Monday, June 16, 2008

Should Women Learn Gemara?

The Mishnah in Sotah states that one who teaches his daughter torah it is as if he teaches her folly. But why should this be so? The simplest reason is because learning aspects of Torah that have no application for her and will not bring her to greater yiras and ahavas Hashem can lead to arrogance. This is as true of women as men—when a person adopts a practice that goes beyond his duties and which sets him apart from others, he is vulnerable to yoharah, or arrogance.

When HaRav Yaakov Moshe Shirkin zt”l had to travel across Europe as a bochur to raise the funds to buy his way out of the draft, he met the Rav of a little town with whom he was able to speak in learning. The elderly talmid chochom took out a manuscript of chiddushim on the Minchas Chinuch, and when the younger man asked if it was his own, the Rav answered, “No, it’s my daughter’s.” The Rav then began to cry.

He explained to the young Rav Shirkin, “When I came here, I could not find a chavrusah. My only daughter was brilliant, so she and I learned together day and night. When it came time to find her a shidduch, I sent word to the most prestigious yeshivos: send me your best student, and if he is the right boy, he can have both my daughter and the position here.”

“A bochur arrived, and they got along well. But then my daughter asked: ‘Nu, how do you understand the Rambam’s p’shat regarding tum’as ha’tehom?’ The boy didn’t know the first thing about it, and she dismissed him. And this happened again, and again. As you can see for yourself…” Just then an older woman came walking in with a cane, “…she never married.”

And he wept bitterly.

17 comments:

tzvi hirsh said...

Maybe this story is a lesson that men should also learn...
(The explanation of the gomaro given here isn't the simple one. the simple one is that the women will use their unneeded brain power for inappropriate conduct.)
But in any event one of the Lubavicher Rebbe's explanations on the Gomaro (i don't know where the text is so i may be off), is that even though there are many halachot that don't apply to men either, men learn them b/c there is a mitzva to connect to G-d through learning his will.
In former times women did "women's" jobs which didn't take them away from the home and the stetel, so they didn't need as much connection to G-d as now a days.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Tzvi Hirsch wrote: "...the simple one is that the women will use their unneeded brain power for inappropriate conduct."
If one doesn't factor in that learning what she doesn't need will lead to arrogance, why should extra learning lead to inappropriate conduct?
I am also not sure what you mean by the expression "unneeded brain power."
It is true that men need all aspects of Torah. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said: "Until a man has learned the entire Shas his Tzelem Elokim doesn't shine on his face."
The halachic basis for the significant changes made in women's education with the start of Beis Ya'akov are discussed at great length in the poskim.
I have never seen or heard of any genuine halachic basis to permit teaching gemara to women en mass.
I know several Rabanim who came to America from "The Old Country" were convinced that teaching gemara to women was the only way for Yiddiskeit to continue in the U.S. Years ago this may have been a plausible theory, but today they are not. (I heard another rationale from a reliable person which I would rather not mention; I sincerely hope my source got it wrong.)

Anonymous said...

If one doesn't factor in that learning what she doesn't need will lead to arrogance, why should extra learning lead to inappropriate conduct?
I am also not sure what you mean by the expression "unneeded brain power."
The word that the Gomaro uses is "tiflus" which means immorality.
Rash"i (it is one of the miforshim I think it was Rash"i) explains that the understanding that the woman will get through learning will allow her to cheat without getting caught.
I think that any woman told that they shouldn't learn gomaro because of this reason should be insulted !

Micha said...

