Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wrapping up and lighting up

When I became a Bat Mitzvah (a week after my college graduation--figure that one out), I bought myself a tallis to commemorate.  It was pink and black silk with silver thread woven into the atara, and came with a matching tallis bag and kippa.  I still have it.  I was never sure what to do with it.  Cut off the tzitzit and atara and turn it into a headwrap?  Keep it as a relic?  Donate it?  To whom?  No boy would be caught dead in a pink tallis, and we certainly wouldn't want to give it to a girl--since of course, any girl who wants to wear a tallis is some evil feminist with either an agenda or a score to settle.  One morning, I decided on a lark that I would wear it again while davening at home.  (The Things were not there to witness my transgression.)  Before I even got to Shema, I took it off.  Somehow, after all those years of not wearing it, it just felt wrong somehow.
I think about my pink tallis, sitting on a shelf in my closet, now that the explosion is starting to settle down.  The explosion of course is the Orthodox yeshiva SAR permitting two girls to wear tefillin during in-school Shacharit.  I can't say that I've ever had the experience of wearing them, but I can sort of relate.
The halacha is very clear.  Women are exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot.  This includes things like tefillin, since they are to be worn during Shacharit.  This also includes davening with a minyan, hearing the megillah and the shofar, sitting in a sukkah, hearing Parshat Zachor--wait a minute!
Even in uber-frum Boro Park, plenty of women rush to shul for Zachor.  Some shuls even have later readings which are packed with women.  Same with megillah leinings.  As for shofar--even homebound women get to hear it, thanks to wandering shofar-blowers.  And I've never been ordered away from a sukkah.
Moreover, if that's the benchmark, why are women obligated to light Shabbos candles?  That's one of the main mitzvot for women.  However, since the lighting is from the commandments of "keep Shabbos" and "remember Shabbos," aren't those both positive?  And it's certainly timebound.  I can't, for example, decide to keep Shabbos on any day of the week I feel like.  And, as any balabuste can tell you, the minute is set in stone.  Miss the time, and you're mechalel Shabbos.  Bad Jew!
Frequently, I hear appeals to emotion like "most women don't really care about wearing tefillin" or "you women don't know how good you have it, not having to get up early" or "my wife would rather not wear tefillin, and doesn't understand why anyone would."  That's nice.  Unfortunately, these sentiments have no place in a discussion about halacha.  Either it's allowed or it's not.  And if women can sit in a sukkah or hear Zachor, and have to play "Beat the Clock" every Friday for the rest of their lives, then apparently the time-bound rule is a little fuzzier than we thought.

1 comment:

I'm not Monty Python. I hate SPAM.