Women Wearing Tallit? A Question and Some Tentative Answers
Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde
Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America. None of those institutions necessarily agree (or disagree) with these tentative thoughts, and it is possible that the author himself will not, in the future, agree with them either – that is why the word “tentative” is in the title.
I have to confess that when I sent this piece out to some of my colleagues and friends to read, I received a very thoughtful but actually saddening reply from one of my close friends. He stated (somewhat edited) as follows:
There is, I think, a larger issue looming here, independent of the context of this particular question. Our community is divided into three groups. (1) The first are those who are members of the Modern Orthodox community whose allegiance to our community and its practices are not really dependent on intellectual satisfaction, but are driven by more spiritual ideas. (2) The second are people who are simply content to have a less progressive life in their religious existence than in their professional life, for social, family or other reasons. Both of these groups will be content with your essay. But there is a third group present in our community. This group (3) is not content with a halacha that is lacking modern day sensibilities. This essay argues that we are stuck with various conventions and attitudes even when halacha could afford much greater flexibility. All of us worry if we are providing the right responses for this group, which is made up of people who are who are looking for the same intellectual openness, progressiveness and creativity in all spheres of their life, including Judaism. They are, for sure, less traditional than the rest of the community, but fully bound by halacha. We are at risk of losing this portion of our community and we have to work harder to address the religious needs of this population as it is one that you and I probably identify with most closely. If we are not careful, after writing these kinds of reasonable but conservative responses for a few more decades, you will see that you have not been meeting the needs of this group and we will all agonize over a failed opportunity to strengthen this vital segment of our community.
I recognize that this email preface contains much to consider and I am still processing it, but a share it in place of a preface. I hope it is not correct in its analysis, but worry that it is.
Dear Rabbi Ploni,
I am seeking your guidance in regard to a request I received from a woman, new to our community, who wishes to wear a tallit at shul. Currently, no other woman wears one here; but this woman has worn hers for years in other cities. She is a shomeret mitzvah in every visible way, and her request came to me with total respect and modesty. She wears a tallit katan already and has for years. In my heart, I want to say ‘yes’ because I am unaware of any authentic issur; yet, I fear the potential challenge to congregational equilibrium that might be generated. In my conversations with her, I cited Igrot Moshe which licenses a talit for a woman if it is more of a beged isha than a conventional tallit as worn by men. This woman has owned her own all-white tallit for a few years and feels emotionally attached to it. I do not know if I should stand by the position of Igrot Moshe and give my blessings only to a tallit that is manufactured specifically for a woman, or if the more proper answer is to allow her to wear the beged she already owns and ask for her cooperation in terms of continued modesty and discretion. I would like to resolve this matter as soon as possible. I look forward to your recommendation.
I have dreaded receiving this question from a shul rabbi. Not because I am afraid of hard questions – maybe I should be, but I understand that, to some extent, that is now part of my job. Nor is it because this question is outside my area of technical halachic expertise. Such cases (all too common for me) are easy to answer as I say “I do not know” and give them the phone number of a true gadol betorah, Rabbi Mordechai Willig שליט”א who more learned and wiser than me and one whose judgment should generally be followed.
This question is not such a case. I think I do understand hilchot tzitzit well, regularly answer hilchot tzitzit questions, and think this is within my area of halachic competence on a technical level. The problem is that there are two sets of issues to sort through: the technically halachic and the practical implications of when and how to effect profound change in customs within our Orthodox society. The complexity of the issue derives not so much from the difficulty in sorting out the halachot as from difficulties in sorting out the implications of the sociological changes that would result. Because of that problem, and its tension with my view that mitzvot should be encouraged, I dread this question because I see no reasonable way to answer it that resolves all the complex sociological issues reasonably.
I. What is the Current Minhag
There is a deep and strong post-Talmudic minhag yisrael that women do not, in fact, wear a tallit; see Maharil Chadashot 7 for example. Unlike many other mitzvot aseh she’azeman grama that women perform, this is a mitzvah that customarily women do not do. However, unlike tefillin which the gemara and rishonim discuss and explain why women do not and should not wear them (see Tur, Bet Yosef, and Rama OC 38:3) there is no obvious explanation for why women should not wear a tallit, whether it be a tallit katan or a tallit gadol. Indeed, like any mitzvah aseh she’hazeman grama, it is a mitzvah of a Torah level for women to wear tzitzit and certainly according to Rabbenu Tam (and most rishonim) a woman who performs such a mitzvah is divinely rewarded.
