Friday, February 23, 2018

Remembering Amalek - Parshat Zachor

Rabbi Kessin has a new shiur, audio only : Purim Amalek and the Modern Era
[the sound quality on that audio is not great, I'll have to try and listen on another device with better sound control]

Women and Parshat Zachor by Rabbi Da'vid Sperling

There is a well-known mitzvah to remember Amalek by listening to Parshat Zachor each year on the Shabbat before Purim. We will examine the question of whether women are also obligated to listen to this Torah reading on Shabbat.

The Sefer HaChinuch [603] writes that the mitzvah to remember Amalek applies to men and not women – "for they (the men) are obligated to wage war and take vengeance on the enemy and not the women". This explanation connects the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did with the command to go to war against them. As men are obligated in the war against them, and not women, the mitzvah to remember Amalek is also limited to men. Others explain that as this mitzvah is time-bound, women are exempted under the rule of positive time-bound commandments that do not apply to them.

On the other hand, the Minchat Chinuch [ibid] disagrees completely. Firstly, the Torah command to remember Amalek could not be limited to the Shabbat reading before Purim – there was no Shabbat Zachor until after Purim was established. If so, the essential Torah mitzvah is to read the section recalling Amalek once a year – which removes it from the category of a time-bound mitzvah, and therefore women are in fact obligated. The rabbinic decree to perform the mitzvah on Parshat Zachor does not alter this fact. 

Secondly, why should we assume that the mitzvah to remember Amalek is connected to the mitzvah to wage war with them? Perhaps they are two separate commands that are not linked – and if so, women would be obligated in recalling even if they do not take part in the war against them.

Thirdly, it is not so clear that women are exempt from going to war against Amalek. The Mishna [Sotah chapter 8] states that for a milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), a groom leaves his wedding chamber to go out to war, and "even a bride leaves her chuppah". And the Rambam [Laws of Kings 7:4] quotes this as halacha. So, even if the Chinuch is correct in linking the mitzvah of remembering to that of waging war – again women should be obligated. 

On the other hand, others disagree with the Rambam and explain that the bride leaves her chuppah because … the chatan has gone to war, and she can't have a wedding by herself! [Radbaz ibid]. Still others understand that a woman leaves the chuppah in order to play a supporting role behind the lines – which would leave our question of whether they are obligated in remembering Amalek somewhat unresolved. If the mitzvah to recall is only required by those who need to actually take up arms against Amalek, then women (based on this understanding) would be exempt. On the other hand, if the need to remember is in order to encourage us to go to war, then perhaps women, who would play a part in the war effort, also need this encouragement.

In practice, there are women who are very particular about Parshat Zachor and make every effort to hear it. On the other hand, there are those who rely on the major halachic opinions which exempt women from this mitzvah.

Source: Nishmat 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, common sense tells us that the women should encourage the men to fight against Amaleik, whereas the women can pray for them, encourage and backing them up. Unfortunately, today we have in our own holy Land of Israel, Jewish women being forced and encouraged to serve in the military, which goes against the Halacha and common sense (which apparently does not exist today). The women should be and are the backbone of society, therefore, strengthening the resolve of the men and society to go in H's Ways. From this we should learn to live the Jewish life which would bring the calm and normalcy back into our lives and the rest of society.