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Metzora
Can a Woman Be a Witness? Print E-mail
Friday, 02 May 2014

Sponsored by Sharona and Josh Halickman

 in Memory of Rivka Haut z”l,

Beloved Mother of Sheryl Haut and Tamara Weissman,

Activist on Behalf of Agunot

and Board Member of Torat Reva Yerushalayim

 

In Parshat Metzora, Vayikra 15:28 we read: “When she has become pure from her discharge-impurity, she shall count seven days for herself and afterwards she becomes purified.”

 

From this pasuk we learn that a woman is fully relied upon and trusted to count the seven white days and immerse in the mikva on the proper day.

 

She counts the seven days “for herself” without anybody checking up on her.

 

Considering that the consequences for not observing the laws of family purity properly is the punishment of Karet, it is clear that a woman can be trusted and relied on for testifying about serious matters.

 

According to the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 17:3, in the case of an agunah (a woman whose husband who has disappeared without leaving his wife a valid Jewish divorce) when determining whether a woman’s husband is dead, so that she can remarry, one witness, male or female is sufficient.

 

If the agunah remarries and it turns out that her husband was still alive there would be serious ramifications including the fact that her children would be mamzerim yet a woman who testifies that she knows that the agunah’s husband is dead is believed.

 

In the realm of keeping kosher, a woman is fully trusted to run her own kitchen without the need of a mashgiach’s supervision. A woman could even serve as a shochet. In that case, the entire community would rely on a woman to slaughter their animals.

 

The Rambam, Yad, Edut 9:2 writes: women, kings, a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and family relatives are disqualified from giving testimony. However, this is not due to a lack of credibility but rather a Divine Torah decree.

 

We may try to guess why women were disqualified from giving testimony but there is no specific explanation given to us in the Torah.

 

According to the Rambam, giving testimony in court is a legal obligation. When summoned, an individual may not avoid testifying. By exempting women from being witnesses, a woman avoids the stress of public testimony, examination, close questioning and cross examination.

 

In the case of capital punishment, a witness whose testimony leads to an execution must participate in the execution. As it says in Devarim 17:7, “The hand of the witness shall be the first upon him to put him to death.” The Torah may have wanted to spare a woman from the role of executioner and therefore exempted her from testifying.

 

It is not a coincidence that women are now taking on more leadership roles in the areas of family purity, kashrut and in the case of agunot by training to become Yoatzot Halacha (advisors of Jewish law) in the realm of family purity, Mashgichot, certifying the kashrut of restaurants and Toanot (advocates) on behalf of modern day agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a Jewish divorce).

 

Although women are not summoned to testify in court, there is no question that women can be trusted and relied upon in the most serious areas of Jewish law.

 

 
Paying for the Privilege to Live in Israel Print E-mail
Friday, 04 May 2012

In Parshat Metzora (Vayikra 14:33-34), we read : “God spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying: When you arrive in the Land of C’naan that I gave you as a possession and I will place a Tzaraat affliction upon a house in the Land of your possession.”

 

B’nai Yisrael have not even arrived in the Land of Israel, yet God is already telling them that when they arrive they are going to have problems!

 

Making Aliya is not easy and it is probably better to tell potential Olim (new immigrants) the realities of what to expect (both good and bad) before they go so that they won’t be disappointed upon arrival. Many Olim are disillusioned after having been told that everything will work out perfectly. If they understand that things won’t be perfect then they won’t become overly frustrated.

 

One of my students who is literally loving every minute of being able to study in Israel had a difficult day last week meeting with members of Israel’s Ministry of Interior. When she left their offices, she was very upset. She walked into a bookstore and the owner asked how she is enjoying being in Israel. She responded that usually she is really happy but today she is having a difficult day. The man told her not to be upset. After all, it is a privilege to be in Israel and we pay for that privilege by dealing with aggravation that comes up from time to time.

 

His comments made her feel better. After all, she is living in a part of Jerusalem where she can walk to the Kotel whenever she wants to, she is studying with top teachers and having an opportunity to tour the Land and grow spiritually so if there have to be some hard days, in the end it is still worth the trade off in order to be able to live in Israel.

 

 
It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 April 2011

In Parshat Metzora we read (Vayikra 15:19): “When a woman has a discharge and the discharge will be blood in her body, for seven days she will be in the state of Nidda (the period of time when she is ritually impure from the day when she first sees blood and according to the Rabbis, an additional eleven days. During that time, a woman is not permissible to her husband until she immerses in the Mikvah, the Ritual Bath).”

 

In Tur, Yoreh Deah 183 the Rabbis teach that the woman only becomes a Nidda if the blood comes from the uterus.

 

The Rabbis explain that when she sees blood she should make sure that it is not from an external source such as a wound on her body before declaring herself a Niddah.

 

Ramban suggests that she may get a stain from something bloody like working with blood or shopping in the shuk (market) where there are bloody chickens.