II. What Are the Views Among the Poskim
Indeed, when one stops to examine the modern poskim on this matter, one sees, broadly speaking, three views, each with some merit.
One view adopts the model of minhag yisrael torah hu and notes that for centuries pious women have neither worn a tallit nor a tallit katan and we should continue the venerated non-mitzvah performing practice of our great-grandmothers. Since there is a tradition of non-performance, that is enough for us. See Minchat Yitzchak 2:108 and Rav Peelim OC 23, for example.
This view focuses on tradition more than technical halacha as the determiner of our practice.
Another view is that women do not wear a tallit like the tallit worn by men since it is a man’s garment. Therefore, in order to allow a woman to wear a tallit in public we must change it so that it does not resemble the current male tallit. As Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in 1975 in Iggrot Moshe OC 4:49:
איברא דאיכא רשות לכל אשה לקיים אף המצות שלא חייבתן תורה ויש להם מצוה ושכר על קיום מצות אלו וגם לשיטת התוס’ רשאות גם לברך על המצות וכמנהגנו שמקיימות מצות שופר ולולב וגם מברכות שא”כ גם על ציצית שייך לאשה שתרצה ללבוש בגד שיהיה בצורה אחרת מבגדי אנשים אבל יהיה בד’ כנפות ולהטיל בו ציצית ולקיים מצוה זו. * * * ובתרגום יונתן על קרא דלא יהיה כלי גבר על אשה איתא לא יהי גוליין דציצית ותפילין דהינון תיקוני גבר על איתא לא סבירא להו לתוס’ זה, ופשוט שהתוס’ סברי שאינו מתרגום יונתן.
But since any woman is permitted to perform even those commandments that the Torah does not obligate her to perform, and these women do a mitzvah and are rewarded for performing these commandments. And according to Tosfot’s view they are also told to recite the blessings on these commandments — and in accordance with our custom that they perform the commandments of [hearing the] shofar and [waving the] lulav and recite blessings [on these performances]. If so, with respect to tzitzit as well, it is possible for a woman who wishes to fulfill this mitzvah to wear a clothing item that is distinct from the one typically worn by men but which has four corners and for her to attach tzitzit to it and thereby fulfill this commandment. * * *And Tosfot rejects the view of the Targum Yonatan, which translates the pasuk of “a woman shall not wear men’s clothing,” as “the garment of tzitzit and tefillin, which are men’s accoutrements, should not be worn by a woman”; and it is obvious that Tosfot maintains that this work is not actually from the Targum Yonatan.
This is the view that Rabbi Yehuda Hertzl Henkin is reported to have adopted: Sincere women who want to wear a feminine looking tallit may do so and through this act do fulfill a mitzvah.
This view focuses on the technical halacha more than tradition as the determiner of our practice.
A third view is that of many of my own rabbayim who insist that the motives of people who are making these changes are suspect and we need to resist such change as it is grounded in rebellion against God and a desire to imitate the trend in Conservative Judaism or in contemporary Christianity. They note the next sentence in Iggrot Moshe which states:
אבל פשוט שהוא רק בחשקה נפשה לקיים מצות אף כשלא נצטוותה, אבל מכיון שאינו לכוונה זו אלא מצד תורעמותה על השי”ת ועל תורתו אין זה מעשה מצוה כלל אלא אדרבה מעשה איסור שהאיסור דכפירה שחושבת דשייך שיהיה איזה חלוף בדיני התורה היא עושית גם במעשה שחמיר.
However, it is obvious that this applies only if her soul yearns to perform mitzvot, notwithstanding the fact that she is not commanded to perform them. However, since it is not with this intent but rather stems from her protest against God and His Torah this is not the act of a mitzvah at all; quite the opposite, [it is] a forbidden act, for she commits heresy, thinking it possible for the laws of the Torah to be changed even in a grave matter.
Many of my teachers insist that these are the motives of women seeking to wear a tallit of any type and thus this change in custom needs to be resisted due to the poor motives of those pushing for this change.
This view focuses on sociology more than technical halacha or tradition as the determiner of our practice.
