Torah Study for Women

Torah Study for Women

In Parshat Ekev we find the commandment for a man to teach Torah to his sons. The words are recited twice a day as part of the Shma prayer (Devarim 11:19): “velimadetem otam et bneichem”,“and you are to teach them to your sons”. The Gemara in Kiddushin 29b declares “et bneichem”, “to your sons” “velo et bnoteichem” “but not to your daughters”. We derive from here that women are exempt from Torah study.

Are women really exempt from Torah study? This seems to contradict a statement in last week’s parsha (Devarim 5:1) “Moshe called all of the Jewish people and said to them: Hear Israel the statutes and the laws that I am relating in your presence today, for you are to study them (ulimadetem otam) and be careful to fulfill them”. All of Israel is told that in order to be able to observe the mitzvoth they must study the Torah.

Sefer Hasidim (Rabbi Judah HeHasid- 12th c) states: “One is obligated to teach daughters the mitzvoth, the legal rulings of the Halacha. If a woman is not taught the laws of Shabbat, then how can she observe Shabbat?”

The Chafetz Chayim (1838-1933) urged Torah study for girls “lest they stray from the path of God and violate the principles of the Torah.”

If women don’t study Torah, how can they transmit it to the next generation?

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, stressed the importance of Torah study for women based on the fact that the women are usually the ones helping their children with their homework and if the women are not learned then they can’t help pass the Torah down to their children and grandchildren.

According to Rabbi Lichtenstein (Rosh Yeshiva-Har Etzion), “Women’s learning should be intensified. In this way the woman deepens her own commitment, her sense of responsibility. When something is well learned, it creates personal commitment. There are things that can be known in a general way, but they are not felt existentially, and therefore they do not penetrate one’s consciousness. For example, one should learn the mitzvot that are dependent upon the land of Israel”.

Even though in theory women are exempt from Torah study, in practice women must study all of the laws that apply to them (Rema- Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 246:6), women must be knowledgeable in order to transmit Judaism to the next generation and women must feel ownership and commitment to the Torah which is acquired through intensive study.

Jerusalem boasts a large number of Torah study opportunities for women. However, there are still many women who don’t have the opportunity to attend these programs. Torat Reva Yerushalayim brings Torah study to populations such as mothers with young children and senior citizens in order to insure that the prophecy of Yishayahu “ki mitzion tetze Torah” will be fulfilled in our day.