Monday, September 18, 2006

Daf Yomi - Sukkah 16 - Women Touching a Sefer Torah

The Gemara explains the dispute cited in the Mishna regarding a wall of a Sukkah that starts more than three tefachim above the ground. This dispute is parallel to the laws of Shabbos where there is a dispute if a suspended wall is deemed to be a wall and would thus create a private domain with regard to carrying on Shabbos. The Gemara cites an incident that occurred in Tzippori where the people forgot to bring the Sefer Torah to the shul prior to Shabbos and they carried it on Shabbos, relying on sheets that were spread on posts prior to Shabbos. The Aruch LaNer wonders why they did not have a gentile carry the Sefer Torah. The Aruch LaNer answers that they did not employ a gentile because it is degrading to have a Sefer Torah carried by a gentile. The question of the Aruch LaNer, however, is difficult to understand, as Rashi writes that the reason the Sefer Torah was in the house was because the people sought to protect the Sefer Torah from the gentiles. This would imply that the Jews did not wish to make it known to the gentiles that they were in possession of a Sefer Torah (See Shearim Mitzuyanim B’Halacha who mentions this.)The Rambam in Hilchos Sefer Torah (10:8) rules that any person who is tamei, such as a niddah (a woman who has menstruated) or a gentile is permitted to touch a Sefer Torah as we have a principle that Torah cannot contract tumah. Sefer Otzar HaYedios cites a responsa from the Divrei Hillel who rules based on the words of the Rambam that if a gentile was in shul on Simchas Torah, he should be allowed to hold the Sefer Torah because it may otherwise cause the gentiles to hate the Jews. The Rema in Orach Chaim 88 quotes sources who maintain that a woman should not enter a shul while she is a niddah. Furthermore, a woman who is a niddah should not pray, mention the Name of Hashem or even touch a sefer. The Rema also quotes sources who disagree with this ruling. The Rema concludes that the custom is in accordance with the first opinion. However, the Rema limits this restriction to a woman who is still menstruating whereas a woman who has ceased to see a flow but is in the stage of becoming pure is not restricted from entering a shul, praying, reciting the Name of HaShem or from touching a sefer.

(A woman soferet discusses the custom here and some permit it and some state that the custom is still prevalant today as can be seen here and here and it would seem that the issue has become a bit political as this article would indicate here. We are not endorsing the halachic view of any of the sites that we linked to.)


Big Moish said...

Can a woman halachically be a sofer(et)?

Avromi said...

Big: One of the reasons i wrote that the links were not for halachic purposes. Shulchan Aruch Y"D 281 rules than a woman cannot write a sefer Torah and it is passul. Shach cites a drisha that states this should only be by tefillin and not by sefer Torah. Mishna Berura in O"C 39 rules that a woman cannot write A Torah or mezuza.

Avromi said...

I didnt check out all these sources

A number of Ahronim write that women are invalid to write the Megillah. These include: the Maaseh Rokeah, R. Meir Pearles, R. Akiva Eiger, R Yosef Messas, Lishkat Hasofer , and the Shaarey Teshuvah. Nevertheless there is a strong trend in Halakhah to validate women to write Megillot. The Drishah would validate women to write all sacred texts save Tefilin. While the Shulhan Arukh disagrees with the Drishah, he omits women from his list of those who are pesulim to write the Megillah. A large number of major ahronim indeed rule either l’halakhah or l’ma’aseh that women are keshairot. These Ahronim include R. David Oppenheim, the Chida, the Pri Megadim, the Teshuvah Me’ahavah, the Sdei Hemed, the Arukh Hashulhan, the Avnei Nezer, the Beit Oved, and the Tzitz Eliezer. Given the number, stature, and compelling reasoning of these Ahronim, it seems that the weight of the halakhic discussion inclines toward permitting women to write megillot Esther for communal ritual use provided that they are competent in the requisite Halakhot.


ben said...

The hardest one to understabnd here is that a woman who is a niddah cannot mention the Name of HaShem. How does a woman ever recite brachos then?

Anonymous said...

Shalom to you, Reb Avromi, & thank you for your writings as well as your links to my work.
I found this post really interesting & well written. It's definitely a subject which some rabbis consider closed & other view as still open for extrapolation & interpretation.
My (Orthodox) rabbi worked with me to establish my sofrut practice within the minority opinion of the Be'er Heytav/Drisha/Tur. To be careful, I don't write before I go to miqveh. It's true that a Sefer Torah is not mequbel tumah, but a partially written one, I understand there is some doubt about that. So I don't write or repair Sifrei while a niddah.