III. Some Thoughts of My Own
While I understand both the traditional and halachic view well, I remain unconvinced of the correctness of the sociological view for a few reasons. First, the facts on the ground that I see make it far from convincing that all the women asking these questions are motivated generally by a desire to rebel. I think many are motivated by a desire to do all the mitzvot God commanded us. Second, and even more importantly, I am uncertain if Rabbi Feinstein is correct in this last sentence as a matter of halacha — although I am a nobody compared to his greatness, I think that as a general matter we do not look at motives for doing mitzvot, and we recognize that shelo leshmah bah lishmah when doing mitzvot, even for adults, and even when not obligated, so long as it is a mitzvah. Rabbi Feinstein’s claim that mitzvot when done with bad motives are sins is not a simple claim.
I think that the approach of most of my rabbayim is much more correct when it comes to women’s tefillah groups (with Torah reading). When engaging in activity that is not a mitzvah at all – and the defense of classical women’s tefillah groups is exactly that it is not a halachic Torah reading at all – the creation of a new ritual that serves no mitzvah purpose is unwise. It focuses women away from the central purpose of halachic conduct, the performance of mitzvot, and allows an outlet that is without religious purpose. It discourages mitzvot and provides as a substitute something with no mitzvah value. This is particularly true when the activity presented to women in merely mimicry without mitzvah content of a mitzvah activity presented to men and untraditional as I have discussed elsewhere.
More generally, I think our job is to encourage people to do mitzvot; of course, first the mitzvot that they are obligated in and then the mitzvot that they get reward for doing even if not obligated in. Based on this analysis, I think women’s megillah reading is mutar, women’s zimun a fine idea, and would even favor other areas of innovation when the underlining conduct is a mitzvah. In a shul in which many women have lulavim and etrogim, I even think there is a mitzvah for women to have separate hoshanot, as when one looks in the classical poskim, one sees that women who have a lulav ought to do the na’anuim for Hallel like a man does and I see no reason to think that hoshanot are different. There are many such examples where the conduct is a mitzvah and we ought to encourage women (and men) to do mitzvot.
But, I do not think that a “tradition” not to do a mitzvah is such a strong barrier to prevent change to doing mitzvot absent a powerful reason (as in presented by tefillin). Indeed, I am generally in favor of abandoning traditions of non-mitzvah performance.
IV. Some Concluding Halachic Thoughts
Which allows me to return to your question of women wearing a tallit: I have no idea really how to answer it in your community. Is this a halachic question, a minhag question or a sociological question. It is technically mutar (indeed, a mitzvah) extremely untraditional, and a huge social change!
One possibility is the one contemplated in the name of Rabbi Yehudah Henkin: we should not discourage women who wish to from wearing uniquely feminine tallitot in public and we should not be afraid of where this will take us, as it will take us to further observance of mitzvot. The Chayei Adam 11:43 states this simply and directly:
נשים פטורות מציצית, מפני שהוא מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא, שהרי לילה לאו זמן ציצית. ומכל מקום אם רוצות ללבוש ולברך, יכולות לברך
Women are exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzit since it is a positive commandment that is time dependent and night is not the time for tzitzit. None the less if they wish to wear them and recite a blessing, they may.
Another second possibility is to adopt only part of Rav Moshe’s view and encourage this conduct in private among women whose motives are clearly sincere. In the past I have adopted this view, truth-be-told. This seems to be the view of those who say we do not object to pious women who wear tzitzit, and included in this list is Rabbi Yitzchok Elachanan Spector, also (see Be’er Yitzchak OC 16) and Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 9:2).
A third is to adopt the view of some of my rabbayim and discourage this conduct as it is generally advocated by those who are rebelling against God and with bad motives. I understand this view, but I do not think it is correct, both factually and as a matter of halacha when dealing with a mitzvah.
So, I am just not sure what to say. I am more sympathetic to Rabbi Henkin’s view now than I was a decade ago, but this is such a drastic and public change in minhag yisrael that I am hesitant to endorse it, although I am not sure why. But I would not label such action on the part of women as a sin, either. Maybe the Chayei Adam is correct.
So, I write you back uncertain of an answer—and certainly, I recognize that what is at stake here is the tone of the synagogue and community that you are seeking to lead. It seems to me that this is a crucial issue that goes beyond the strictly halachic question of whether a woman can wear a tallit. Should you permit her to wear her tallit to shul, you need to do so with the understanding that others will follow and you will be the rabbi of a synagogue where the custom will be that men and women both wear tallitot.
