Wise Women

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 28/9/2019

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Wise Women

There were many smart women that involved themselves in Torah throughout our history.[1] Some are even mentioned by our Gedolim.[2]

 

In " "[3] (1365-1427), he brings a Halacha concerning the law of [4] from his two sisters- Rebbitzen Buglin and Rebbitzen Simcha. The Shach[5] writes that he saw by his mother and other righteous women not to separate Challa more than once from one batch (even if its very big).[6]  

 

The Haflaa[7] brings a Chidush in the name of his female cousin. The Tashbatz[8] (1361-1444) brings a Torah Chidush in the name of a Rebbitzen concerning ; one should always teach his student in a concise manner.[9]

  

The author of " [10] writes that one reason he chose to call his Sefer by this name is so that it should be in memory for his pious grandmother, Rebbitzen Chava, who was unique in her type in her generation in Torah. The Maharshal[11] reports about his grandmother, Rebbitzen Miriam, that for years she had a Yeshiva where she would sit in front of a curtain and teach top boys.

 

In the introduction to the Derisha and Perisha,[12] the son writes about his mother, Rebbitzen Beila, that she would learn the weekly Parsha with Rashi and other commentaries and would be Mechadesh from time to time unbelievable sweet Chidushim. And specifically with laws concerning women and Hilchos Nida, she was an expert almost like a Halachic authority ( ).

 

In " ,[13] the uncle of R Akiva Eiger, R Wolf Eiger,[14] writes about his sister, the mother of R Akiva Eiger, And my unique righteous sister, who is learned like a man, Rebbitzen Gittel

 

R Yosef Steinhart,[15] author of " brings in this Sefer some Divrei Torah from his wife, Rebbitzen Kriendel (she died in 1775). For example, in one place[16] he writes When I said this before my smart and learned wife

 

R Yeshaya Pik Berlin[17] (1725-1799) brings a Chidush from his sister, Rebbitzen Kriendel, the wife of R Yosef Steinhart, about that which Rachel answered her father ; I cant rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.[18] Of course she didnt say that which wasnt truthful rather she was referring to the (idols) which had sorcery. The Gemara[19] says it is mostly women who are involved in sorcery. So Rachel was saying - that women are involved in sorcery, - is placed under me. R Yeshaya commented on this ; I said to my sister you are wise.[20]  

 

Elsewhere, R Yeshaya Pik tells us[21] from his sister, Rebbitzen Kriendel, to explain Rashis words[22] that Yaakov said to Esav, I didnt become a dignitary or a notable but a ; sojourner. It doesnt befit you to hate me over the Bracha of your father [23] for it hasnt been fulfilled in me ( ). If we take the letters , from , then we are left with . This was Rashis intention when he said I didnt become a dignitary or a notable but a ; sojourner. That which my father blessed me ..., the letters , wasnt fulfilled, and what remains is .

 

In a letter the Ben Ish Chai (1835-1909) wrote to a learned Rebbitzen from his city Baghdad when she was staying in London,[24] he mentions that she went to the Shabbos Hagadol Drasha of the chief rabbi of London, R Naftali Tzvi Hakohen Adler (1839-1911), with a Gemara in order to understand the Drasha.[25]

 

R Yukil HaLevi Horowitz, Av Beis Din of Gluga, had a daughter named Sarah Rivka Rachel Leah. Her husband was R Shabsi, the Av Beis Din of Krasny. She learned a lot and was an expert in Shas as is brought in the Sefer .[26] However, she didnt have any children and her father said about her that she was unable to give birth because she had a male soul.[27] 

 

In the Sefer ' , it relates that when he (R Dov, who lived from 1722-1805) learned by R Mordechai HaLevi Horowitz, the son of R Yukil, he once showed him some Halacha in the Gemara to read. The Rav, R Mordechai, ended up going for an afternoon nap because he was very weak. R Dov was therefore left there with the Ravs sister at a distance- Rebbitzen Sarah Rivka Rachel Leah. She saw how he didnt understand the Gemara with Rashis commentary so she said, Tell me the Gemara that you have a problem with. He began to say the Gemara over, and then she started to say the Gemara and Rashi by heart, explaining it clearly.[28]

 

The wife of R Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (1928-2003), the Raavad of the Eidah HaCharedis in Yerushalayim, was very concerned about her husbands time, that his learning shouldnt be interrupted. So she would sit near him when he was receiving people ( ) and answer many questions in all areas of Torah from the hundreds of people that came to ask questions.[29]

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R Mordechai Friedlander Ztzl for close to five years. He received Semicha from R Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] The Gemara (Baba Basra 119b) tells us that the daughters of Tzelafchad were , , ; wise expounders of the Torah, and righteous. Elsewhere, the Gemara tells us (Megila 14a) that there were seven ; prophetesses that prophesized for the Jewish people. They were Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Avigail, Chuldah, and Esther.

