Women in Judaism

Study Sheet #5

Grandchildren (continued)

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

Because of leshevet yitzarah, Rabbi Yochanan states that the mitzvah demands more than the birth of children but their continued existence. Grandchildren, within certain circumstances, may, however, count towards the fulfilment of the mitzvah in lieu of the death of a child.

Abaye and Rava disagree specifically in regard to a son's daughter counting. Abaye says no while Rava, because of leshevet yitzarah states yes. Why does Abaye discount a daughter of a son? What is Rava's further explanation of leshevet?

Tosfot considers Abaye's view to be pashut, simple to understand and not in need of explanation. In so doing, he makes reference to Beit Shammai's position of two males (needed for the fulfilment of the mitzvah), implying that, according to Abaye, even within Beit Hillel there is an influence of this concept of Beit Shammai at least on this level. Rava, on the other hand, declares that the male and female demand of Beit Hillel is specific for the demand is the creation of the potential for further procreation. See Maharal, Yam Shel Shlomo, Yevamot 6:29.

Rabbi Avraham Min Hahar takes this concept one step further in stating that the argument between Rava and Abaye actually concerns the understanding of the basic view of Beit Hillel. Is the mitzvah demand specifically a male and a female or alternatively a male and a female (two males also fulfilling the mitzvah)? According to the latter view, that of Abaye, a daughter's son counts for there are still two male descendants.

Taz, Even HaEzer 1:7 understands the machloket as concerning the very essence of the concept of leshevet. As I understand the Taz, leshevet, according to Rava, demands similarity to the creation of the world (i.e. a male and a female) just like pru u'rvu. According to Abaye, however, leshevet simply demands reproduction of the person. The pru u'rvu demand arising from the model of creation is fulfilled with the birth of a male and a female. It is the leshevet concept within pru u'rvu that Rabbi Yochanan invokes to declare birth alone to be insufficient yet for which grandchildren help - but only if the grandchild is in place of the child, i.e. of the same sex or even a grandson through a daughter for this male can still stand in the place of the male grandfather. As the halacha is in accord with the view of Rava, male and female grandchildren are required. See Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:5.

This view, that within Rava's formulation the grandchildren must also be of different sexes, is not universal. Meiri states that, according to Rava, two grandchildren of the same sex also count. Beit Yosef, Tur, Even HaEzer, chapter 1 actually understands Tosfot's position as abiding by this opinion. Perhaps, within this view, Rava accepts Abaye's understanding that leshevet simply demands reproduction of the person but disagrees that the sex of the offspring is a concern. This may also tie into the view of leshevet of Ntziv, HaEmek She'alah 18:2, which we have mentioned, who perceives this specific demand (especially as it applies to women outside of pru u'rvu) as requiring one child of either sex.

Application Specific to the issue of women in Judaism, the fact that sex is a concern in the object of the mitzvah, both in regard to child and grandchild, is of importance but often overlooked. Since the halacha, as regard both scenarios, concludes with simple equality - the demand of a male and a female - we overlook the fact that gender is a concern and that some formulations of positions did make strong gender distinctions. Bottom line, though, it is not the generic child that is demanded in pru u'rvu but the mitzvah focuses on son and daughter. The concepts surrounding this idea, briefly presented, are most significant

.Distinction in Subject

There is a gender factor in the subject of the mitzvah.

Opening source: T.B. Yevamot 65b

The mishna records the following disagreement in regard to obligation:

Tanna Kamma - only men are obligated

(which is the halacha)

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beruka - women are also obligated

The mishna records the straight forward reason for Rabbi Yochanan ben Beruka; the Torah verse containing pru u'rvu (Bereishit 1:25) states that G-d spoke to them, Adam and Chava, male and female. In fact, this position is easy to understand for women necessarily must be involved in procreation and their exclusion from it must beg the question why. The fact that the verse furthers this understanding only strengthens the question.

The gemara presents two different reasons for the position of the Tanna Kamma. Rabbi Illa stated in the name of Rabbi Elazar bar Shimon that the verse of pru u'rvu continues "you shall spread throughout the land and conquer it". "It is the nature of man to conquer but not the nature of woman" and, as such, the use of the word "conquer" in this verse is meant to limit pru u'rvu to men. The gemara questions this understanding for "conquer it" is in the plural. The answer is that although pronounced in the plural, the word is written in the Torah in the normal conjugation for the singular (and abnormal for the plural) indicating this limud.

The second reason presented is that the operative verse is not pru u'rvu of Bereishit 1:25 but rather prei u'rvei of Bereishit 35:11, G-d'sstatement to Yaacov - in the singular to exclude women from the obligation. Tosfot explains that according to this view, the original statement to Adam and Chava was a bracha not a command.

Both these reasons demand further investigation

Tangent: Leshevet yitzarah


While in faxsheet #2, it was shown that this term has four different meanings, there is no doubt from the discussion above, that there is cross-over between these meanings. The leshevet concept found within pru u'rvu which, at times, affects the nature of that mitzvah, is connected to the leshevet obligation outside of pru u'rvu, advanced by some authorities in which women are also obligated.

This very overlap, however, is precisely the reason why Torah Temimah, Bereishit 1:25, number 65 states that there is no leshevet obligation on women, even d'rabbanan, for leshevet is "an explanation and reason for the mitzvah of pru u'rvu". Although reasons for mitzvot generally have no halachic significance, leshevet does indicating that it is a halachic principle within this mitzvah and not a separate obligation. The Torah Temimah also discusses a woman's responsibility post marriage.

Next step

Distinction in Subject (continued)

Opening Source: T.B. Yevamot 65b

Additional study targets

Practical distinctions

Opening Source: T.B. Yevamot 64a, 65b

Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:13

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