Anonymous: Correct. The gemara in Sotah 21b brings the verse, "I am chachomah my neighbor is ormah, craftiness." Once someone learns the chachomah of Torah, craftiness enters him or her. Rashi learns that this craftiness will lead to promiscuity in a woman since she will be able to hide her actions.
But why will a woman specifically fall in this manner; clearly learning Torah makes a man crafty as well?
The simplest way to explain this is what I wrote. A woman, unlike a man, doesn't need this part of Torah to combat her very different Yetzer Hara and 'kol hamoseif goreyah.' She will naturally feel bigger and better because of her "extra" learning and this trips her up. After all, having an over swollen ego causes this kind of promiscuity as the gemara said earlier (daf 4b)
A man struggles with a very different yetzer so ego as a result of too much learning is usually not a problem of the same magnitude for him. When he sees how much he needs the learning just to keep his head above water in areas of personal purity this most often doesn't bring the same caliber of arrogance. Most often but not always.
I am reminded of the story of the Talmid Chacham who acted disrespectfully towards his wife and wanted apologies for "what had caused" his rudeness as well. If she wouldn't apologize he would go and learn. When Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro was consulted regarding this rather peculiar case he said something shocking: "Until this talmid chachom changes he should be cast out of his kollels not be allowed to learn since his learning is only fueling the fire of his overly swelled ego!"
I write that this is the simplest way to understand the gemara (whether you wish to learn like Rashi or the Rambam) because there is another much deeper way to understand as well. I am not sure this is the place for that however since it is very deep and pretty lengthly.

tzvi hirsh said...

"But why will a woman specifically fall in this manner; clearly learning Torah makes a man crafty as well?"
The simple way of learning is that that it takes 2 to tangle, and if the woman don't know how to keep a secret it don't mater what the man knows.
However you could also say that a man that all ways needs to learn will use out his mind for good things, but a woman that doesn't need to learn all the time will use her mind-while doing low class jobs- for the wrong things.
Now a day however we all have what to think about, and you can't get away without thinking.

Micha said...

Tzvi Hirsch wrote: "The simple way of learning is that that it takes 2 to tangle, and if the woman don't know how to keep a secret it don't mater what the man knows."
I am not sure what you mean by this. Even if she is ignorant, she isn't blurting anything out.
If she learns she will be more circumspect and it will be less likely that harder for her husband will get suspicious. If she doesn't learn she will not know how to be avoid what will make her husband suspicious and will be more afraid that her husband will catch her sinning. After all, what does she know?
Let us not forget that it is the ignorant man who sins in such ways since Torah protects a man who learns it from sin.
I quote again from your post: "a man that all ways needs to learn will use out his mind for good things, but a woman that doesn't need to learn all the time will use her mind-while doing low class jobs- for the wrong things."
Yes, but why? I think one answer is because of arrogance as I wrote at length above.
Hashem should save us from arrogance which is the worst midah problem.

tzvi hirsh said...

"If she learns she will be more circumspect and it will be less likely that harder for her husband will get suspicious. If she doesn't learn she will not know how to be avoid what will make her husband suspicious and will be more afraid that her husband will catch her sinning. After all, what does she know?"
A) You are asking that Rash"i's explanation isn't practical?
B) "After all, what does she know?"
We are talking about learning how claim ex.
Let us not forget that it is the ignorant man who sins in such ways since Torah protects a man who learns it from sin.
Are you saying that when someone is learned they can't sin? I wish that where true, but...

Micha said...

Tzvi Hirsch: "A) You are asking that Rash"i's explanation isn't practical?"
Not at all. Rashi is eminently practical. You explained that Rashi is discussing keeping a secret. To put it the way you posted it: "if the woman don't know how to keep a secret it don't mater what the man knows."
That is not what Rashi means at all. He uses the words, "shemitochah hiy meyvinah armomius v'oseh divarehah b'tzinah." That doesn't connote keeping a secret at all merely being modest-circumspect as I wrote.
"B) "After all, what does she know?"
We are talking about learning how claim ex."
Huh?
Perhaps you were cut off; could you clarify your meaning please.
Your final point was: "Are you saying that when someone is learned they can't sin? I wish that where true, but..."
Of course a learned man sins occasionally. This is a verse: "eyn tzaddik b'araetz asher ya'aseh tov v'lo yechetah..."
But it is rare for talmedei chachamim to violate one of the ten commandments. (This is not the case with professors who are often prone to the sin discussed here as the Igros Moshe pointed out to a surprised woman after she was propositioned by a professor...)

tzvi hirsh said...

