Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Talmud on women shaving

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Men: Thank God We’re Not Women! In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis have a hard time explaining gender differences in commandments and blessings, including whether women can shave their beards.
Can women grow beards, and if they can, are they allowed to shave them under Jewish law? That was just one of the questions that arose in last week’s Daf Yomi reading, as the rabbis pondered the implications of gender in halakhah. One of the fundamental principles of Judaism is that men are subject to more commandments than women are. There are many mitzvot that women are not obligated to perform, such a wearing tefillin and tzitzit, sleeping in the sukkah, and studying Torah. One might think that being excused from these obligations is a positive thing for Jewish women, making their lives that much easier. But in Judaism, the opportunity to do a mitzvah is a blessing, not a burden. Indeed, as Pirkei Avot puts it, “the reward for a commandment is another commandment”; since following God’s orders is the best thing a human being can accomplish, a mitzvah is its own reward. This means that, spiritually, a Jewish man is better off than a Jewish woman, since he can do more mitzvot than she can. That is why, in the traditional morning prayer, men thank God “shelo asani ishah,” “for not making me a woman.”

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.