Women in Judaism

Study Sheet #3

Mitzvah #1 -- Pru U'rvu (procreation)


Tangent: Other Forms of Obligation

The following are further sources to our discussion in faxsheet #2.

1) Obligation to marry

Further to the issue of whether a woman has an obligation to assist her husband in his mitzvah, Ran, Chiddushim on Rif, Kiddushin 41b (15b in the Rif) clearly writes that she has a mitzvah in this regard. The Chiddushim Anshei Shem, however, questions where this mitzvah to assist comes from.

2) Leshevet yitzarah, "to be inhabited, He formed [the world]"

Further to our question of what would the exact obligation of leshevet, Otzar HaPoskim. Even HaEzer 1:30 lists a variety of opinions: a child; a male and a female; 2 males or 2 females (this latter opinion derived from the Rashba). The view that states that leshevet is a male and a female is, obviously, most problematic in that, if women are commanded as such, there would be no practical distinction in their exclusion from pru u'rvu.

The argument that was presented in faxsheet #2 for 1 child is actually presented by Ntziv, HaEmek She'alah 18:2. Taz, Even HaEzer 1:7 presents an argument against this analysis and why leshevet demands a male and a female.

Distinction in object

Opening source: T.B. Yevamot 61b, 62a

The mishna records a disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding the requirements for the mitzvah:

Beit Shammai -- two males

Beit Hillel -- a male and a female

The gemara presents the reasons and counter-reasons between the two. The basic reason for Beit Shammai in Moshe Rabbeinu who separated from his wife after having only two sons. Beit Hillel's basic reason is the creation of the world and that G-d created a man and a woman.

While most rishonim understand the position of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai as definite, there is some varying views. The Tosfot Chad Mikamai (on the page) understands Beit Hillel as "even a male and a female," meaning that Beit Hillel agrees with Beit Shammai on two males. A position like this is also quoted in Meiri. Rashba and Meiri also quote a view that understands Beit Shammai as "even two males", meaning that Beit Shammai agrees with Beit Hillel on a male and a female(this view is associated with a girsah (version) of Rashi that is obviously different than the one found in our edition of the Talmud). These positions are, of course, not normative and the halacha as found in Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:5 is a male and a female.

The gemara also relates in the name of Rav Natan a different understanding of the disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. In fact, there are two different presentations on what Rav Natan's position.

View #1:

Beit Shammai - 2 males and 2 females

(from the birth of Shet as a replacement for Hevel. See Maharshal and Maharsha)

Beit Hillel - a male and a female

View #2:

Beit Shammai - a male and a female

Beit Hillel - a male or a female

(from leshevet)So within the literature we see the following possibilities that were theoretically presented for the fulfilment of the mitzvah.

1) a male or a female

2) a male and a female

3) two males

4) two males and two females

5) a male and a female or two males

For our purposes, two questions must be asked. First, pursuant to those views that make a distinction in the value of fulfilment between the male and the female (such as the view that demands two males), why the distinction? Second, what do these different views of fulfilment inform us of the mitzvah of pru u'rvu?

In discussing these issues the following was noted:

1) The reasons for Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel as presented in the gemara, are different in nature. Beit Hillel's reason is straightforward. Beit Shammai however, it would seem, is not presenting a reason but rather an indication - if Moshe Rabbeinu separated after two males, then that must be the minimum requirement - but that does not explain why two males. We wondered whether there may be a connection between the exemption of women from the mitzvah and this position, and whether there is a further connection between that and Moshe Rabbeinu?

2) Maharal, Netivot Olam, Ntiv HaEmet, chap. 1 states the concept that procreation demandsmultitude, ie. more than one. This would explain why most views demand a minimum of two children. Maharal actually stresses this view in Beit Shammai which demands two of the same gender.

3) Biur Agadat Chazal, Yevamot 62a quote Gilyanei HaShos which explains the difference between the view of two males and two females, and that of a male and a female as whether our model should be the first human, Adam HaRishon, who had two males and two females, or the creation of the world and G-d's creation of a male and a female. This further supports the contention that the concept of pru u'rvu goes beyond the simple concept of procreation as there is a significance given to models. What do these models - Moshe Rabbeinu, Adam HaRishon, Hashem in creation -mean?

On the other hand, the concept of leshevet, the simple demand for procreation because the world should be inhibited, is also very powerful. While this reason, in the context herein, is only applicable to Rav Natan's view that Beit Hillel demands a male or a female, this concept has other significance as we shall see.

Next step


Opening source: T.B. Yevamot 62a,b.

Distinction in Subject

Opening Source: T.B. Yevamot 65b

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