Question (Rav Papa): Why did Hash-m do miracles for earlier Tzadikim, but not for us?
It cannot be because they learned more -- in the days of Rav Yehudah, all the learning was focused on Seder Nezikim (damages), today we learn all six Sedarim of Mishnah;
When Rav Yehudah reached the Mishnah about a woman preserving vegetables in a pot, he could not explain why they are Tehorim -- but we have 13 different ways to learn tractate Uktzim (Tum'ah of stems)!
However, when they needed rain, Rav Yehudah would remove one shoe, the rain came immediately, but we cry to Hash-m all day, and we are not answered!
Answer (Abaye): Earlier generations were wholly devoted to sanctifying Hash-m's name, we are not.
Rav Ada bar Ahavah once saw a woman wearing an immodest garment; he assumed that she was a Jewess and ripped it off of her. It turned out that she was a Nochris; he had to compensate her with 400 Zuz.
Rav Gidal would sit in front of the Mikvah in order to instruct women about proper immersion.
Rabanan: Aren't you concerned that you will be tempted to sin?!
Rav Gidal: They are like white geese to me.
R. Yochanan would sit next to the Mikveh in order that women should see his beauty as they emerged and bear children as beautiful as he.
Rabanan: Aren't you afraid of Ayin ha'Ra (this may cause envy)?!
R. Yochanan: I descend from Yosef; Ayin ha'Ra does not rule over his offspring:
(R. Avahu): In the blessing given to Yosef, it says "Alei Ayin (he has grace in the eyes of all that see him)" -- we read this "Olei Ayin" (they rise above the evil eye).
(R. Yosi bar Chanina): We learn from (the blessing given to Yosef's children), "v'Yidgu la'Rov" (they should increase like fish) -- just like fish are covered by water and shielded from the eye, similarly the offspring of Yosef are shielded from Ayin ha'Ra.
Alternatively, because Yosef's eye did not want to look at what was forbidden to him (Potifar's wife), Ayin ha'Ra does not rule over him (or his offspring).
MITZVOS THAT APPLY TO WOMEN
(Mishnah): Women, [Kena'ani] slaves and children are exempt from Shema and Tefilin, they are obligated in Tefilah, Mezuzah and Birkas ha'Mazon.
(Gemara) Question: Obviously, women are exempt from Shema -- it is a Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama (a positive Mitzvah that applies only at particular times), women are exempt from such Mitzvos!
Answer: One might have thought that they are obligated, because Shema involves accepting Ol Malchus Shamayim -- the Mishnah teaches, they are exempt.
(Mishnah): They are exempt from Tefilin.
Question: Obviously, women are exempt from Tefilin (it, too, is a Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama)!
Answer: One might have thought that they are obligated, because Tefilin is equated to Mezuzah (in which they are obligated) -- the Mishnah teaches, this is not so.
(Mishnah): They are obligated in Tefilah.
This is because Tefilah is a request for mercy (which women also need).
(Mishnah): They are obligated in Mezuzah.
Question: This is obvious (it is a Mitzvas Aseh she'Ein ha'Zeman Gerama (it is not time-related), in which women are obligated)!
Answer: One might have thought that they are exempt, because Mezuzah is equated to learning Torah (from which they are exempt) -- the Mishnah teaches, this is not so.
(Mishnah): They are obligated in Birkas ha'Mazon.
Question: This is obvious (it is a Mitzvas Aseh she'Ein ha'Zeman Gerama)!
Answer: One might have thought that it is like Zeman Gerama, because it says, "b'Tes Hash-m Lachem ba'Erev Basar le'Echol v'Lechem ba'Boker Lisbo'a" -- the Mishnah teaches, this is not so.
(Rav Ada bar Ahavah): Mid'Oraisa, women are obligated in Kidush [at the beginning] of Shabbos.
Question: Why are they obligated? It is a Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama!
Answer #1 (Abaye): They are obligated mid'Rabanan.
Objection #1 (Rava): Rav Ada said that they are obligated mid'Oraisa!