As I have noted in the in the past, while it may be perfectly fine for our practices to develop along certain permissible lines that diverge from current common custom, these changes, I think, should not be forced, and they must be allowed to develop almost organically and humbly without agenda-pushing. The simple fact is that in our day school girls are not trained to wear tzitzit, and to suddenly introduce this from the top down strikes me as so very artificial and thus somewhat unwise.
In truth, were such a policy to take hold in many Orthodox days schools, the answer to this letter might very well be different – and indeed, you might not be writing me– as the transition from private tallit katan to tallit gadol would be normal. Indeed, to the extent that change in communal practice in this area is a good idea, I would suggest that this policy needs to be implemented (by those who favor it) with children of a much younger age and with a private tallit katan. The idea that schools should encourage the wearing of a tallit katan by both boys and girls because we have a firm tradition that wearing such a garment provides both religious and practical protection against (sexual) sin in these immodest times strikes me as reasonable and for this reason, I encourage tzitzit generally as a core mitzvah for men, even if one without a four cornered garment is not technically obligated. In our community – where both men and women are in the secular workforce and temptation abounds — maybe everyone always wearing a tallit katan has social virtues. But I am not sure.
God should provide you with the wisdom to choose the right path. In the absence of such clarity, I would adopt that part of Rav Moshe’s view as the status quo as correct endorsing such conduct for the pious in private, although I understand other views well. This is the view Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg seems to takes in Techumin.
N.B. A Brief Note about a Puzzling Classical Story involving the Rav זצ”ל
I confess that I am not much of a story teller – maybe I need to expand my style repertoire – but both Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and his mechutan made reference to a story involving Rabbi Soloveitchik זצ”ל, women and tallit when reading an earlier version of this article. Rabbis Frimer in their excellent article on Women’s Tefillah Groups recount the story as follows:
R. Soloveitchik believed he had good reason to doubt that greater fulfillment of mitsvot motivated many of these women, as illustrated in the following story, related to us by R. Yehuda Kelemer, former Rabbi of the Young Israel of Brookline, Massachusetts. During the mid-1970’s, one of R. Kelemer’s woman congregants at the Young Israel of Brookline was interested in wearing a tallit and tsitsit during the prayer services. After R. Kelemer had expressed to her his hesitations about the matter, she approached R. Soloveitchik — who lived in Brookline — on the matter. The Rav explained that in light of the novelty of the action, it needed to be adopted gradually. Accordingly, he suggested that she first try wearing a talit without tsitsit (which is, of course, allowed for women.) The Rav asked the woman to return to him after three months, at which time they would discuss the matter further. When the two met once again, she described to R. Soloveitchik the magnificent nature of her religious experience in wearing the tallit. The Rav pointed out to the woman that wearing a tallit without tsitsit lacked any halakhically authentic element of mitsvah. It was obvious, therefore, that what generated her sense of “religious high” was not an enhanced kiyyum hamitsvah, but something else. Under such circumstances, the Rav maintained, wearing a tallit was an inappropriate use of the mitsvah. Consequently, the Rav forbade the woman from wearing a tallit with tsitsit. [Rabbi Aryeh A. Frimer & Rabbi Dov I. Frimer, “Women’s Prayer Services – Theory and Practice I” Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998) at page 41.]
In truth, I find this story perplexing on many levels and I share my amazement with the readers here. First and foremost, I just do not know how to consider such stories in the normative halacha. If the women had responded to the Rav’s request to wear a four cornered garment without tzitzit for three months, by expressing at the end of the three month trial period that “every day her heart had been broken by the knowledge that she was not fulfilling a positive commandment of the Torah” would the Rav have agreed to let her wear a tallit? In public? I confess that I am not certain but one could claim from this story that when confronted with a sincere women, the Rav does permit tallit wearing even in public, without even the feminine tallit limitation of Rav Henkin. According to this story, the Rav did not think that whether a woman should wear a tallit or not was about a public policy concerning Reform Judaism or women generally, but about the mindset of this particular woman, which certainly differs from person to person.
