Parshat עקב Deuteronomy 8:10 Women’s Equal Obligation

Deuteronomy 8:10 – And you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the Lord, your God for the land that he has given you.

Jerusalem Talmud-Berachos Chapter 1, Halacha 1: Women, servants and children are obligated to pray the blessing after meals. This is taught by the verse that says: “and you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the Lord, your God…”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #18:

It appears that the proof from the verse is that since the prayer after eating is only for blessing and thanking God for being satisfied and for the bodily enjoyment [of the food], then apparently there is no distinction between men and women and servants and children. This is similar to what we state at the beginning of Gemora Megila (4a) that women are also obligated in the commandment of reading the Scroll of Esther on Purim because they were also saved during the miracle of Purim. Here also women are included in the requirement to pray the blessing after eating because they are included in the category of having eaten and been satiated.

Note that in the Babylonian Talmud Berachos (20b) there is recorded the discussion between Ravina and Rabba. They were discussing whether the requirement for women to recite the prayer after eating is a biblical obligation or a rabbinic obligation.  Rashi comments there that the doubt arises because on the one hand the commandment appears to be a non-time bound positive commandment which is equally required for men as for women. On the other hand, in the text of the prayer itself reference is made “to the good land that God has given you”. Since women were not included in the allotment of the land, it would stand to reason that their requirement to say this prayer is not equal to a man’s requirement. Tosafot adds to Rashi’s question by adding that the text of the prayer also mentions the covenant that has been stamped on our flesh [circumcision] and on the Torah that you taught us and notes that these phrases also does not apply to women. Tosafot leaves the question as an open question.

On the basis of this discussion in the Babylonian Talmud, the halachic authorities have ruled that the obligation of women to recite the prayer after eating is possibly not biblical in nature. The ramifications of this ruling has many effects. For example, if one is not sure whether one has recited the prayer or not – what to do is affected by this issue. Further, whether a woman could fulfill the obligation for a man and recite the prayer on his behalf is also impacted by this decision.

However, in my opinion, it is astounding that the universal, straightforward opinion stated in the Jerusalem Talmud is pushed aside by the single opinion of one person in the Babylonian Talmud. Isn’t it clear from the section of the Jerusalem Talmud that we have quoted that there is no doubt that women are obligated in the prayer after meals? Further, as we explained and as many early halachic authorities have already ruled, a doubt in the Babylonian Talmud is pushed aside by a universal, certain statement in the Jerusalem Talmud. [See Tosafot in Niddah 68a and also the Rosh in the second chapter 2 of Succah.]

Another point that is astounding to me is that according to the comments of Rashi and Tosafot, the nature of the doubt relates to the phrases in the prayer concerning the division of the land, concerning circumcision and concerning teaching Torah. If so, then these doubts would only apply to the second paragraph of the prayer in which these items are mentioned. However, the first paragraph which doesn’t mention these items rather just thankfulness and praise for the food, certainly women’s obligation would be equal to a man’s. It is amazing that commentators have not focused on this.

Translator Note: I liked this note of the Torah Temimah for several reasons. First of all, he is pointing out the ramifications of deciding to make a woman’s obligation lesser than a man’s. Secondly, he uses his knowledge of traditional halachic methodology to question whether this decision was accurate.

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