Objection #2 (Rava): If so, they should be obligated mid'Rabanan in every Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama!
Answer #2 (Rava): It says "Zachor" and "Shamor" -- whoever is commanded in Shemirah (not to do Melachah) is commanded in Zechirah (to recite Kidush);
Since women are commanded in Shemirah (because it is a Lav), they are also commanded in Zechirah.
A WOMAN'S OBLIGATION TO SAY BIRKAS HA'MAZON
Question (Ravina): Is a woman's obligation to say Birkas ha'Mazon mid'Oraisa or mid'Rabanan?
This affects whether or not they can exempt men from their obligation:
If they are obligated mid'Oraisa, they can exempt men, who are also obligated mid'Oraisa;
If they are obligated mid'Rabanan, they are exempt [mid'Oraisa], one who is exempt cannot exempt one who is obligated.
Answer (Rava - Beraisa): A tradition from Moshe from Sinai teaches that a son may bless for (and exempt) his father, a slave may bless for his master, a wife may bless for her husband, but Chachamim cursed one who fulfills his obligation through his wife or children (he should learn to bless by himself)!
We understand this if they are obligated mid'Oraisa -- therefore, they can exempt men;
But if they are obligated mid'Rabanan, they cannot exempt men!
Counter-question: Surely, a minor is exempt mid'Oraisa -- yet it also says that a son can bless for his father!
Rejection (and answer to counter-question): You must say, the man's obligation to say Birkas ha'Mazon is only mid'Rabanan (he did not eat to satiation).
(Rav Avira): The angels asked Hash-m, "It says, 'Asher Lo Yisa Panim...' -- but you do so to Yisrael, as it says, 'Yisa Hash-m Panav Elecha'!"
Hash-m: Should I not show favor to Yisrael? I said, "v'Achalta v'Savata u'Verachta," and they bless even for a k'Zayis or k'Beitzah (according to R. Meir and R. Yehudah, respectively)!
(Gra - the Jewish people prefer to say Birkas ha'Mazon in the ideal way, with a Zimun; the Rabanan enacted to bless for a k'Zayis (or k'Beitzah) in order that an amount enough to satiate one person (10 k'Zeisim) can be split among 10 (or at least three) people, so that each will eat a k'Zayis (or k'Beitzah). Chasam Sofer - when Hash-m blesses the food, Yisrael is satiated from a very small amount; that suffices for saying Birkas ha'Mazon. However, since the verse mentions "Achilah" (which is usually at least a k'Zayis), they feared that the Berachah would be l'Vatalah, so they enacted that one must eat a full k'Zayis or k'Beitzah before blessing.)
DOES A BA'AL KERI RECITE WORDS OF KEDUSHAH?
(Ezra decreed that a Ba'al Keri (one who had a seminal emission) may not say Divrei Torah or pray until he immerses.)
(Mishnah): A Ba'al Keri must think in his mind Keri'as Shema, but not [even think] the blessings before and after Kerias Shema;
He blesses (Birkas ha'Mazon) after eating, but only thinks in his mind the blessing before eating.
R. Yehudah says, he blesses before and after (this will be explained).
(Gemara - Ravina): Our Mishnah teaches that Hirhur (thought) is like speech -- if not, there is no reason to have Hirhur!
Question: If Hirhur (thought) is like speech, then it should be permitted to say the words!
Answer: It is as we find at Sinai. (At Sinai, the Jewish people made themselves Tahor in order to hear the Torah. This is the source for the decree prohibiting a Ba'al Keri from speaking Divrei Torah, since, at Sinai, they had to be Tahor in order to hear (or speak) Divrei Torah. The decree does not apply to Hirhur, thinking Divrei Torah.)
(Rav Chisda): Hirhur is not like speech -- if it was like speech, he should say the words!
Question: If it is not like speech, there is no reason to have Hirhur!
Answer (R. Elazar): He must have Hirhur so that he will not be idle while everyone else is saying Shema.
Question: If so, he could think about any Divrei Torah!
Answer (Rav Ada bar Ahavah): It is proper that he engage in the same matter as the Tzibur.