[2] , Bamidbar 27:3-5

[3] 57

[4] This is the process of making an animal kosher by removing forbidden fats () and the sciatic nerve ( ).

[5] Yoreh Deah 326:4

[6] We find in different Tosafos in Shas that a proof is brought from women concerning Halacha. See for example Tosafos in Shabbos 111b, end of s.v. where it says " ...; and the Ri heard from women (Also see Brachos 45b, sv. ).

[7] Panim Yafos, Vayikra 9:7

[8] " ", 3:78. Besides being a Rabbinical authority, he was also a student of philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and especially of medicine, which he practiced for a number of years. After the persecution of 1391- in the Balearic Isles and Majorca- he fled Spain with his father and sister for Algiers. In 1394, he and the Rivash drafted statutes for the Jewish community of Algiers. In 1407, the Tashbatz became Rav of Algiers. Because the Tashbatz lost all his property during the massacre at Palma, he was forced against his will to accept a salary from the community, not having other means of survival.

[9] Pesachim 3b

[10] Hakdama to the Sefer

[11] " ", , "

[12] s.v.

[13] " , 29

[14] R Wolf Eiger- who was an Av Beis Din- lived from 1756-1795. R Akiva Eiger attended the Yeshiva of R Wolf Eiger in Breslau.

[15] 1720-1776. He was a rabbi and chief rabbi in different places. Questions were addressed to him from Hungary, Italy, Amsterdam and Switzerland.

[16] Siman 13, s.v.

[17] In his Sefer , . The name Pik was after his father-in-law, Wolf Pik of Breslau, who supported him for many years. In 1755, R Yeshaya Pik moved to Breslau where he engaged in business. In 1793, when he was already older, he was elected to a rabbinical post as rabbi of Breslau. He was greatly admired, even by people who differed with him in religious views. Many Maskilim (The Haskala was an 18th-19th-century movement among central and Eastern European Jews, intended to modernize Jews and Judaism by encouraging adoption of secular European culture.) of Breslau often visited him to seek advice on scientific questions. 

[18] Breishis 31:35. Rachel stole the (idols) that belonged to her father, put it into the camels packsaddle and sat on them (Breishis 31:34).

[19] Sanhedrin 67a

[20] This was based on the Pasuk (Mishlei 7:4). R Yeshaya Pik describes his sister in these words: The reader will find and say to my sister you are wise. Her hands are in all Kedusha and she knows Sefarim of knowledge and exposition like the daughters of Tzalefchad Ben Cheifer. Rebbitzen Kriendel, she is a woman that proves with her clear intellect with sharpness ( ). He also writes about his sister (Hakdama to his Sefer on Mishnayos), "; my famous sister known all over, Rebbitzen Kriendel.

[21] In his Sefer , Vayishlach

[22] Breishis 32:5

[23] 27:29. This translates as, Be a lord to your brothers.

[24] Printed in the Sefer Nachalas Avos, , pg 369

[25] In this letter he was inquiring about how learned the people of London were.

[26] chapter 14, Os 7

[27] Sefer Ohel Naftali, 241

[28] Concerning women learning Torah, let us cite the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:13): A woman who studies Torah will receive reward but the reward wont be as great as a mans because she wasnt commanded. The reward for that which is commanded isnt as great for that which is commanded. Even though she receives reward the Sages commanded that a person shouldnt teach his daughter Torah Commentaries say that the Rambam implies that if a father sees that his daughter is capable of such study, he should afford her the opportunity. The Kinas Eliyahu notes the contrast between, A woman who studies and the command the Sages gave a father. He differentiates between study that a woman undertakes voluntarily, which is considered desirable, and a fathers training his daughter in matters which arent necessarily relevant to her. 

[29] , Bamidbar pg 947


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