Category Archives: Parshat וירא

Parshat וירא

Parshat בראשית – Genesis 21:4 – May a Woman Perform a Circumcision?  

Genesis:  21:4 – And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

Babylonian Talmud – Kedushin 29a: – A woman is not commanded to circumcise her son. This is derived from the verse “as God commanded him”. God commanded him, not her.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #6:

Tosafot ask why a verse is needed to teach this law. Could it not have been deduced from the general concept that women are exempt from all commandments which are time-bound. Since circumcisions may only be performed during the day, we would know that women are not commanded in this mitzvah even without a verse to teach this point.

Tosafot answer this question by stating that there are some opinions that circumcisions that occur after the optimally mandated period of 8 days may be performed either during the day or at night. [Thus, according to those opinions, one would need a verse to explicitly teach that women are not commanded to perform circumcisions.] Most rabbinic opinions, however, are that circumcisions even after 8 days must be performed during the daytime.

This may be the reason that the halachic authorities have omitted explicitly mentioning women’s exemption from this commandment even though the Gemora [cited above] explicitly mentions it. Since we follow the ruling that even circumcisions after 8 days should be performed in the daytime, we can automatically deduce that women are exempt from this commandment. That is why the halachic authorities did not need to record this explicit ruling.

We should also consider the question of why the Gemora taught women’s exemption from our verse rather than from the verse in Genesis 17:13 “You should surely circumcise…”. From that verse is taught the law that a non-Jew should not perform a circumcision because from the word “surely” [in Hebrew it is actually a doubling of the verb] we learn that circumcisions should be performed by one who is circumcised. This same approach is used to teach that women may not be scribes and write tefillin. This is deduced (Menachot 42b) from the verse “you should tie…you should write” – all who are obligated to tie are obligated to write.

Perhaps the answer to this question is based on what Tosafot write in Berachot 20b. There they write that women are obligated to say during the recitation of the blessing after meals the phrase “we than God…for the covenant in our flesh…”. Tosafot state that the reason why women are obligated to say this prayer is because since circumcision is not possible with women, there is no reason to exclude them from the general category of people saying the blessing after meals. This same approach is used (in Gemora Avodah Zara 27a) when discussing whether a woman may perform circumcisions due to the fact that she is in the [legal] category of circumcised people.

We see therefore that it is not possible to exclude women from the obligation to perform circumcisions from the verse “you should surely circumcise…” [since woman would actually fulfill this requirement.]

 Translator’s Note: This Torah Temimah note does not actually address the issue of whether women may perform circumcisions. This note here just addresses the topic of whether women are commanded in the mitzvah or not. The question of whether a woman is permitted to perform circumcisions is addressed by the Torah Temimah in his note on Genesis 17:13, note #36. That comment is located here:


Parshat בראשית – Genesis 22:3 –  Why Should We Get Up Early To Do Mitzvot?

Genesis:  22:3 –And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Babylonian Talmud – Pesachim 4a: – The whole day is a valid time for performing circumcisions, but one should [optimally] perform circumcisions earlier in the day. This is because of the dictum “Zealous people should perform mitzvot with alacrity otherwise physical aspects will present themselves to prevent performing the mitzvah” [Zrizim makdimim l’mitzvot]

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #7:

Note what is written above in Genesis 21:4 to explain the phrase “Abraham performed the circumcision [in the manner] as God had commanded him”. According what is stated in Gemora Kedushin 29a: that the commandment of alacrity for circumcision is biblical in nature [not rabbinic] and applies to all of Israel. [If that is so], then the phrase “zealous people should…” is problematic. In the book Ravid HaZahav, the author asks why the issue of “zealous people should perform the commandment early” is not deduced from the verse in Parshat Bo (Exodus 12:17) “and you shall zealously observe my commandments”. There, on that verse, the Gemora and the Mechilta do deduce that if an opportunity comes into your hand to do a commandment, one should not be lax / lazy in performing it.

The answer appears to me that here, the Torah is commanding to perform the mitzvot and the Gemora is bringing a proof that zealous people, due to their love of the commandments, will perform them sooner / earlier of their own initiative [rather than as a core part of the obligation]. It is this point that the Gemora here is trying to prove by quoting the verse of Abraham arising early in the morning [even though it wasn’t a ‘legal’ obligation to do so, per se.]

Regarding the legal details of “zealous people should perform the commandments with alacrity”, we will, with God’s help, delve more deeply into that topic in our comments on Exodus 12:17.

Translator’s  Note: The Torah Temimah is distinguishing between the times when getting up early to do a commandment is a legal obligation versus the times when doing so reflects our love of the commandments.

Parshat וירא – Genesis 18:4 Abraham’s Punishment

Genesis:  18:4 – Let a little water be brought and wash your feet and recline under the tree.

Gemora: Bava Metziah 86(b): They [the travellers] protested to him [Abraham], ‘Dost thou suspect us of being Arabs, who worship the dust on their feet? Ishmael has already issued from thee.’

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #17:

In other words, this was Abraham’s punishment that Ishmael descended from him. One needs to say that it wasn’t actually that Abraham suspected them of being Arabs. Behold, Arabs didn’t even exist yet before Ishmael. Rather it means to say that Abraham suspected them of doing actions like those that Arabs would do in the future.

The reason why the Gemora comments on this posuk is because Abraham prefaced “washing the feet” to “recline under the tree” which is the opposite of what is normally said. We know this to be the case by seeing what Lot did and Laban did. They said first “rest” and then “wash”. However, Abraham did the opposite because he was very careful (מקפיד) about dust because it was used as idol worship by some. The Maharsha notes that the response of the travelers noted above is not explicitly mentioned in the bible. We would not actually not know about the traveler’s response except for the fact that Abraham was punished by having Ishmael descend from him, a nation who worshipped the dust of their feet.

We believe [Gemora Shabbos 97(a)] that one who is suspicious of innocent people will be stricken in his body.

DBS Note: The Torah Temimah quotes sections of the Talmud that are often not known to those who do not assiduously study Gemora. It seems amazing that Abraham is punished for being extra cautious and trying hard to avoid coming into contact with idol worship. Yet the point of the Gemora, and the Torah Temimah’s point in quoting this Gemora, seems to be to emphasize that it is wrong to be extra cautious with stringencies if it entails suspecting innocent people of transgressions for which they are not guilty.

By the way, an amazingly similar comment regarding Moshe’s actions is mentioned in the Torah Temimah’s comment on Shmos 4:1. Our translation of that is located here: