There were many smart women that involved themselves in
Torah throughout our history.
Some are even mentioned by our Gedolim.
In שו"ת מהרי"ל (1365-1427), he brings a Halacha concerning the law of ניקור from
his two sisters- Rebbitzen Buglin and Rebbitzen Simcha. The Shach
writes that he saw by his mother and other righteous women not to separate
Challa more than once from one batch (even if it’s very big).
brings a Chidush in the name of his female cousin. The Tashbatz (1361-1444) brings a Torah Chidush in the name of a Rebbitzen concerning לעולם ישנה אדם
בדרך קצרה; one should
always teach his student in a concise manner.
The author of שו"ת חות יאיר 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
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,
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 (בעלי הוראה).
In שו"ת רבי עקיבא איגר,
the uncle of R’ Akiva Eiger, R’ Wolf Eiger,
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,
author of שו"ת זכרון יוסף brings in this
Sefer some Divrei Torah from his wife, Rebbitzen Kriendel (she died in 1775).
For example, in one place
he writes “When I said this before my smart and learned wife…”
R’ Yeshaya Pik Berlin
(1725-1799) brings a Chidush from his sister, Rebbitzen Kriendel, the wife of
R’ Yosef Steinhart, about that which Rachel answered her father לא אוכל לקום מפניה
כי דרך נשים לי; …I can’t rise
before you, for the way of women is upon me.
Of course she didn’t say that which wasn’t truthful rather she was referring to
the תרפים (idols) which had sorcery. The Gemara
says it is mostly women who are involved in sorcery. So Rachel was saying דרך נשים- that women are involved in sorcery, לי- is placed under me. R’ Yeshaya commented on this ואמרתי לאחותי חכמה
את; I said to my sister you are wise.
Elsewhere, R’ Yeshaya Pik tells us
from his sister, Rebbitzen Kriendel, to explain Rashi’s words
that Yaakov said to Esav, “I didn’t become a dignitary or a notable but a גר; sojourner. It doesn’t befit you to hate me over the Bracha of
your father הוה גביר לאחיך for it hasn’t been fulfilled in me (שהרי לא נתקיימה בי).” If we take the
letters ב,י from גביר,
then we are left with גר. This was Rashi’s
intention when he said ‘I didn’t become a dignitary or a notable but a גר; sojourner.’ That which my father blessed me הוה גביר...,
the letters ב,י wasn’t fulfilled, and what remains is גר.
In a letter the Ben Ish Chai (1835-1909) wrote to a learned
Rebbitzen from his city Baghdad when she was staying in London,
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.
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
Seferשיחת חולין של
However, she didn’t have any children and her father said about her that she
was unable to give birth because she had a male soul.
In the Sefer זכרונות ר' דוב מבוליחוב,
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 Rav’s sister
at a distance- Rebbitzen Sarah Rivka Rachel Leah. She saw how he didn’t
understand the Gemara with Rashi’s 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.
The wife of R’ Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (1928-2003), the
Raavad of the Eidah HaCharedis in Yerushalayim, was very concerned about her
husband’s time, that his learning shouldn’t be interrupted. So she would sit
near him when he was receiving people (קבלת קהל) and answer
many questions in all areas of Torah from the hundreds of people that came to
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’
Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l 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.