Monday, August 25, 2008

Can women read the Megillah for men?

Recently the gemara (talmud) class I attending was studying Tractate Megillah, and one topic discussed was whether women can read the megillah for men.

It seems very clear from the gemara, (towards the top of page 4a), that women can do so, and that men will fulfill their obligation by hearing a woman read.

The gemara says:

ואמר רב יהושוע בן לוי נשים חייבות במקרה מגילה שאף הן היו באותו הנס
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in the reading of the megillah, for they too were part of the miracle.

Note that it says “bemikrah”, in the reading of the megillah, not “beshmiyah”, in the hearing of the megillah. However, Tosafot, while acknowledging that the plain text would appear to support that view, then jumps through hoops to work out an interpretation that denies women this right.

I wonder if this is a case of approaching the topic by the standards of the medieval period in which the Tosafists lived with a preconceived notion and then wringing out their desired conclusion through rather convoluted reasoning?

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