Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GR"A on women's reward for Torah study

I found an interesting GR"A quoted in R' Shach's discussion (Avi Ezri, Hil. Talmud Torah) of why women should recite birchas haTorah. The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 246:6) quotes the Rambam's statement that women who learn Torah receive reward just as anyone not obligated to perform a mitzvah receives reward if they do so anyway. Had you asked me I would have said the source for this din is R' Chanina's statement quoted in various places (e.g. Kid 31a) that "gadol metzuveh v'oseh", someone who is obligated to do a mitzvah receives greater reward for its performance than someone who is "aino metzuveh", someone who voluntarily performs the mitzvah, but the aino metzuveh does receive some reward.

The GR"A, however, points to a different source. GR"A cites Bava Kama 38 where we learn that even a non-Jew who learns Torah (the 7 mitzvos that apply to non-Jews) can become as great as the kohein gadol.

Why would the GR"A not refer to R' Chanina and instead send you to a gemara that speaks of the reward a non-Jew can receive for talmud Torah? Are we to infer that the reward of an "aino metzuveh" who studies Torah is special and distinct from the reward of an "aino metzuveh" who engages in other mitzvos (R' Chanina's din)?


  1. So your two options are:
    That women are so outside of the parsha of limud hatorah that their only reason for schar is BK 38. I don't like this, because there CANNOT be a difference between the lomdus of women in limud and women in zman gramas, because the ptur of b is a limud from a (bneichem/tefillin).
    That Torah is not a mitzvah like other mitzvos, and the schar of limud hatorah is the effect on the person, irrespective of any tzivui.

    Tzad III, that the Gaon is not talking about the less significant Reb Chanina, because BK 38 is ten times more important.

  2. >>>That women are so outside of the parsha of limud hatorah that their only reason for schar is BK 38

    That would mean BK 38 is a lesser reward than regular metzuveh v;oseh, which doesn't seem right (your third tzad ranks it higher).

  3. You're right, BK clearly is a great schar. What I meant was that irrespective of whether Reb Chanina or BK is greater, Reb Chanina is not relevant to women because they're mufka entirely from the parsha.

    I was thinking about my comment, that its not possible to distinguish between the ptur from torah and the ptur from ZGs, and I'm not so sure that's true. It could be that all we learn from bneichem is the fact of ptur. We apply the ptur to all ZGs, and we say that the ptur is based on the element of zg, and it could be that a ptur that is based on a reason still means they're in the parsha but with a ptur, so they have a din of eino metzuva. But by Torah itself, it could be that the ptur is absolute and not just because of this or that, and they're not in the parsha at all even to say that they're eino metzuvah, like a non-jew is not called eino metzuva on what he does, or a man on vesafra lah, assuming it's a mitzva.

  4. I just realized that the Gaon you brought down today has to shtim with the Gaon in your earlier post on "Are Women *Obligated* in Birkas Hatorah." There, he says that they make a bracha just like they do on any other zman grama. Obviously he holds that their shaichus to Torah is no different than to any Zman Grama. So, that leaves only what I called tzad two and three, which are variations on what you suggested in this post, that BK is "special and distinct from the reward of an "eino metzuveh". I don't know how the Gaon can read that into the Rambam, because the Rambam's reason would not apply to a goy, e.g., if a goy wore tzitzis, and the Gaon's reason applies to a goy.

  5. great unknown5:29 PM

    BK carries the implication that there is a chiyuv on the non-Jew to learn the 7 mitzvot - at least on the hechsher mitzvah level. Therefore, while the Rambam is discussing the general schar for eino metzuva, the GR"A is adding a level of metzuva in limud for those mitzvot a woman is obligated in.

    According to this, there would be differing levels of schar for a woman learning hilchos taharas hamishpacha v hilchos tefillin.

  6. Great Unknown, that is pretty much the approach R' Shach took.

  7. great unknown6:58 PM

    baruch shekivanti. I'm on the road and only took my kesuvot sefarim with me to prepare for elul zman.

  8. I was thinking that Gra was contending with Rambma's psak at the end of TT chapter 1 where teaching is Tiflos. Comparing it to an akum who too is chayav mita (melachim 10:9)and still becomes a kohen gadol if he learns the permissible works better.

    However both akum and isha I believe Rambam is more nuanced and we need to explain Hil Melachim 8:11 for goy and Hil Yesodei Hatorah 4:13 where women may do Havayot de'abaye Verava!

  9. The S.A. is quoting the Rambam and the GR"A is giving a makor, so how can he be contending with their psak? The gemara says teaching torah is tiflus, so you can't argue with that -- you just need to define the parameters, but I don't see how that comes into play in this discussion.

  10. What I was saying is that this is not a regular eino Metzuvah ve'osseh just like teaching a goy is not.

  11. Anonymous8:44 PM

    Chaim B,
    For starters see Shabbas 127a, not only do we supposedly receive the spiritual benefits or "reward" in this world in addition to our "reward" upstairs not diminishing in market or inherent value, but torah study is the equivalent to quite a few "commandments".
    So the reward must be a whole different kind of reward, here and upstairs.

    David G,
    No one said anything about teaching torah to women and or that iffy definition for tiflus in this particular post. That passage is an entirely different (bratty/misunderstood/misconstrued/misogynic/miserable) sketchy argument that needs to be precisely defined and definitively so, for once and for all.

    Jaded Topaz

  12. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Chaim B,

    How are you defining the word "torah".
    Regarding shabbas 127a, a few appear to be commandments that are based on time frames(early attendance at the bais medrash), sensitive ones at particular times (escorting the dead,helping brides) among other commandments that are not based on a set time, honoring parents,visting the sick.....

    So if torah learning is equivalent to the aformentioned set of commandments,commandments that include both time sensitive ones and non-time sensitive ones I think the reward is not the same kind of reward as that of a commandment that one does but is not obligated to do like if I wear hot pink leather strapped teffillin ? (did rashi's daughters recite a blessing on their teffillin ?)

    And anyway who said women are not obligated to learn torah ?

    Especially if torah technically refers to "commandments" ?

    Jaded Topaz

  13. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Another source that might be of interest regarding the "reward" for torah study and it's purported equivalent is the Mishna in Tractate Peah (1:1),
    not sure what precisely it is actually suggesting as I don't have a mishnayos handy ... but I found that reference in the GRA's wikipedia entry which describes that passage as "the study of torah is equal to all of the mitzvos".


    Jaded Topaz

  14. is it clear that the 'as great as the kohen gadol' quote is referring to the reward?

    To me it seems like the GR"A was referring to the potential a woman can achieve in learning as opposed to the reward for her learning..

    am I wrong?

  15. Anonymous9:09 PM

    "achieve" where, and how are you differentiating between "achieve" or achievements and "rewards" that are awarded.?
    Isn't an "achievement" a reward in and of itself ?

    According to shabbas 127a, learning torah is equal to a bundle of important commandments whose "reward" is received or felt in this world and not diminished upstairs...If I understood correctly.
    This would suggest that the "reward" of torah learning is the same kind of "reward".
    And just to reiterate, isn't achievement a "reward".

    jaded topaz

  16. @jaded topaz,

    the difference is the goal, or rather the outcome.

    to me the GR"A is saying a woman can achieve a deep knowledge of Torah through Torah learning -- which in itself is (as you said) a reward, but it says nothing about the 'שכר' of her mitzwoth, re: שאינו מצווה

    the hava amina is this: one might think, because 'nashim da'atan kalot,' that they would get reward (שכר) for Torah learning, but that their _learning_ wouldn't necesarily be very effective.

    if you don't see a distinction, please explain.

    of course it's likely I'm misunderstanding what the GR"A was saying.


  17. Anonymous4:08 PM


    "effective" in what way ?

    Are you suggesting that all men are non-kalos-rosh in nature ?

    Also,"nashim daatan kalot" is a misunderstood misnomer, can you please provide the thread with the source that passage is sourced out of.
    Not all women are "kalos rosh" in nature,and not all men are not "kalos rosh" in nature.

    Define "schar" and the precise context you are referring to.

    jaded topaz

  18. Anonymous4:12 PM


    Also, how would you incorporate shabbas 127a and peiah 1:1 into your points about the "schar" for torah learning and which gender earns what.
    Olaam Habah is not like getting honored at a yeshiva,synagogue or jewish organization's dinner,brunch,picnic and or tea, its not even like happy hour after work ;-)

    Anyway, how are you defining "schar", at the end of the day its all about the precise definitive definitions for words.

    jaded topaz