"v'oseh divarehah b'tzinah"
Literally means that she does her things in hiding. Not "she is modest"
"B) "After all, what does she know?"
We are talking about learning how claim ex."
Meaning if she learns baba basra she will know what story is believed and which aren't.
Of course a learned man sins occasionally. This is a verse: "eyn tzaddik b'araetz asher ya'aseh tov v'lo yechetah..."
"But it is rare for talmedei chachamim to violate one of the ten commandments. (This is not the case with professors"
Their are 3 different terms here, learned, talmedei chachamim, and professors.
The meaning of the words talmedei chachamim (see tora oor from the baal ha'tanya) is that their whole being is permeated with Tora, Someone that has a good head and learned for 2 years in their spare time don't (necessarily) mean that their whole being is Tora, and what they learned affects them so deeply that they can't sin.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Tzvi Hirsch: I meant modest as in circumspect. If you translate the entire Rashi you will see that he does not learn that after learning gemara she she will learn to keep a secret (like you wrote.) He is clearly saying that learning will teach her how to be careful and circumspect. WHY the Torah only affects women in this adverse way is not explained. I explained what I understand to be the simplest reason. Of course this is the underlying reason behind the prohibition as well...
I don't believe the problem is specifically learning Bava Basrah as opposed to anywhere else in Shas. Gemara learning generally increases acumen no matter where you learn.
As far as the meaning of Talmid Chacham, it is true that the Alter Rebbe of Chabad repeats what many earlier authorities say about what a talmid chacham is (based on many places in Chazal such as: 'every talmid chacham who is not tocho k'varoh is not a talmid chacham.')
But I didn't mean it that way at all. I meant a person who has learned gemara and sharpened his understanding. The person I was referring to is an average Yeshivah student who spends his time learning and has a desire to learn l'shmah even though he has not yet attained this level. If this person continues to learn, he will in time come to a level of l'shma which will protect him from sin even when he is no longer involved exclusively in learning. Even someone just starting who is truly involved in and excited by learning Torah is very unlikely to fall in to the sin mentioned here.
The reason behind why Torah works that way is explained by the Arizal: "It is so hard to learn nigleh which is filled with questions and toil because this process breaks one's inner klipos."
This is only the case when the Torah is learned by men of course. Although there are exceptions to every rule, usually by the time one has attained a level of knowledge of an average talmid chacham of today,(at least several hundred daf of difficult gemaros of Shas, a working knowledge of halachah and lamdus skills,)will not fall to such terrible sins even when no longer exclusively involved in learning.
The rule with women learning gemara is that it can have very bad repercussions which is why Chazal prohibit teaching women gemara. They don't need it so it doesn't help them. On the contrary...
As far as learning a few years in one's spare time, it depends on what the person's true spiritual identity is. What does he yearn for? Is he thinking of Hashem the rest of the day or not? Does he rejoice in his learning or is he unaffected by it?
It comes out of Rabeinu Yonah and Maharal that one who loves Chochmas Hatorah is a n aspect of a talmid chacham even if he knows next to nothing.

tzvi hirsh said...

"I meant modest as in circumspect. If you translate the entire Rashi you will see that he does not learn that after learning gemara she she will learn to keep a secret (like you wrote.) He is clearly saying that learning will teach her how to be careful and circumspect."
I don't see in the rules of grammar that this is the case, (see also how Artscroll learns it).

"WHY the Torah only affects women in this adverse way is not explained."
Well why would you say that the Rash"i said what he said, but left out the main point?

"If this person continues to learn, he will in time come to a level of l'shma which will protect him from sin"
"Even someone just starting who is truly involved in and excited by learning Torah is very unlikely to fall in to the sin mentioned here."

You are right that if the person is truly good nothing can affect them. However if for many people they have a yatsair hora, and you have a natural deterrent of a lack of know how, it would be wrong to let them learn, if there would be no gain which is needed.

"This is only the case when the Torah is learned by men of course."
Why do you say this?

