Question: According to Chazal, it would seem that women have no simcha obligation on Yom Tov other than the purchase of new garments. Is this so?
Answer: The Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 529:2) states: “One is required to manifest joy and gladness of heart during the festival – he, his wife, his children and all who are dependent on him…”
The above halacha is based on the statement of the Sages (Pesachim 109a), “A person is required to gladden his children and his household on Yom Tov, as it states (Deuteronomy 16:14), “You shall rejoice on your festival [you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your bondwoman, the Levite, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow within your gates].”
To this the Gemara asks, “In what manner do we gladden them?” It responds, “With wine.” R. Yehuda disagrees and states, “Men with what is suitable for them, women with what is suitable for them.” The Gemara explains that for men, it is wine, and for women, it is garments.
The Mechaber (Orach Chayyim ad loc.), based on the Gemara (supra 108b-109a), adds that “to children we give parched ears of corn and nuts, and for the women one buys garments and jewelry according to one’s financial ability; one is also required to feed the proselyte, the orphan and the widow, along with the other indigents.”
Our discussion will now focus both on the wording of the Gemara’s statement and the verse upon which it is based. The Gemara’s original statement, as we cited it, is, “A person is required to gladden his children and his household [bnei beito].” The verse states, “Ve’samachta becha’gecha ata u’vincha u’vitecha . . . – You shall rejoice on the festival, you, your son, your daughter…”
The obvious question is: where do we find a reference to one’s wife, both in the Gemara’s statement and in the verse?
We may attempt to answer that bnei beito is a reference to one’s wife. But this doesn’t resolve how the Sages found it in the verse.
Therefore, we must say that the words “Ve’samachta becha’gecha, ata…” include both the husband and the wife. As proof we have the commandment to observe the Sabbath – in Parashat Yitro (Exodus 20:8-11), and again in Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) – where the words “ata u’vincha u’vitecha… – You, your son, and your daughter…” are also used.
The above phrasing (Exodus 20:8-11) is included in the Kiddusha Rabbah, the Sabbath morning Kiddush. The Gemara (Berachot 20b) derives from the above two verses that women, though exempt from mitzvot aseh she’ha’zeman gerama (time-based commandments) are nevertheless required to recite the Sabbath Kiddush [on wine]. Thus, it follows that a woman whose husband is away or one who is not married must recite the Kiddush.
Thus, there is no question that “ata” is addressed to a man as well as to a woman.
Rabbi Aaron Felder, zt”l, late Rav in Philadelphia and Mara de’Atra of Congregation Bnei Israel Ohev Tzedek, discusses in his sefer She’elot Aharon (siman 57) the obligation of women in the observance of simchat Yom Tov. In addition to the Gemara in Pesachim (109a) that we cited earlier, he notes other Talmudic sources, including Kiddushin 34b and Rosh Hashana 6b, that seem to place the woman as the object of her husband’s simcha requirement, while she herself has no such requirement.
However, he does cite Tractate Chagigah (5b-6a) stating that the mother of a young child is required to join in the simcha of the festival. This is the view of Beit Hillel based on the verse (I Samuel 1:22) stating, “Chana did not ascend [to Shiloh, where the Mishkan was then located] for she said to her husband, ‘When the boy is weaned, I will bring him.’”
Rabbi Felder explains, citing the Ba’al HaMa’or on tractate Rosh Hashana, that a husband is required to bring his wife up to Jerusalem in order that she rejoice with him.
He does note the Jerusalem Talmud’s statement (Chagigah 1:2) that women have an obligation of simcha, rejoicing. [However, the Gemara also rules that they do not have the requirement of aliyah le’regel – ascending to Jerusalem on the three festivals.] Nevertheless, we explain, as above, that her husband has the requirement to provide her with joy and she, in turn, is required to gladden him.
Rabbi Felder also cites Torah Temima to Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 16:14) that “even though a woman is not obligated in time-based mitzvot, in this particular mitzvah of simchat hachag, rejoicing on the festivals, she has an obligation because of her husband, for the Gemara states (Yebamot 62b), ‘He who dwells without a wife is without joy,’ and the Torah states (Deuteronomy 16:14), ‘Ve’samachta becha’gecha… – You shall rejoice on your festival…’ If she does not share in his joy, how is his joy complete? Thus, she is obligated to rejoice.”
He then cites Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 264) that a woman is obligated in the mitzvah of rejoicing since aveilut, mourning, is not manifested on Yom Tov because of the requirement of rejoicing. And if we were to say that she has no such requirement, she would also be required to continue mourning on Yom Tov.
He quotes Me’iri (Kiddushin 34b) stating that a single woman is also obligated in simchat Yom Tov. The obligation that “her husband gladden her” is only due to the fact that a married woman’s main requirement is to allow her husband to gladden her, and she in turn gladdens him.
We conclude with two of Rabbi Felder’s many other citations: Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 488) and Rambam (Hilchot Chagigah 1:1), who both opine, “women are obligated to rejoice on the festivals.”
May we all rejoice on these festivals as we anxiously await our redemption, speedily in our days.