the laws of shabbat. A woman with an academic leaning will want to know the Talmudic sources of the halachic distinctions made, and this understanding adds to her appreciation of the law. Another example are those Talmudic passages that deepen a person's (man or woman)understanding of Emunah. A woman, as opposed to a man, is not commanded to study for its own sake and it is not right to make a girl or young woman feel that she must study, like it or not, in a case where this is not important to her religious observance or belief (see Halichot Bayta 2b n.3 at length).


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