Second, I have halachic questions about this story. I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit (as the Rama implies in OC 17 and Darchai Moshe on Tur OC 17), whereas the Rav here clearly instructed the woman to wear a four cornered garment, yet without tzitzit. I find that amazing – it is like instructing a woman to eat bread outside a Sukkah, a form of bittul mitzvat aseh kiyumi and an astonishing thing to do. When I see a women eating bread just outside a sukkah on Sukkot, I smile sweetly, put on my most pastoral face, and say “it is mitzvah for you too, to eat in a sukkah.” I cannot for the life of me understand a gadol betorah affirmatively mandating bitul mitzvat aseh kiyumi as a precondition for fulfilling it – even as I can well understand the minhag that women not wear four cornered garments and then not need to wear tzitzit. Would Judaism is better served if women adopted the practice that women wear a male tallit garment without fringes (or better yet, with fringes on three corners!). To me, this seems astonishing, and I am just befuddled as to what the Rav proposed.
Allow me to give a halachic example of this. The Shulchan Aruch recounts that a four cornered garment borrowed need not have tzitzit put on it (unless it is borrowed for more than 30 days – but yet, one may put tzitzit on such a garment if one wishes and the Magen Avraham (14:5) notes that one may make a bracha on such a garment, just like a woman may make a blessing on tzitizt. Surely, placing such tzitzit is a better idea than not if one is going to wear a four cornered borrowed garment?
Finally and most importantly, the world has progressed much since 1970 and this story is bundled in its time and place of progressive Boston of 40 years ago. Orthodoxy is just so different from that world – there is much more observance, education and yirat shamayim within our world, I am simply uncertain how to facture such social observations of decades ago into our calculus.
 See Kidushin 31a-b. From Eruvin 96a, it seems clear that tefillin are a more problematic issue.
 This is the view taken by the Kabbalists as well; see Sod Yesharim 12.
 Rav Moshe in this sentence explains why tefillin – but not tzitzit – are different. He states:
ורק להניח תפילין כתבו התוס’ עירובין דף צ”ו ע”א ד”ה מיכל דצריך למחות בידן משום דתפילין צריך זריזות מרובה בגוף נקי ובהיסח הדעת שמטעם זו אף אנשים שמחוייבין בתפילין נמנעין מלהניחם כל היום אלא רק זמן המועט דתפלה בשחרית, וכן איפסק ברמ”א או”ח סימן ל”ח סעי’ ג’.
 The question of whether the view of the Targum Yonatan should be accepted lehalacha or not is complex. My intuition is that Rav Moshe is politely noting that the Targum Yonatan is not normative as he could have added to the list of rishonim who reject the Targum Yonaton that Rambam Tzitizit 3:9 rejects his view, as well as Rosh (Halachot Ketanot Tzitiz 1):, Ran (14b (on Rif pages)) and Rama. For different reasons, it might be reasonable to claim that Bach, Shach and Taz do so also; see YD 184:5. But see Bet Hillel, YD 182:2 who endorses the approach of Yonatan ben Uziel and Halichat Shlomo [Aurebach], Tzitzit page 35, note 27. Tallit katan, worn under one’s garments, it would seem to me, is certainly not covered by this prohibition, no different than undergarments generally.
It is only with respect to tefillin that Tosfot writes (Eruvin 96a, s.v. Michal) that you must object to them for the reason that tefillin require particular zeal, a clean body, and constant consciousness, such that even men who are obligated to wear tefillin avoid donning them aside for the short time spent praying shachris, and the Remah rules similarly (Orach Chaim 38:3).
 A modified version of this view is adopted by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Yalkut Yosef, Tzitizit 231 which indicates that it is not these women, but these times – when Reform Judaism is directing women to wear talitot – that we should oppose women wearing tallitot in our community. In truth, I find this analysis very difficult to explain, although easy to understand in my gut. Given the broader phenomenon of non-halachic egalitarianism with liberal Judaism, encouraging women to wear a tallit might appear as a concession to non-Orthodox movements. As such, Rav Ovadya insists we all ought to prohibit this development, even if in a different cultural context it would be permissible. To me, this makes sense when dealing with non-mitzvah matters – but the idea that when Liberal Judaism undertakes to do a mitzvah we should eschew this mitzvah in response, seems difficult. In addition, it seems to me on a social level that the strength of this argument is also its weakness. Rabbi Yosef – truly the foremost halachic authority alive today – proposes that even those who objectively support women wearing tzitzit as a mitzvah would not advocate such in our times as such conduct weakens Orthodoxy generally. This might be true, but the reverse might be true also: we strengthen the hand of those who oppose Torah and mitzvot when we prohibit that which halacha permits and encourages for these political reasons. It might lead opponents of Orthodoxy to conclude that we – Orthodoxy’s representatives in our generation – are not advocates for God’s law at all but just politicians.
 For more on this, see my “A Brief Note about “Women’s Only Torah Reading” on Simchat Torah” at http://torahmusings.com/2012/10/women%e2%80%99s-only-torah-reading/
 Minhag Ashkenaz insists that it is proper for women who want to, to shake a lulav and it is not at all uncommon for women to come to shul with arba minim nowadays. Nowhere in the classical poskim is it recorded that hoshanot with a lulav are different. (In truth, my notes recount that I saw in Eshai Yisrael a view that notes women should not do hoshanot, but I cannot find the view recorded now.)
 This note discussed the practice of permitting women to read – after davening and in a distinct place – Ruth, Shir Hashirim or Kohelet and women dancing with a torah on simchat torah. Neither of these cases is at all like a women’s Torah reading or women wearing a tallit in that men are obligated in such a Torah reading and women are not, and both are doing mitzvot when wearing a tallit. In the case of the three megilot, there are two ways to think about the obligation; either no one is really obligated or both genders are obligated. Gra and many others think about reading the three megilot as like reading Esther, and make a bracha; see Gra OC 490:9. Others adopt the view that this whole matter is a minhag and neither men nor women are genuinely obligated to read or hear anything. See Rama OC 490:9. Whichever view is correct, the obligation of men and women are the same (either the same obligated, or the same not obligated) and when a woman reads any of the three megilot from a klaf, whatever obligation she has, she fulfills and she makes a bracha. Such is not the case with women’s Torah reading, which is exactly the mimicry problem or women’s tallit wearing, which is a clear mitzvah.
Women dancing with the torah is simply different since no one is obligated to dance with a torah, neither men nor women, and thus the whole mimicry issue disappears and it is just a matter of tradition. Since neither men nor women are doing any mitzvah at all, it is hard to lay out a firm halachic position, as no matter of halacha is at stake; I would hardly label a man who refused to dance with a Torah on Simchat Torah a sinner. One can oppose this for social-cultural reasons, or favor it for social cultural reasons, without pointing to any firm halachic rule. Different people and communities take different views.
 For more on this see my http://torahmusings.com/2009/11/halacha-first/.
 See here in the name of Rav Henkin It is widely recorded that the Rabbanit Bruna, wife of the Mahari Bruna wore tzitiz. See Teshuva Maharil Chadashot 7 in note 24.
 See eg Tosafot Brachot 17 a sv haoseh. Much more could be written on this and Rabbi Dr. Dov Frimer has pointed me to a contrary Raavad on Sifra Vayikra Parshata 2-3, folio b.
 See here (PDF). A few years ago I was asked by a group of parents in an Orthodox run community day school which was struggling with a tzitzit policy for its students what do to. The Orthodox community was not powerful enough in the school to adopt the policy of all boys must wear tzitzit, but with the Conservative rabbis could adopt a policy of “all children must wear tzitzit” as a school wide policy. What should they do?
 See for example, Iggrot Moshe OC 4:4 for an exchange between Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and his son Rabbi David Feinstein on why it is so important for me to wear tzitzit.
 Techumin 18:120-124 in section 1 (5758). See the article by Professor Eliav Shochatman on this topic in volume 17 as well.
 I certainly understand this view according to those who think that it is not a mitzvah at all for women to do any of the mitzvot aseh that they are exempt from – sort of like a man sitting in a sukkah when it is pouring down rain (see Rama 639:7) – but once one adopts the view of Rabbenu Tam that doing these mitzvot is a good thing for women to do and an act that makes God smile – as all mitzvot do – I am befuddled. In electronic conversation with Rabbi Aryeh Frimmer, we considered the following model. Consider whether it is good for a man to have a policy of only eating and drinking anything in a sukkah (on sukkot, of course) which is clearly not required by halacha, but clearly a better policy as noted by the Shulchan Aruch 639:2. The opposite of that is would seem to be less than ideal.