From the Archives of Tradition

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tradition-cabinetby R. Yitzchak Blau

The issue of teaching women Gemara generates much discussion in contemporary Orthodoxy. Though traditional sources prohibit or discourage such study, the following two Tradition essays argue that we should teach women Gemara today. Rabbi Arthur Silver writes (Summer 1978) that Rambam bases his opposition to women learning on an assumption about most women’s abilities. Any woman who shows that the general rule does not apply to her would be allowed to study Talmud. Indeed, R. Silver cites examples of learned women throughout Jewish history. Furthermore, once women study other subjects on an advanced level, the restrictive law no longer applies. In a more creative essay, Professor Warren Zev Harvey suggests (Summer 1981) that Rambam himself would require women to learn Gemara as part of Pardes. After all, study of Pardes is linked to five mizvot that women are obligated in and Rambam categorizes Pardes as part of Gemara. Not only that, Rambam sees Talmudic study as a perquisite for encountering Pardes. Basing himself on a distinction of Rav Soloveithcik, Prof. Harvey adds that a woman must learn Gemara as part of her giving over the experiential warmth of Torat Imekha. For a view opposing Talmud Study for women, see R. Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael, in the Communications section of the Spring 200 issue.


For R. Silver’s essay:

For Prof. Harvey’s essay: link (PDF)

For R. Feldman’s comments: link (PDF)

About Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta and also teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada and an Associate Editor of Tradition.

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