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Women’s Involvement In Korbanos

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This week we begin reading Sefer Vayikra. The majority of this sefer is dedicated to the halachos of korbanos. The parshah begins with halachos of the korban Olah. One of the halachos listed in the pasuk is that the owner of the korban must do semicha (lean on) the korban. This applies to other korbanos as well. The owner recites vidui (teshuvah) while he is leaning on the korban.

The Mishnah in Kiddushin 36a says that semicha, along with many other avodahs – such as tenufah (waiving the korban), kemeitzah (scooping the flour with one’s hand), among others – are only performed by men, not by women. The Gemara there cites pesukim from which we derive that each of the avodahs is only to be performed by men. This also applies to a woman who is a koheness.

Tosafos there asks: Why is it necessary to draw from a pasuk that women are not fit to perform these avodahs when they must all be performed during the day and not by night, thus rendering them all mitzvos assei she’hazman gramma (time-sensitive mitzvos)? Tosafos answers that if not for the pasuk, we would not have known that a korban would be invalid if a woman performed it. Whenever a woman is exempt from mitzvos assei she’hazman gramma she can perform it if she so desires, provided that it’s not forbidden to be performed by women, such as wearing tefillin (see Rama, Orach Chaim 38:3). Therefore, if the pasuk had not excluded women from performing these avodahs, we would have allowed a woman to perform them had she so desired. Now that the pasuk has excluded them, a korban will be invalid if a woman performs one of these avodahs.

Tosafos continues, however, by saying that this is not true regarding semicha. If a woman will perform the semicha on a korban, the korban will be valid. Why then does a pasuk need to be written in the Torah telling us that a woman does not have to perform semicha when we would have known this by applying the general rule that women are exempt from all mitzvos assei she’hazman gramma?

Tosafos’s answer: Regarding semicha we would have thought to make a different drasha connecting it to shechitah, which women are permitted to perform. Thus the Torah had to exclude women from semicha so that we would not include them – as we do regarding shechitah.

Rav Akiva Eiger questions why semicha is considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma. While it is true that it must be performed during the daytime, this is not because the semicha per se cannot be performed by night. The halacha is that the semicha must immediately precede the shechitah. Since the shechitah must be performed during the daytime the semicha must also be performed at that time. But theoretically semicha could have been performed by night. Therefore it should not be considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

The Pri Megadim (Pesicha kolleles, chelek 2:15) further questions this. He says that one can perform a long semicha and recite a long vidui, and begin the semicha during the nighttime and continue it until dawn. Then he can immediately shecht his korban in the daytime. Why then is semicha considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma?

To answer these questions, Acharonim have suggested that we derive from a drasha that connects semicha to shechitah that the semicha must be performed during the day – the same as shechitah. Consequently one would not be allowed to perform semicha during the night and continue performing the semicha during the day, in order to shecht by day, for the actual semicha must also be performed during the day.

The Rogatchover, in Tzafnas Paneach (Hilchos Kilayim 9:5) suggests a proof that semicha does not have to be performed by day. He says that regarding a korban of partners, in which each partner must perform semicha, one partner’s semicha will obviously not be performed immediately before the shechitah. Therefore, in this case, whereby the semicha does not have to be performed immediately before the shechitah, the semicha should be permitted to be performed at night. Accordingly, semicha would not be considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

Two points: 1) According to the answer that we just concluded from the Acharonim, namely that we derive from a drasha that semicha must be performed during the day, even if it were not being performed immediately before the shechitah it would have to be performed during the day.

2) I would suggest that when partners simultaneously perform semicha on the animal, it is considered that each semicha was performed immediately before the shechitah. Since they are all required to perform the semicha, it is considered to be one long, uninterrupted semicha. Thus semicha is always performed immediately before shechitah, and as such is considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

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One Response to “Women’s Involvement In Korbanos

  1. Nathan Katz says:

    The sugya goes on to make a very strong insight. A women may do semicha for the reason of b’nachat ruach, to elevate her spirituality, but not if the reason is to show off. I think we can apply this principle to many contemporary issues about women’s roles in Judaism. If it is truly for spiritual enrichment is is permitted, but not to show off. Think of WoW – which are they?

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