"It comes out of Rabeinu Yonah and Maharal that one who loves Chochmas Hatorah is a n aspect of a talmid chacham even if he knows next to nothing."
Which also means that the learning itself means close to nothing, so there is no gain by actually learning.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Tzvi Hirsch: I wrote modest-circumspect. Circumspect is definitely appropriate. By modest I meant unobtrusive.
I don't own an Artscroll Sotah (I own one Hebrew Artscroll I received as a gift years ago)
Rashi explains: "it is as if she learned tiflus. Mitochah, from within the Torah, hiy mayvenah she understands, armomeiyus, craftiness VIOSEH divarehah and does her actions b'tzinah, in hiding."
Please explain the words if the meaning is only that she learns how to keep quiet about her failings.
As far as your second point, Rashi did not leave out the main point at all. Do you think every underlying reason in chasidus for example is contradicted if Rashi doesn't spell it out? Rashi is mekatzer and is a meforesh. He explains pshat in the gemara not necessarily the underlying reasons behind things.
You wrote: "You are right that if the person is truly good nothing can affect them. However if for many people they have a yatsair hora, and you have a natural deterrent of a lack of know how, it would be wrong to let them learn, if there would be no gain which is needed."
There is (virtually) no such thing as a person who is "naturally good." Most of us are a mixture. So how are we to fight the yetzer hara?
For men learning Torah is the way. Surely you don't mean to argue on the gemara which says that if one meets his yetzer he should draw it into the beis hamidrash.
But then what did you mean by: ""It comes out of Rabeinu Yonah and Maharal that one who loves Chochmas Hatorah is a n aspect of a talmid chacham even if he knows next to nothing."
Which also means that the learning itself means close to nothing, so there is no gain by actually learning."
Loving learning without actually doing it is very unusual unless one has big barriers preventing him from actualizing his dream to learn. Love is not theoretical. One who loves Torah learning invariably loves chachamim and longs to learn and connect to Hashem. (At least that is clearly what the Rabeinu Yonah and Maharal are talking about.)
One who really can't learn for whatever reason but loves Torah is also very unlikely to fall in the manner discussed in the gemara.
As far as your question of why I say that the benifits of learning gemara don't apply to a woman, I really don't know how you could have missed this. Chazal say that her learning will cause her to sin, does this sound like it will help her fight her yetzer?
But for your information, this comes out of the words Chidah and the Chakrei Lev when they write about this issue.
What I wrote was of course the general rule. There have been a number of exceptions throughout the ages, but they were few and far between and everyone attested to their excessive modesty, piety and fear of Heaven...

tzvi hirsh said...

"Please explain the words if the meaning is only that she learns how to keep quiet about her failings."
I don't understand what is superfluous in Rash"i's words.

"As far as your second point, Rashi did not leave out the main point at all. Do you think every underlying reason in chasidus for example is contradicted if Rashi doesn't spell it out? Rashi is mekatzer and is a meforesh. He explains pshat in the gemara not necessarily the underlying reasons behind things."
We aren't talking Chasidus here, we are talking about the reason the gamoro (which doesn't discus Chasidus either) says that women shouldn't learn Tora. Ego is something which is discussed in gamoro all the time.

"Surely you don't mean to argue on the gemara which says that if one meets his yetzer he should draw it into the beis hamidrash."
A) (Going to the beis hamidrash is a mitzva in it's own right.)
B) The effect of learning Tora depends on how and why the person is learning it. "any student that isn't proper you don't except him". This is a very long discussion though.

"One who loves Torah learning invariably loves chachamim and longs to learn and connect to Hashem."
I only meant that this reason isn't a reason to learn.

"Chazal say that her learning will cause her to sin, does this sound like it will help her fight her yetzer?"
Only if she falls under the advise of Chazal.

"But for your information, this comes out of the words Chidah and the Chakrei Lev when they write about this issue."
Did they wright this on the gamoro, or as a explanation to the practice?

"What I wrote was of course the general rule. There have been a number of exceptions throughout the ages"
There has been a practice amongst the micubolim to teach their daughter Tora. (See the lubavicher Rebbe's memories).

In general why did the gamoro leave out the main point, and say armomeiyus craftiness? It should have just said ego!

Micha Golshevsky said...

