Women and Talmud Torah - Part 3: Contemporary Poskim

This series is sponsored anonymously in the merit of an aliyat neshama for Matisyahu ben Yisrael, Aharon ben Menachem Lev, and Eliana bat Yaakov

In Part 1 we saw many of the key foundations of this issue, including:

  • the centrality of Torah learning to the existence and continuation of the world.
  • the different mitzvot of learning and teaching Torah: (i) Ahavat Hashem; (ii) Yirat Shamayim; (iii) Veshinantam; (iv) Vehodatam; (v) Velimadtem.

In Part 2 we looked at the exemption of women from the mitzva of Velimadtem - talmudic and deep analysis - but the explicit permission for them to voluntarily learn these topics if they wish. However, all the Rishonim rule like R. Eliezer that there is a significant concern (and possibly prohibition) of teaching women Talmud since they do not have the educational background to understand it properly and are likely to derive incorrect and damaging halachic conclusions. Teaching Tanach to women is also seen as inappropriate, although less damaging than teaching Talmud.

  • We also examined the conspicuous exception of Bruriah and the impact that her personal story may have on the halachic psak.
  • We saw that the Rambam, while apparently prohibiting1 teaching Talmud to women, nevertheless acknowledges that women are intellectually capable of learning Talmud in depth.
  • Finally, we looked at the analysis of the Acharonim who, even before the 20th Century, sought to limit in a number of ways any prohibition on teaching women Torah. The Taz ruled that teaching basic understanding of Tanach is permitted. The Prisha ruled that where a woman shows that she is able to learn, the concerns at teaching her Talmud are no longer as relevant. The Chida raised the case of Bruriah and also questioned why the halacha should be like R. Eliezer, against the normal rules of psak. He also concluded that when a woman has shown herself able to learn in depth, there is no halachic concern in teaching her.
  • In this final part we will be’H see how some of the poskim of the modern era have addressed the question of women learning Torah, particularly Torah Sheba'al Peh - Gemara etc.