Parshat ויקרא VaYikra 1:2 – Are Women Allowed to Bring Sacrifices?

YaYikra 1:2 – Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.

Gemora: Kiddushin 36(a): [Regarding] the rites of laying [hands] because it is written: Speak unto the sons of Israel and he shall lay [his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering]: thus the sons of Israel lay [hands], but not the daughters of Israel.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #3:

The above gemora refers to the sacrifices that they [the women] themselves bring. Further the gemora does not mean that it is prohibited for women to [place their hands on the animal to be sacrificed] but rather it means that the women are not obligated to do so [for their own sacrifices].

This is according to the gemora Chagiga 15(b) where it states that women were allowed to perform the ceremonial placing of hands on the animal sacrifice. Note that the Rambam omits to mention this detail explicitly in his Mishnah Torah. However, if the women are bringing the sacrifice as an emissary for their husbands, they are forbidden to place their hands on the sacrifice as is explained further on in VaYikra  1:4 on the posuk “and he lays his hands”. Look also at the Tosafot on Gemora Rosh HaShana 33(a).

Similarly, we find the Gemora here concluding from this that woman are excluded from all the various details of the sacrificial service. They are excluded from the “waving”, “raising”, “kmitzaing” [measuring the flour with 4 fingers], “incense”, “melikut”, “collecting of the blood” and “sprinkling of the blood”. The reason for these exclusions is because in all of them the posuk uses the phrase “the sons of Israel” or “sons of Aaron”. Tosafot ask why the Gemora needed to learn from the wording of the posuk to exclude women, let women be excluded because of the general principle that women are exempt from positive commandments that are time bound as we learn from the posuk at the end of parshat Tzav.

I am astounded by this question of Tosafot. What did they see that caused this question? Behold, the sacrifices themselves are positive commandments that are time bound because they can only be done in the day. (See the same posuk noted above in parshat Tzav.) Since we see that the Torah permitted women to bring sacrifices because of their actual obligation  to bring some sacrifices even though they are a positive commandment bound by time; similarly they should be obligated in all the above listed particulars relating to the sacrifices.  Just as men are in the general commandment and the particulars, so too women should also be obligated regarding the details. There is no logic  at all in exempting women from the particulars if they are obligated in the over-all issue, of bringing sacrifices. Similarly there is no logic to exempt women from eating the Passover sacrifice even though it must be done exclusively at night nor from the commandment of burning them leftovers of the Passover sacrifice even though that must be done exclusively in the day. Due to the fact that women are commanded to observe the overall commandment of Passover, they are therefore automatically commanded in all its particulars.

So too in our case of the sacrifices, if there had not been a “decree from the King” [gezerat ha’katuv] regarding the sacrificial details and the commandment that women should not perform them, I would not have any logical reason to exclude them due to the issue of being positive commandments that are time-bound, since woman are obligated in the commandment of sacrifices.

Regarding this point, that women are obligated in sacrifices in a manner equal to men, the first source of this in from Torat Cohanim on parshat Emor, Leviticus 22:18. That is the first source for the law that women are commanded equally to men in the commandment of bringing sacrifices. The Rambam includes this law in Chapter 3 Halach 2 in the Laws of Sacrifices. The Rambam explicitly says “whether men, women or slaves; all are obligated equally in the commandment of sacrifices.” The Kesef Mishnah supports this view and says as follows “this [halacha mentioned by the Rambam] is obvious since the Torah makes equal men and women regarding its laws. We have already said that women don’t lay hands, perform the waving, etc. These details are done by men not by women. This teaches that women are obligated in the commandment of sacrifices [but not certain particulars.]And any commandment that a women is obligated to do, so also are slaves”.

So we see that, following the source in the Torat Cohanim, it is very amazing that the Kesef Mishna uses so many words for the purpose of finding a source for the words of the Rambam in some phrase in the gemora. In fact the source is clear and very explicit. He [Kesef Mishna] should have just written succinctly, “Torat Cohanim – Parshat Emor” and no further words.

DBS Note: The final sentence of the Torah Temimah here alludes to his key point, as it often does. In this note the Torah Temimah is pointing out that it is logical and has a clear source to say that women are equally commanded in the mitzvah of bringing sacrifices. He sees no need for long explanations of this. The only point that he sees a need for is to explain why women are excluded from certain particulars since there is no logical reason to do so. He concludes that it is simply a “decree from the King” without any particular logic.

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