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Thought for the Day: Women's Obligation to Hear Parshas Zachor

Over the last couple shalosh s'udos shmuesim, the rav at Ohr Yissochar has been discussing the topic of "somei'ach b'chelko".  One the questions he addressed was why the mishna defines that as ashirus (wealth); call it happy, call it calm... but calling it wealthy seems to be co-opting a perfectly good word for new meaning.  Whereas Western Society can't seem to describe anything the way it is (he's not deaf, he's hearing impaired; she's not short, she's height challenged), Chazal are honest till it hurts.  The rav brought us to understand that wealth is not measured simply by one's bank account balance, but you need to subtract off the outstanding obligation.  Someone who has 37.4 gazillion dollars in the bank, but has outstanding debts of 37.5 gazillion dollars is actually 0.1 gazillion dollars in the hole.  Someone who is happy with what he has is zero dollars in the hole; making him fabulously wealthy by modern accounting.

Rashi gives two reasons for the mitzvah to eat on the 9th of Tishrei: (1) to be better prepared for the upcoming fast; (2) to make him feel the hunger pangs more on Yom Kippur (thus increasing his s'char).  The reasons seem contradictory at first glance, but given our new understanding of ashirus it works very nicely.  Eating more certainly prepares one for the fast.  But having eaten more, he now needs to eat more; the more you have, the more you want.

The last few weeks I have been commuting to work on the bus and train; giving my an extra 1.5 hours or so a day to learn.  I am back on my bike now (or, sigh... was; snow coming tonight) and was really feeling the lack of time to learn.  That was enough to motivate me to finally figure out how to listen to shiurim with my phone.  Ah... I got to hear R' Fuerst's most recent Sunday morning shiur (available at psak.org); on the mitzvah of hearing parshas zachor.

Among the topics discussed was the obligation for a woman to go to shul to hear parshas zachor.  What do you know... it's a machlokes.  On the one hand, it seems to be a classic "mitzvas asei sh'zman grama"/positive time-bound mitzvah; hence patur.  On the other hand, "af hen b'oso ha'neis"/they were also included in the miracle; hence obligated.

There are big time poskim on both sides of the issue.  Particularly fascinating was how some arguments were used both ways.  For example, the patur sides notes that it is not the derech of women to fight in a war (no, we don't change our rules because America and Israel press women into military service, R' Fuerst noted).  On the other hand, milchemas Amaleik is a milchemes mitzvah, in which women are required to serve in support roles (while the men actually engage in battle); so they should be obligated.  One can also argue that "af hen b'oso ha'neis" specifically obligates them in mikra m'gila, to the exclusion of parshas zachor; hence patur.  On the other hand, perhaps parshas zachor is just an aspect of the constant obligation to wipe out the memory of Amaleik, so it's not a mitzvas asei sh'zman grama; hence obligated.

Whew.  Blessed by the One Who did not make me a woman.

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