Wednesday, February 21, 2007

af hein hayu b'oso hanes (II)

Yesterday’s comments stole my thunder on this topic. Women should theoretically be exempt from reading megillah because it is a mitzvah which is zman gerama, but since af hein hayu b’oso hanes they indeed are obligated. What is the conceptual difference between Rashi’s understanding of af hein, that women shared the experience of the Purim miracle, and Rashbam’s understanding, that they initiated the miracle? My thought matched that of Anon1 - this issue perhaps depends on the Brisker Rav's (stencil Archin 3) chakira: does the sevara of af hein hayu b’oso hanes simply remove the potential exemption of zman gerama, or is it itself a new categorical obligation? According to Rashi, women and men are equally obligated in megillah reading based on their shared experience of the miracle of Purim. Af hein simply removes the exemption from women. According to Rashbam, af hein is a categorically new obligation which stems from women being the initiators of the miracle. The Brisker Rav suggests that this explains the dispute in Rishonim whether women can read megillah for men. If they share the same obligation, theoretically this would be acceptable; however, if the obligation of men and women are categorically different in nature, a woman cannot be motzi a man in keriah. (Side question: all the Rishonim assume that men can be motzi women. If the chiyuvim are categorically different, why should this be true? I am not sure of the answer…)

I recently heard a shiur on this issue from R’ Friedman, R.Y. of Mesivta Rambam, and his explanation matched that suggested in the comment by R’ Tal Benschar. According to Rashi, megillah reading is simple expression of gratitude for being saved. According to Rashbam, reading megillah is much more than that – it includes an acknowledgment of the specific vehicle through which Hashem’s hashgacha was demonstrated to the world. The reading serves almost as a re-enactment of the event of the miracle itself, and is therefore limited to the participants (or their representatives) in the events which unfolded.


  1. yehuda R11:47 AM

    Men can be yotzey women because no matter how you understand 'af hein'men were also in that 'af hein'.Also presumbly chazel were made that chiyuv on women with the condition that men can be motzey them.

  2. Valid question. R'Goldvicht ztl in the same shiur presented two other approached -- which I believe earlier achronim suggest -- as to why women cannot be motzi men. In a nutshell, women could be chayav in mikra megilah but perhaps they are not chayav in some additional component of it -- e.g., the hallel aspect, some side of zechiras amalek, a difference between kriya and shemiya - take your pick. But all of those approaches do not turn on the machlokes re: af hein hayu and with that line of thinking (the formulation either of the Griz or his brother R'Moshe) you're right on one side of the chakira it could be a question.

  3. I think yehudah r is right - the question doesn't make sense. my bad.

  4. anon14:10 PM

    if the pshat is like you quote from the Griz that it is a special chiyuv based on the fact that they were the vehicle of the nes -- then why does af hein still apply to the men?

  5. now i'm starting to change my mind again and think it is a question! when rashbam says women caused the nes, I don't know that he means to exclude men from being the cause/vehicle also, so men share that same level of chiyuv. this then works out to the same type answer as men have multiple mechayvim for keriah, women only one (like the other examples you gave).