[Avodah] Women and Torah Learning

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Feb 16 09:58:46 PST 2021

[Email #1. -micha]

The following is from Rav Schwab on Chumash, page 274

    Learning for the sake of learning, just to occupy one's mind with
    the intricacies of the Torah, even if the practical application of
    the law is already known, is limited to men.

    A woman who learns Torah does not become greater in yiras Shamayim
    because of it. True, she may become very learned in Torah, but this is
    not the object of talmud Torah. A woman may become a great philosopher
    or scientist, but Torah is not philosophy or science. Torah is the
    way Hakadosh Baruch Hu communicates with us.

    Only because talmud Torah is a mitzvah, a positive commandment for
    man, can it be a means to connect to Hashem and thereby increase
    his yiras Shamayim. Because a woman has no specific mitzvah of
    talmud Torah, she cannot utilize it as a means to increase her many
    ways of connection to Hashem. If a man is a great talmud chacham,
    having learned the entire Talmud, and has not become a greater yerei
    Shamayim this learning has not achieved its purpose. If a woman were
    to learn and know Gemara just as well as a man, it still would not
    make her one iota better than she is. It would have no influence
    on her relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. she'asani kirtzono -
    He has made me according to his will, means that a woman does not
    need talmud Torah to come close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. A woman can
    even have prophecy-the closest possible relationship to Hakadosh
    Baruch Hu-without learning Torah.

[Email #2. -micha]

The following is from Rav Schwab on Chumash, pages 274-275.

    Women are also obligated to say Biros Ha Torah. While patur (exempt)
    from talmud Torah purely for the sake of learning, women are,
    nevertheless, obligated to learn the halachos of the mitzvos so they
    can properly fulfil them. With the exception of the few time-bound
    mitzvos, women have the same obligation as men to know and keep the
    vast majority of the mitzvos of the Torah. It is therefore incumbent
    upon women to learn the details of these mitzvos in order to observe
    them properly. How can women keep Shabbos or Yom Tov properly without
    knowing the applicable halachos?

    How can a woman conduct a business if she is not familiar with the
    dinim (laws) of ribbis (interest), ona'ah (misrepresentation or
    price fraud), or gezel (outright theft)? The difference is only in
    the goal of the learning. For a man, in addition to the need to know
    the practical halachos in order to apply them, it is also a mitzvah
    to occupy himself with talmud Torah as a form of avodas Hashem,
    serving Hashem. This is so even if there is no immediate need for this
    knowledge in practice, either because he already knows the dinim, or
    because his immediate circumstances do not require the application
    of what he is learning. However, for a woman, the purpose of the
    learning is to gain the knowledge in order to put it into practice.

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