Halacha for Thursday 12 Tevet 5780 January 9 2020

A Woman Scholarly in Torah

In the previous Halachot we have discussed the laws of rising for an elderly man or woman as well as the obligation to rise before a Torah scholar and the wife of a Torah scholar.

In the previous Halacha we have explained that Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that a female student must show honor to her teacher from whom she has studied Torah in the form of rising for her and not calling her by name, for the reason why one is obligated to honor one’s rabbi is because “he brings one into the World to Come” (Mishnah, Baba Metzia 33a) and the same would apply to a teacher who educates her students in the path of Torah, Mussar, and modesty and also brings them into the World to Come. Although the teacher receives a salary for doing so, this does not matter at all, for the student’s obligation to honor the rabbi/teacher is not because the rabbi is not necessarily because the rabbi is performing a Mitzvah by teaching him; rather, it is because the rabbi teaches the student the ways of our holy Torah and has done the student the service of bringing him into the World to Come. Thus, it does not matter whether the intention of the rabbi/teacher at the time they were teaching was in order to earn money or fulfill the Mitzvah of Torah study by doing so. The same applies to a female teacher in that as long as she is granting her students passage into the World to Come, her students are obligated to honor her.

Hagaon Rabbeinu Chizkiya di Silwa zt”l (author of the “Peri Chadash”) writes that clearly, one is obligated to rise before a woman who is erudite in Torah knowledge just as one is obligated to rise before a male Torah scholar, for although a woman is not obligated in the Mitzvah of Torah study (besides for studying the laws of the Mitzvot applicable to her) and even if she studies Torah to the extent that she becomes a Torah scholar like a man she would not receive as much reward as a man since she is not obligated to do so, nevertheless, since she is scholarly in Torah knowledge, one must afford her honor because of the Torah she possesses. Many Poskim, among them Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, rule likewise. He adds that if she is a woman who is active in influencing other women to observe the laws of family purity, Shabbat, Kashrut, and the like and guides them in how to do so, even if she is not as erudite in Torah as a male Torah scholar, there is nevertheless an obligation to honor her, as the Gemara (Kiddushin 33b) states that one must rise before a person of means. The Geonim explain that a “person of means” refers to one who has a good eye and engages in charity, public projects, and possesses excellent character traits. Even if such an individual is not so scholarly in Torah, one must nevertheless rise before him as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 244) rules. The same applies to a woman of means and one must rise before her as well.

Regarding a woman who is scholarly in Torah, we should point out that there were indeed several great female Torah scholars throughout Jewish history, such as our holy matriarchs, especially our matriarch Sarah who was also a prophetess, Miriam the prophetess, sister of Moshe and Aharon, Hannah, wife of Elkana and mother of Shmuel Ha’Navi, Devorah the prophetess, Hulda, Avigail, Queen Esther, and others. Even in later generation there were several well-known scholarly women in the times of the Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud, such as Beruria, wife of Rabbi Meir (see Pesachim 62b), as well as some in later generations, such as the well-known daughter of Rashi, who, in his later years, wrote and signed on some of Rashi’s halachic responsa. Indeed, in the Responsa of Rabbeinu Yaakov Molin (Maharil, Chapter 75), his wife, Rabbanit Leah, is mentioned as having corresponded with several Torah luminaries of the generation about a certain halachic matter.

Furthermore, Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Sefer Ma’agal Tov (page 61) about his wife, Rabbanit Rachel, and praises her to the extent that he writes that she was unique in the generation among women for her extreme brilliance and intellect. There were other unique women who also merited great knowledge in Torah, such as the wife of Rabbi Yaakov of Kurdistan, Rosh Yeshivat Mosul in Iraq, who would teach Torah to students while seated behind a partition. Even in the generation before ours there were such women learned in Torah, such as the mother of Hagaon Harav Yehuda Tzadka zt”l who would actively participate in the Halacha lectures of Maran zt”l and would ask questions and offer solutions with great wisdom. These were wise and righteous women who were extremely modest in the way they dressed and acted and in the merit of such righteous women will the Jewish nation eventually be redeemed from exile (Sotah 11b). (It is well-known that nowadays, there are many men who present themselves to be Torah scholars when they are actually devoid of any Torah knowledge and fear of Heaven. Similarly, there are women who, unfortunately, wish to equate men and women in every which way and in doing so, completely distort the most basic tenets of the Torah. Every individual possesses the choice to seek out genuine Torah scholars who cleave to the word of Hashem and follow such individuals.)

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha


Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Frying Fish in a Meat Pot, Baking Fish and Meat in the Same Oven, and Maran zt”l’s Custom

There is a well-known prohibition of eating fish and meat together, as discussed by the Gemara and Poskim. Cooking Fish in a Meat Pot Although it is prohibited to cook a dairy dish in a meat pot as we have discussed in a previous Halacha, nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writ......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha