Women and Commandments - Shabbat 62
We read here an assumed principle discussed on earlier pages, that women are exempt from all time-specific positive commandments [kol mitzvah aseh sheh-ha-zman gorma nashim p’turot]. In this case, Rabbi Meir argues that since tefillin [prayer boxes] are required both at night and on Shabbat, it is not limited by time and thus incumbent on women. There is a legend that the famous medieval Talmud commentator Rashi taught his daughters to wear tefillin, and a recent novel Rashi’s Daughters: A Novel of Life, Love and Talmud in Medieval France by Maggie Anton takes a romantic (and not too historical, according to a review I read) look at that story. In most traditional communities, however, the principle regarding time-bound positive commandments is invoked to prevent women from publicly reading from the Torah or participating in a minyan [prayer quorum] or reciting kaddish [prayer in honor of the dead].
Today’s page later delves into the gruesome cosmic punishments of Jewish women for being too seductive and haughty, but for us there is a bit of comic relief. How would you interpret the saying, “Three things bring a man to poverty: urinating naked in front of one’s bed, disrespecting washing the hands, and his wife cursing him to his face”? Fortunately, Raba clarifies each of these possibilities. Urinating facing away from the bed or into a chamber pot is acceptable, but on the floor is not. Even washing the hands inadequately is OK, as long as they are washed at all. And the wife’s cursing must be because of her jewelry, and he is only at risk if he has the money but doesn’t provide it. Incontinent slovenly penny-pinchers, beware!
Rabbi Adam Chalom