Tzvi Hirsch: I repeat; Rashi clearly doesn't learn like you wrote. Rashi says she does her action in hiding not that she keeps a secret. If he meant that she keeps a secret, why wouldn't he say that?
You wrote: "We aren't talking Chasidus here, we are talking about the reason the gamoro (which doesn't discus Chasidus either) says that women shouldn't learn Tora. Ego is something which is discussed in gamoro all the time."
I think I already explained clearly enough but I will elaborate. The gemara discusses the result of teaching women. It does not discuss the mechanics of this. What should it have said? A man can also come to arrogance through learning. But the fact that a woman is in much greater danger of falling to very bad things as a result of learning is quite clear from our gemara.
In addition, we often find very similar issues in chasidus. Something seems straightforward but after learning chasidus we have a very different take what this is really teaching me.
Although I explained a little of why learning gemara is so difficult before, I will write a little more since this seems relevant. Gemara is Torah Sheba'al Peh so they could only write as little as possible. They write very succinctly giving the process in full but often without nearly enough elaboration. The same holds true for Rashi. He is only explaining the gemara and very mekatzer. The gemara could not have said only arrogance since this isn't enough. The shortest way to get to this and yet explain why Chazal are so extreme in their language is to write it as it is written.
You wrote: "A) (Going to the beis hamidrash is a mitzva in it's own right.)"
That makes no sense. Very many mefarshim explain that the zechus of toiling in Torah will redeem him from the yetzer. V'salmid Torah k'neged kulam.
You wrote: B) The effect of learning Tora depends on how and why the person is learning it. "any student that isn't proper you don't except him". This is a very long discussion though"
That is obvious from what I wrote. It is a completely different topic and has no bearing here.Obviously woman who learn gemara are most often not effected positively; Chazal prohibited teaching geamara to women after all.
One who loves Torah learning invariably loves chachamim and longs to learn and connect to Hashem.
"You wrote: I only meant that this reason isn't a reason to learn."
I don't see your problem here. Love of Torah IS a reason to learn let me repeat: "Loving learning without actually learning is very unusual unless one has big barriers preventing him from actualizing his dream to learn. Love is not theoretical. One who loves Torah learning invariably loves chachamim and longs to learn and connect to Hashem."
Why do you say that loving Torah learning won't lead to learning it.

Once again I am clueless. What exactly do you mean by your expresion: "Falls under the advice of Chazal."
Do you have any indication that certain women don't fall under the advice of Chazal (with the possible exception of the few and far between who everyone attested to their excessive modesty, piety and fear of Heaven I already wrote about?)
I am not sure the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l, was discussing teaching woman gemara in your quote but if you think the daughters of cabalists usually are always taught torah you are mistaken.
Those who were fell into the above catagory and were few and far between as I wrote.
Also most Mekubalim did not teach their daughters such things. If you doubt me get in touch with the many who learn in Sha'ar Hashamayim etc. You will find that I am correct. The Rebbe probably discusses certain cabalists in Europe whose daughters were very very special and had already learned everything applicable to women and were very modest and G-d fearing and filled with humility. Not easy to find today.
The Chidah and Chakrei Lev wrote regarding the reason behind our gemara.

You wrote: "In general why did the gamoro leave out the main point, and say armomeiyus craftiness? It should have just said ego!"
As I explained above, that would not have been enough to justify this prohibition. It is the dire effects of this ego such as what happened to Beruriah and the like that forced Chazal to prohibit this. Although these effects are the result of ego as it says earlier in the gemara (I mentioned this earlier) Why should the gemara have to repeat itself over again? The gemara is mekatzer. It is enough to write the resultant sin here and the cause of the sin earlier on in the Meseches. According to you why does the gemara use the word tiflus without explaining. this can mean either folly or promiscuity. Why allow the Rambam to argue with Rashi about pshat in our gemara. There are hundreds of places where you can ask why it seems as though the underlying reason is missing. This was part of Hashem's plan in refraining from writing Torah Sheba'al Peh.
It would be so much easier if the underlying reasons were added to shas but they were not for a reason.

tzvi hirsh said...

I don't see why You say that CLEARLY the gamoro says only like your way. I can accept the other interpretation, but you can't say that the simple interpretation is any other than the one I gave.
"Rashi clearly doesn't learn like you wrote. Rashi says she does her action in hiding not that she keeps a secret. If he meant that she keeps a secret, why wouldn't he say that?"
"As I explained above, that would not have been enough to justify this prohibition. It is the dire effects of this ego"
A) Rash"i is saying that the problem is hiding her things. You are saying that the fact that Rash"i sounds superfluous is because he is hinting to something that is coming from something else.
Very good answer, but you can also say that the point is that she learns to hid the details around the story so she will no get caught.
B) If the gamoro wanted to say the end result it was could have said that it brings tiflus, and Rash"i could have told us how. The word armumius doesn't tell us ego, nor does Rash"i's long explanation tell us that either.
C) The gamoro already told us that ego brings to bad things, it doesn't have to tell us again.
(D) Ego is bad enough)

