Situated in the south of Jerusalem, the project benefits from one of the city’s most prestigious and desirable locales, nestled in a particularly attractive area between the Talpiot neighborhood and the green groves of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
Seder night. Everything in sight is scrubbed clean and shiny; delicious aromas waft in from the kitchen. The smiling family members are gathered around the set table, all of them reclining against a pillow on their chairs. Or are they? We know that men have an obligation to recline at the seder table, but do women have this obligation as well?
The Gemara says, “Isha etzel ba’alah lo ba’i hasebah, v’im isha chashuva hi tzricha hasebah” (Pesachim, 108a) – a woman next to her husband is not required to recline, but if she is an important woman she must recline. Many Rishonim ask, who qualifies as an “isha chashuva”? Which women are obligated to recline and which are not? Three explanations are offered, exemplified by the Kesef Mishna, the Sheiltos d’Rav Achai (an early gaon), and Tosfos.
Rav Yosef Cairo in the Kesef Mishna, his gloss on Rambam (Hilchos Chametz u’Matzah, 7:8) gives three definitions of an isha chashuva. It can be an unmarried woman who is the head of her house; a woman who comes from an important family, is an eishes chayil and yiras Hashem; or a woman with servants who need not busy herself with preparing food and running the house.
The Kesef Mishna’s definition is a practical one. A factor in the life of the isha chashuva makes it feasible, and therefore mandatory, for her to recline at the seder table – in contradistinction to women who, for practical reasons, are unable to, and therefore are not required to recline. As a matter of practical halacha, Rav Yosef Cairo maintains this distinction when he rules in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 472:4) that the isha chashuva must recline and all other women are exempt.
The Sheiltos on the other hand proffers a sociological rationale. He says “lav darcha d’nashei l’mizgah” – it is simply not the way of women to recline. Nevertheless, he maintains that an isha chashuva must recline, though he does not provide criteria for inclusion in this category.
Tosfos in Pesachim takes a novel approach and says, “d’kulhu nashim didan chashuvos ninhu v’tzrichos hashebah” – all of our women are important and are required to recline. Unlike the aforementioned poskim who differentiate between types of women based on philosophical, sociological or practical factors, Tosfos asserts that all women in the Jewish community are important to us, should be viewed respectfully – and therefore are all obligated to recline at the seder table.
The Ramah (Ashkenazic glosses to the Shulchan Aruch) rules, based on this Tosfos, that all women are considered chashuvos; therefore all women have an obligation to recline at the seder. However, he proceeds to say something surprising (see also Darchei Moshe), noting that while all women are obligated to do so, the women of his community do not recline. Attempting to reconcile this seeming contradiction, he postulates that perhaps all the women were accustomed to be lenient (“nohagu lihakel”) based on the Ra’avyah’s assertation (siman 525) that since it is no longer the custom of b’nei chorin to recline on a sofa-type seat while eating, the act of reclining no longer symbolizes freedom. The Ra’avyah therefore believes that everyone should sit upright at the seder.
It’s fascinating to realize that the Ramah was so perturbed by the disconnect between his understanding of correct halachic practice and the reality he witnessed around him that he postulated a highly improbable sociological phenomenon. Although no men relied on the Ra’avyah, the Ramah suggests that all women must have known about this singular, obscure, lenient opinion and relied on it.
While we can conclude that there is valid halachic basis for both opinions on whether or not women are obligated to recline, I would encourage readers, when they make their personal decisions this year, to keep in mind what the act of reclining at the seder symbolizes in the context of our community.
About the Author: Shayna B. Finman is a graduate of the Drisha Scholars Circle, studied in the Pardes Kollel and at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo in Jerusalem. She served as the first female Congregational Intern at Ramat Orah on Manhattan's UWS, taught Jewish Law in Israel and worked at JOFA and DOROT, both in Manhattan. Growing up she was a student of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z"l. She currently works as a personal chef and boutique caterer in NYC focusing on Farm to Table organic kosher cuisine.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.
Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering
Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.
Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life
It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident
“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.
If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism
Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.
March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck
I can tell you that Cablevision has been astonished at how high we rank.
The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government.
Former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, provided one of the clearest and most compelling analyses we’ve seen of the importance of the prime minister’s speech.
If it is the sole solution to women’s rights at the Kotel, an egalitarian section at the Kotel will ultimately make things harder for Orthodox feminists who are trying to assert their rights within a Halachic framework.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/to-recline-or-not-to-recline-a-womans-obligation-at-the-pesach-seder/2005/04/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: