Shabbat Parashat Toldot | 5768
From the works of Rav Yisraeli zt”l - Berachot by Women on Mitzvot They Are Exempt From - Excerpts from Chavot Binyamin, siman 79
Tosafot (Eruvin 96a and Rosh Hashana 33a) deals at length with whether women may recite berachot before performing mitzvot from which they are exempt (usually, time-based mitzvot). The main reason to possibly not allow the beracha is the beracha’swording, as “and commanded us…” is inappropriate for one who was not commanded.
Tosafot cites Rabbeinu Tam as proving that she may make these berachot from the apparent fact that Michal, the daughter of Shaul, made berachot when putting on tefillin (the gemara does not mention that she did so differently than men). The Rosh understands that the proof is from the opinion of R. Yehuda who said that the rabbis protested Michal’s actions, which was probably because she made a beracha before donning them. According to the Rosh’s version of Rabbeinu Tam, then, the dispute over whether women can put on tefillin refers only to whether they can do so with a beracha. She certainly could do the mitzva and apparently also semicha (leaning) on a sacrifice if it is done in a way that does not raise issues of a halachic violation.
This seems to follow the Ra’avad’s approach that, according to R. Yossi (the lenient opinion), a woman can enter herself into a mitzva to the extent that she may wear tzitzit containing shaatnez and likewise may make a beracha that says “and commanded us….” (The Ra’avad accepts R. Yehuda’s stringent opinion, whereas Rabbeinu Tam holds like R. Yossi). Indeed, the Rosh cites Rabbeinu Tam as allowing the wearing of tzitzit with shaatnez for women or for men even at night when there is no obligatory mitzva. What is interesting is that the Rosh requires that the garment must be a man’s garment. Apparently, a woman can put herself in the situation where she enters the mitzva, but she cannot turn the garment into one which requires tzitzit in a way that overcomes the problem of containing shaatnez. An obligated garment can be worn at night by a person who enters into the mitzva even in that situation.
Haghot Ashri (see Tzitit 3:40 and Sukka 3:43) understands from Rashi’s commentary on the following gemara (Sukka 42a) that women cannot make a beracha on mitzvot from which they are exempt. A woman may take a lulav from her husband and return it to water on Shabbat, which one might have thought was forbidden because she is not commanded in the mitzva. Rashi says that the reason it is in fact not muktzeh is that it is considered a utensil for her because it is fit for men to use. Certainly a woman can also use a lulav, and the reason to stress that a man can use it is that a woman would be able to do so only without a beracha. Why isn’t it enough that she can take it even without a beracha for it not to be muktzeh for women, irrespective of men? Only if one holds that they can make the beracha would we say that they enter the mitzva and it would be clear that it is not muktzeh. Otherwise, only because it is fit for a man or if the lulav were set aside for a woman’s use would it be considered a utensil for the mitzva.
The Rambam (Tzitzit 3:9) says that women can wear tzitzit without a beracha and also do other mitzvot without a beracha and we do not protest. The implication is that if she wanted to make a beracha,we would not allow it, as holds the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 589:6). However, the Rama says that the minhag (in Ashkenazic communities) is that women make berachot on such mitzvot, which follows Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion. The Ra’avad in his comments on the Rambam (ad loc.) says that women may make a beracha but they cannot wear tzitzit with shaatnez.Apparently his final approach is that while we can rely upon R. Yossi enough for women to make berachot, we should not go so far as to be lenient on the Torah prohibition of wearing shaatnez in an illegitimate context.
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