"A) (Going to the beis hamidrash is a mitzva in it's own right.)"
That makes no sense. Very many mefarshim explain that the zechus OF TOILING in Torah will redeem him from the yetzer. V'salmid Torah k'neged kulam.
I don't know which mefarshim you are referring to but,
A)The point here is toiling in tora B)Pulling the yetzer
C) We find all over that the zicus of working for Tora is what makes the Tora affect the person.
D) It is funny that you chose this Chazal, V'salmid Torah k'neged kulam. All though it is equivalent to everything, this saying k'neged kulam is said on many mitsvot like charity. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that every mitava has it's
unique affect. The affect of Tora is not necessarily to keep one away from sin, (although it helps in certain aspects- it is like a candle that shows you the way).

"Chazal prohibited teaching geamara to women after all"
I would like to see that somewhere in a halacha book.

"I am not sure the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l, was discussing teaching woman gemara in your quote but if you think the daughters of cabalists usually are always taught torah you are mistaken.
Those who were fell into the above catagory and were few and far between as I wrote.
Also most Mekualim did not teach their daughters such things. If you doubt me get in touch with the many who learn in Sha'ar Hashamayim etc. You will find that I am correct."
I am not referring to the present Rebbe rather I am referring to a book from the previous Rebbe.
There definitely where Mekubalim that did teach their daughters Tora although they didn't reveal it at all and it was a utmost secret, (maybe because of modesty or other reasons according to Kabbala). Maybe there are now a days Mekubalim that don't teach their daughters, but this certainly was a genaral practic, you can see the story there.

"The Chidah and Chakrei Lev wrote regarding the reason behind our gemara."
Note the word behind, did they say that that is the simple explanation of the gamoro?
Where is this in the chinuch?
There are hundreds of places where you can ask why it seems as though the underlying reason is missing. This was part of Hashem's plan in refraining from writing Torah Sheba'al Peh.
"It would be so much easier if the underlying reasons were added to shas but they were not for a reason"
You can't say a side point is said and the main point is omitted if it can't be proven out, because the side point would be a lie. Of course the gamoro is short, but the points are in there!

Micha Golshevsky said...

A) The Maharil in Teshuvah (199)says like I said. This is the obvious pshat in Rashi as I already explained at great length. See there.

B) Rashi is concise here as ever. I already explained this at length above.

As far as your reading of the gemara in Kedushin and Sukkah:
The gemara in Sotah says that Torah protects from sin more than mitzvos.
You are taking the gemara out of immediate context. See there.
In addition there are only six mitsvos which Chazal say are k'neged kulam. Teshuvah may be a seventh.
Beis Midrash is not one of them.

"Chazal prohibited teaching gemara to women after all"
You wrote: "I would like to see that somewhere in a halacha book."

I think you should learn more Shulchan Aruch: "...Chazal commanded us not to teach them torah."
Obviously an issur d'rabanan. This is in the Rambam as well.

One reason why it says they get reward for what they learn is explained by the Chazon Ish. He holds that one may teach them on a one time basis.
Others argue but that is one way to understand. See "Toras Imechah" for a complete explanation.

There are hundreds of places where you can ask why it seems as though the underlying reason is missing. This was part of Hashem's plan in refraining from writing Torah Sheba'al Peh.

You wrote: You can't say a side point is said and the main point is omitted if it can't be proven out, because the side point would be a lie. Of course the gamoro is short, but the points are in there!"

Very often the entire reason for a practice or halahcha is completely missing. The points are not always in there.
What the gemara brings is not a small point; it is the essential reason for the prohibition. This is the main point but... it is not the underlying reason.
As I already explained at very great length, the reason for the prohibition was the problems which could result. Rashi gives one example of what the problem is. Rambam learns a seemingly different problem.
What I wrote explains the underlying reason for both ways. The gemara often doesn't give the entire picture. What the gemara says is definitely not a side point. They had to write the absolute minimum and not more.
Those who think they added an extra word are very mistaken.
Hashem should help us fulfill mitzvos and learn Torah with great joy!

tzvi hirsh said...

Maharil or maharal?