The Talmud states, "Michal the daughter of King Saul used to wear tefillin, and the sages did not protest" (Eruvin 96a).
Women Torah Scholars
- Miriam Luria (Spira) - מרים לוריא
- Chanah, Rashi's grand-daughter - חנה, נכדת רש"י
- Elvina, Rashi's grand-daughter - אלווינה, נכדת רש"י,
- Miriam RIBAN - מרים, אשת ריב"ם
- Yocheved Kalonimus - קלונימוס יוכבד
- Rachel Jocelin - רחל ג'וסלין
- Malka Rokeach Belzer Matriach
- Nechama Leibowitz - נחמה ליבוביץ
- Henrietta Szold
- Flora Sassoon
- Sarah Schenirer
- Blu Greenberg
- Adina Bar-Shalom
- Rachel Ray Frank
- Bessie Gotsfeld
- Rabba Sara Hurwitz
Women Wearing Tallit & Tefillin
- Michal the daughter of King Saul
- Rashi's daughters were said to wear tefillin.
- Fazonia, the first wife of Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar - the "Or Ha-Chaim", wore tallit and tefillin, as did Rabbi Chaim's second wife.
- Yenta the Prophetess wore tefillin with the Baal Shem Tov's approval.
- The Maid of Ludomir (Hanna Rachel Werbermacher) in the 19th century also wore tefillin.
These are prominent cases; little is know of less prominent women. Although Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (d. 1293 Germany) and his followers opposed women wearing tefillin, it is safe to say that the vast majority of sages in the past two thousand years allowed specifically or in principle the wearing of tefillin by women.
One opinion was issued by Moses Isserles, a Rabbi and Talmudist, renowned for his fundamental work of Halacha and the Shulkhan Arukh, wrote, "If they (women) wish to wrap themselves in a tallit for woman and make a blessing over it, then it is up to them, as with other timebound, positive mitzvot. This position is not affirmed by Rabbi Simon, or by Joseph Caro.
The Talmud in Menachot 43a reports that Reb Yehudah attached fringes to the aprons of women in his household and there it reads: "All must observe the law of tzitzit, Cohanim, Levites and Israelites, converts, women and slaves.
During the period of the Rishonim (1000 to 1500 CE), some sages, including posqim such as Rashi and Rambam, say that women may perform mitzvot from which they are exempt but do so without reciting a berakha (blessing), since the berakha's phrase "who has commanded us" would not apply.
Rambam writes: "Women, slaves, and minors are exempt from tzitzit from the Torah...Women and slaves who want to wrap themselves in tzitzit may do so without a berakha. And so too with other such mitzvot from which women are exempt: if they want to perform them without a berakha, one does not protest" (Hilkhot Tsitsit 3:9).
The largest group of sages of this period rule that women may perform such mitzvot and recite the berakha as do men. These sages include Rabbenu Tam (1100-1171) and Rabbi Zerahia haLevi (12th c. Provence) among many others.
The Rashba (1235-1310 Spain) states in a teshuva (responsum): "I agree with those who say that if they desire they can do all such mitzvot and recite the blessings, on the basis of Mikhal bat Shaul who used to wear tefillin and they did not protest; indeed she did so with the approval of the sages (kirtzon hakhamim) and by the nature of the matter since she puts on tefillin she blesses" (Teshuva 123).
TORAH & SPIRITUAL GUIDES
Bruriah was a brilliant woman who is said to have learned 300 Jewish laws a day. One of the most famous incidents concerning her is a sad one. Her two sons died on Shabbat, but she did not want to burden her husband Rabbi Meir during the joyous holy day, and so she delayed telling him. After nightfall, she asked him: "Sometime ago I was given something to enjoy, but now the one who gave it to me wants it back. Must I return it?"
Surprised by the simple question, he responded affirmatively. Bruriah showed Rabbi Meir their dead sons. He began to weep and she asked, "Did you not tell me to return what was loaned? God gave, and God has taken away, blessed is God."
Deborah was a great prophetess who served as a Judge of the Jewish people. When Israel was being attacked, the Jewish General Barak refused to wage war unless she joined him. She agreed and mobilized a huge army to defeat the enemy (see Judges, ch. 5).
Deborah was also known for making the wicks for the torches in the Temple in order to encourage Torah learning. In the Bible she is called "Deborah, woman of torches," because this support of Torah is considered an even greater contribution to the future of the Jewish people than her military victories.
With all her accomplishments, in the famous "Deborah's Song" she referred to herself as a "mother in Israel," because she saw motherhood as her greatest role.
Against her wishes, Shlomzion's (13967 B.C.E.) husband, Alexander Yanneus, conducted a reign of terror against the Jewish populace, especially the Sages. She succeeded him and restored respect to Judaism, inviting Jewish scholars to return from exile and rebuilding yeshivot.
A strictly observant Jew, she was outstanding in her devotion to Jewish teachings. Due to her great qualities, the entire Land of Israel was blessed, with fruits growing to great sizes. The Sages preserved some of these so that later generations would be inspired by the rewards of piety. Her reinvigoration of Jewish life enabled the Jewish people to survive the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile that soon followed.
The persecutions in 15th century Spain left hundreds of thousands of Jews dead and many more homeless and wandering. Many became conversos, outwardly leading Christian lives while secretly practicing Judaism. Discovery was extremely dangerous.
Donna Gracia was born into such a family and was in charge of a large banking empire. The Belgian king tried to confiscate the bank's holdings by claiming she was a hidden Jew. She cunningly avoided the charge and managed to get her family and her wealth into the Ottoman Empire. There she shed her Christian exterior and became a valiant leader of the Jewish people, using her wealth to provide for the needy, build synagogues, and give stipends to Torah scholars, enabling them to focus completely on their studies.
When the Christians in Ancona burned 24 Jews at the stake, Donna Gracia organized the first modern boycott to punish the city, setting a precedent that inspired much community action for future generations.
Through her piety, meticulous observance of Jewish law, and leadership, she won the respect and admiration of the entire Jewish people and became known as the "Esther of her time."
THE MAID OF LUDMIR
Channa Rachel Werbermacher, who lived in the 19th century, was known as the Maid of Ludmir. She applied herself assiduously from a young age to become well educated in Torah and prayed with unusual devotion.
Once, upon visiting her mother's grave, she collapsed and fell into a coma. She explained to her father that she had visited Heaven and received a new soul. The great Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl substantiated her claim saying, "We do not know whose religious soul is dwelling in this woman." With this recognition, she took on new prominence.
She eventually moved to the Land of Israel, and, together with an elderly kabbalist, was intent on a course of action they understood would bring the Messiah. A meeting was set, but as her partner was leaving his home, a poor wayfarer came to the door asking for food and comfort. The meeting was subsequently missed. Chassidic lore explains that the wayfarer was Elijah the prophet, who interfered because the world was not yet ready for the Messiah.
A seamstress living in early 20th century Poland, Sarah Schenirer had a profound and invaluable effect on Jewish women. After centuries of pogroms, persecution, and poverty, Jewish learning had drastically declined. Only a small percentage of Jewish men had any real knowledge of their heritage. Women's education was even more neglected. For lack of alternatives, young women from traditional homes attended nonreligious schools and were led away from Judaism.
Greatly disturbed by the situation, Sarah Schenirer cried out,
"Watch how the girls pray without motivation, as if it were forced upon them. Some are here to please their parents; others, as if God needs their prayers. My sisters! When will you understand that our main purpose for being on this earth is to serve God?"
A bright and warm-hearted woman, Sarah Schenirer understood that those who left Judaism did so out of ignorance. She wished to show them the great beauty and depth of the Jewish tradition. Leading rabbis blessed her endeavors and wished her success.
In 1918, Sarah Schenirer opened her first school with 25 girls. The girls loved learning about their heritage and religion, and more joined. Within a short time, Bais Yaakov schools opened all over Europe, and she founded a teachers seminary to fill the need for educators. By 1937, there were 250 Bais Yaakovs with 38,000 students throughout eastern and central Europe, along with youth organizations and summer camps. Today it is the largest Jewish women's educational system in the world.
Reprinted with permission from "Jewish Women Speak About Jewish Matters" Published by Targum Press, Inc.
Miriam Shapira Luria Wikipedia
MAHARAT - Manhiga Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit
Maharat, a Hebrew acronym that stands for “Manhiga Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit,” or female legal, spiritual and Torah leader.
Rachel “Ray” Frank in many ways was the first “maharat.” Frank, a Jewish educator in California in the late 19th century, was critical of the Jewish leaders of her time and ended up famously preaching from a synagogue pulpit in Spokane, Washington, on Rosh Hashana in 1890. That launched her career as the first woman to regularly deliver sermons and officiate at synagogue services, though she was never ordained.