Sunday, September 7, 2014

Parshas Ki Savo - the mitzvah to read the pessukim of bikkurim

The pesukim at the beginning of this week’s sedrah explain that there is a mitzvah to read pesukim to thank Hashem when we bring bikkurim:
וְעָנִיתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹךֶיךָ אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה... וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ ה' מִמִּצְרַיִם... וַיְבִאֵנוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה ...וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לִּי ה'
“And you shall answer and you should say before Hashem, ‘Lavan tried to destroy Yaakov and he went down to Mitzrayim... and Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim... and He brought us to this place... and now behold I have brought the first  of the fruits of the land that you have given to me, Hashem.’”

The Turei Even in Megillah (20b) says that according to the Rif, these pesukim can only be read by day. However, the Turei Even asks on the Rif from a mishnah in the first perek of Bikkurim (1:5) that says:
האפוטרופוס והשליח והעבד והאשה וטומטום ואנדרוגינוס, מביאין ולא קורין, שאינן יכולין לומר אשר נתתה לי ה'
“Women bring bikkurim but they do not read the pesukim because they cannot say ‘אשר נתתה לי ה'’ – ‘these fruits are from the land that you Hashem have given me.’”

The Turei Even asks that if you can only read the pesukim of bikkurim by day, then this is a mitzvas asek shehazman geramah (a mitzvah that can only be performed at a specific time) and anyway we would know that women do not need to keep this mitzvah, so why does the mishna need a special passuk to tell us that women are patur?

Rabbi Pesach Stein z”l answers as follows:

The mishna says in Kiddushin 36a:
הסמיכות... נוהגים באנשים ולא בנשים..
The mitzvah of semichah (resting your hands on the head of the korban and saying viduy)... applies only to men and not to women.

The gemara explains the source of the halachah:
סמיכות דכתיב (ויקרא א, ב) "דבר אל בני ישראל וסמך" -- בני ישראל סומכים ואין בנות ישראל סומכות
“We know that women do not have a mitzvah to do semichah as the passuk says ‘דבר אל בני ישראל וסמך’ – ‘speak to the benei yisrael and they should rest their hands’. From this we understand that the mitzvah applies to the benei yisrael (the men) and not to the benos yisrael (the women).”

The Ritva asks, why do we need a passuk to tell us that women are patur from doing semichah, we know that semicha can only be done by day as the mishnah says in megillah 20b:
כל היום כשר לסמיכה
“The whole day (and not the night) is kosher for doing semichah.”

If so, semicha is a mitzvas aseh shehazman geramah, and we would know anyway that women are patur from this mitzvah without a special passuk?

The Ritva answers
ואיכא למימר דכי אמרינן מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא נשים פטורות במצות שבחובה לגמרי, דכי מטי זמן חיוביה לא סגיא דלא לקיומינהו, אבל הנהו אינן בחובה לגמרי, אלא שבאין להכשיר קרבנו אם ירצה שיעלה לו לרצון, והוה אמינא דאחד אנשים ואחד נשים שוין, קמ"ל.
“It is possible to explain that women are only patur from a mitzvas aseh shehazman geramah where the mitzvah is an absolute imperative, so that when the time comes, the person absolutely has to perform the mitzvah.

However, mitzvos such as semichah are not an absolute imperative, rather they come to make his korban kosher if he wants that his korban should be pleasing to Hashem, and I might have thought that with such mitzvos, men and women are equally obliged to perform the mitzvah (even although the mitzvah can only be performed at a specific time).”

Rabbi Pesach  Stein z”l explains that similarly we could say that reading the pesukim of bikkurim is not an absolute imperative, rather if the person wants that his bikurim should be oleh le’ratzon then he has to read the pesukim, however the bikkurim are kosher even if he does not say them.

Therefore we may have thought that women are obliged to read the pesukim of bikkurim and that is why we need a passuk to tell us that women are patur.

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