Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Women's Obligation Regarding ברכת התורה

A statement that should not be shocking nor controversial is: men and women are different.  There; I said it, and I stand by its eternal truth.  How are they different and how does that change their role, function, and challenges in this world?  For that you need to consult the Owner's manual; aka, our Holy Torah -- as faithfully and honestly transmitted to us generation after generation from the original reception at Mount Sinai down to today by our sages.

One more thing that (surprisingly/sadly/really?! people have to be reminded of this; are you kidding me?) must be noted:  It is an undeniable truth that men are taller than women.  It is also an undeniable truth that some women are taller than some men.  To put that into context of above: Ducks are better swimmers than squirrels.  I have no doubt that I could find a squirrel somewhere that is a better swimmer than some duck.  That does not mean in any way shape or form that I should encourage that squirrel in his olympic swimming aspiration.  It will not make him a better squirrel, it will not even make him feel more accomplished as an animal who just doesn't appreciate the traditional role of squirrels.  The only way for any critter -- man, woman, squirrel, duck, or what have you -- to feel truly accomplished is to measure his progress against his own personal goals.  Goals, of course, custom designed for him by His Creator.  המבין יבין

There is no disagreement that Jewish men have a mitzvah of learning Torah for its own sake.  Men are obligated, therefore, in ברכת התורה.  Unlike other mitzvos, however, there is no limit on the obligation.  Because of that, ברכת התורה are said once per day; even though one is often engaged in activities other than Torah learning.  That is, even though interrupting any other activity -- eating, sukkah, t'fillin, etc -- would require making a new bracha upon resumption of that activity; Torah learning is not like that.  There are different explanations, but that's the facts.

One more fact: it is forbidden to learn Torah before reciting ברכת התורה.  And one more fact; there is, actually, one exception to the rule that interruptions to Torah learning do not require a new recitation of ברכת התורה.  That exception is a good, sound sleep in bed at night.  This, of course, is the cause of lots of Torah itself and a beehive of activity on Shavuous morning when most of the congregation has been awake all night and now seeks a fit representative who "took one for the team" and slept.

Why?  What is that nature of ברכת התורה, that requires a daily (re)recital?  There are basically three explanations.  First, that it is bracha on the pleasure of my Torah learning this day.  Just as I make a bracha on vision, being able to move, stand, and perform natural bodily functions; I also make a bracha on Torah learning each day.  In fact, the L'vush says that that they first (or first two, depending on how you count) is really the ברכה אחרונה on yesterday's Torah learning, while the final (and most elite) of the ברכת התורה (ie, אשר בחר בנו) is the ברכה ראשונה on today's Torah learning.  Second, there are those who hold that ברכת התורה is for the pleasure brought to the world because Torah is being learned.  Not my personal learning, but the fact of the learning.  This is similar to why even a blind person can make the bracha for site in the morning.  Finally, a third opinion is that Torah learning only comes with ברכה, so the recital of ברכת התורה is a mitzvah itself; independent of, but not unrelated to, the mitzvah of Torah learning itself.

With that we can now address the question of a woman's obligation to recite ברכת התורה.  A woman is certainly not obligated in Torah learning for its own sake.  In fact, it is generally frowned upon for a women to learn certain elements of Torah -- such as gemara -- because it is damaging to her soul.  (Akin to forcing an eagle to climb a tree instead of soaring to the heights.)  However, a woman is certainly obligated to know those parts of Torah that apply to her life as a Jew.  Moreover, there is certainly a pleasure to learning that Torah just like any other Torah learning.  Hence, according to the first reason given above, she certainly may recite ברכת התורה; and she should before sitting down to learn something.  According to the second reason also, she certainly may ברכת התורה any day, even if she isn't planning to sit down to learn or review Torah that is relevant to her daily actions.  (Even according to the first reason, she is not obligated, of course, since learning to know what to do might not be included in the Torah learning for which ברכת התורה was established.)  According to the third reason, she certainly may -- and really probably should -- recite ברכת התורה in order to ensure that the Torah learning in the world today is given it's best chance.

That is, her ברכה adds to the בריכה/pool that serves as a receptacle to bring Torah into the world.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…