 

If she can attribute the blood to someone else then she would not be considered a Nidda. Dr. Deena Zimmerman suggests that a woman who was drawing blood in a lab, cleaning chickens or helping a child with a nosebleed is probably not a Nidda.

 

Although the laws of Nidda are extremely complex, the Rabbis go out of the way to find leniencies whenever possible.

 

Some women are afraid to ask Rabbis questions about Taharat HaMishpacha (family purity) because they are not comfortable discussing if the blood came from the uterus or not with a man. This is unfortunate since whenever possible, the Rabbis will give a more lenient Psak Halacha (ruling).

 

In Israel, it is easier since there are so many Rabbis available that a woman doesn’t have to ask her local Rabbi who she will end up seeing in shul on Shabbat for a psak. There are also many Torah scholars who are experts in the area of Taharat HaMishpacha.

 

We learn from here that whether a question seems simple or a little more complex, it doesn’t hurt to ask! As for the woman who is uncomfortable asking- you can always send your husband!

       
 
Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sponsored by Sharona, Josh, Dov, Moshe and Yehuda Halickman

in Memory of Bunny Leopold z"l

 

Towards the end of Parshat Metzora we read about some of the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha, family purity: (Vayikra 15:19, 28) “When a woman has a discharge- her discharge from her flesh being blood- she shall be in her state of separation (niddata) for a seven day period…If she ceases her flow (tahara mizova), she must count seven days for herself and afterwards she can be purified”.

 

According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: “The word “niddah” comes from the word “nadad”, meaning removed or separated. The word niddah therefore indicates that a woman must forgo all physical contact with her husband. This status can only be changed by her counting the seven days and by immersion in a Mikveh (ritual bath)”.

 

Rabbi Moshe David Tendler points out: “The woman is in full charge of all of the halachot (laws) concerning family purity. The Torah has assigned both responsibility and authority to the woman. Her statement of fact becomes Torah law. If a woman reports that she has become a niddah, her husband is bound to conduct himself accordingly. If she reports fulfillment of all of the requirements of marital relations, her husband may respond accordingly.”

 

A question is asked in Tractate Niddah 31b: Rabbi Meir said: “Why did the Torah require a niddah to be tmeiah (ritually impure) for seven days? Since her husband could become bored of her and tire of her. Therefore, the Torah declares, ‘Let her be ritually impure for seven days so that she will be as dear to her husband as when she entered the Chupah (marriage canopy).’”

 

The Rambam explains that the Laws of tahara (ritual purity) and tumah (ritual impurity) are decrees of the Torah that cannot be comprehended by human wisdom…”

 

What we clearly can learn from these laws is:

  1. The respect that the Torah gives to women: A woman is fully trusted in her declaration of a change in her status and in her observance of the Mitzvah.
  2. Thousands of years ago the Torah recognized what psychologists and marriage counselors are figuring out today: in the words of Tehilla Abramov: “Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”.
 
Tzaraat of the House- Only in the Land of Israel! Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 April 2008

In Parshat Metzora 14:33-34 we read about Tzaraat of the house: “God spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying: When you arrive in the Land of C’naan that I give to you as a possession (achuza) I will place a Tzaraat affliction upon a house in the Land of your possession (achuzatchem)…”

Many questions arise from these psukim:

  1. Why are Moshe and Aharon being commanded (not B’nai Yisrael) if they will never make it into the Land of Israel?
  2. How can a house get tzaraat?
  3. Why is the tzaraat of the homes only in effect in the Land of Israel, Land of your possession?

 Answers:

  1. Ramban (Vayikra 14:34) answers that these laws only needed to be taught to those who would be entering the land of Israel as opposed to the entire nation. God taught these laws to Moshe and Aharon first so that they could later serve as instructors (even though for Moshe and Aharon it would not be Halacha L’Maaseh, they personally would not be entering the Land). Moshe and Aharon would then teach these to the members of the nation who would be entering the Land of Israel.
  2. A house getting tzaraat is a supernatural occurrence which God imposed in order to teach a lesson.  Ramban (Vayikra 13:47) points out that when Israel is fully devoted to God, then His spirit is upon them always to maintain their bodies, clothing and houses in a good appearance. As soon as one of them commits a sin or transgression, a deformity appears in his flesh or on his garment or in his house, revealing that God has turned aside from him.
  3. Ramban adds that the law only applies inside of the Land of Israel since Israel is the chosen land and that is where God dwells. He adds that a house will only contract impurity after the conquest and division of the land and until each individual knows his portion. It will only be after the Land is conquered and divided that they will have ease of mind that God is with them.

 
The State of Israel is looked at by Religious Zionists as the first flowerings of our redemption. Although we possess the Land, we are still not at the level of conquest and division and therefore these laws concerning tzaraat are not in effect at this time.

May we speedily reach the level where the Jewish people are fully devoted to God where His spirit is always upon them.