1) HALACHAH: A WOMAN'S OBLIGATION TO READ THE MEGILAH
OPINIONS: Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi rules that women are obligated in the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah. Does a woman have the same obligation to read as a man?
(a) TOSFOS (DH l'Asuyei Nashim) quotes the BEHAG who rules that a woman is obligated only to hear the reading of the Megilah. She may read for another woman, but not for a man. The Behag proves this from the Tosefta, which states that a woman may not read the Megilah for a man.
The reason why a woman is obligated to hear the Megilah is that women were also included in the decree of Haman to destroy the Jews, and they were saved by the miracle of Purim. Why, though, should there be a difference between a woman's obligation and a man's?
The MARCHESHES (ha'Ga'on Rav Henoch Eigis of Vilna, may Hash-m avenge his death) explains that the reading of the Megilah is comprised of two components: the Megilah reading serves as a Zechirah (verbal declaration of remembrance) of Mechiyas Amalek (see Megilah 18a; the Avnei Nezer infers this from a Yerushalmi), and the Megilah reading is "Pirsumei Nisa" -- it publicizes the miracle of Purim. The Marcheshes explains that women are obligated only in the component of Pirsumei Nisa, because they were included in the miracle of Purim. Women are not obligated to read the Megilah in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Zechiras Mechiyas Amalek, because only those who are obligated to go to war against Amalek (i.e. men) are obligated in the Mitzvah of Zechiras Mechiyas Amalek (SEFER HA'CHINUCH #603). (See also OR SAME'ACH, Hilchos Megilah 1:1, who gives a similar explanation.)
(b) TOSFOS in Sukah (38a DH b'Emes Amru) understands the Behag differently. According to the version of the Behag quoted there, the Behag rules that a woman's obligation is the same as a man's, but a woman is unable to discharge a Tzibur (a large group) of men from its obligation to read the Megilah because such an act involves a lack of modesty and constitutes a breach of Kavod ha'Tzibur (as it is disgraceful for a congregation of men to be unable to read the Megilah for themselves). However, a woman is able to read the Megilah for an individual man. (The MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 689:5), however, maintains that the Rabanan instituted a "Lo Plug" enactment that a woman not read the Megilah even for an individual man.)
(c) RASHI (DH l'Asuyei) writes that a woman may read the Megilah for a man. This implies that a woman's obligation is the same as a man's.
This is also the view of the RITVA in Megilah (4a), who asserts that the words of the Tosefta quoted by Tosfos are in error. The Gemara in Megilah clearly says that women are obligated in the Mitzvah, and thus they can read the Megilah for men, as Rashi here states.
The SHULCHAN ARUCH
(OC 689:2) first quotes the opinion that anyone who is obligated to hear the Megilah may also read it for others. He then quotes the opinion that women may not read the Megilah for men. The MAGEN AVRAHAM
(689:5) writes that the second opinion is the Halachah, and this is the conclusion of the MISHNAH BERURAH
(689:7). The SHA'AR HA'TZIYUN
(689:15) adds that a woman also should not read the Megilah for a group of other women (see KORBAN NESANEL
to Megilah 4a, 4:40). (See Insights to Megilah 4:1
2) HALACHAH: MAY WOMEN MAKE A "ZIMUN" TOGETHER?
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa that states that women may make a Zimun when they eat and recite Birkas ha'Mazon together. What is the Halachah in this matter?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Mezamnos) rules that there is no obligation for women who eat together to make a Zimun; rather, it is optional. This explains why the common practice today is for women not to make a Zimun. This also appears to be the opinion of RASHI in Berachos (45b, DH d'Ika De'os).
The SEMAG adds that when a woman eats together with a group of men, she becomes obligated to join the Zimun even according to Tosfos. It is optional only when three (or more) women eat together without a Zimun of men.
(b) The ROSH (Berachos 7:4) disagrees with Tosfos for several reasons. The Gemara here learns that women make a Zimun from a Beraisa which states, "ha'Kol Chayavin b'Zimun," which implies that it is obligatory. Moreover, since a woman is obligated to recite Birkas ha'Mazon (either mid'Oraisa or mid'Rabanan; see Berachos 20b) why should she not be obligated in Zimun? Finally, the Gemara in Berachos (45b) concludes that women are "separate minds" ("Ika De'os"); that is, each woman is considered to be like one man with regard to Zimun. This implies that three women have the same obligation of Zimun as three men. TOSFOS in Berachos (45b, DH Sha'ani Hasam) indeed records that one of the Rishonim asked his daughters to be careful to recite Birkas ha'Mazon with a Zimun when they eat together without men.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 199:7) rules like Tosfos, that when women eat by themselves, making a Zimun is optional. When they eat together with a group of men, they are obligated to join the Zimun.
The BI'UR HALACHAH (DH Nashim) quotes the VILNA GA'ON who rules in accordance with the Rosh who says that women are obligated to make a Zimun even when they eat only with other women. However, he concludes that the accepted practice is for women not to make a Zimun by themselves at all, as Tosfos says.
3) HALACHAH: A CHILD WHO KNOWS TO WHOM HE BLESSES
OPINIONS: Rav Nachman rules that a Katan (minor) may join two men to recite Birkas ha'Mazon with a Zimun when he is old enough to be cognizant of to Whom we bless. TOSFOS (DH l'Asuyei Katan) rules that we do not let a Katan join to make a Zimun. What is the Halachah?
(a) The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 199:10) rules that a Katan who has reached the age of "Pe'utos" may join to be the third for a Zimun and the tenth for a Minyan for Birkas ha'Mazon. The age of "Pe'utos" refers to the age at which a child reaches a certain level of intellectual maturity. (The Gemara in Gitin (59a), when explaining the term "Pe'utos," cites three opinions: six to seven years old, seven to eight years old, or eight to nine years old. The Gemara there concludes that these opinions do not argue, and that the specific age depends upon the child's acumen.)
(b) The REMA disagrees and rules like Tosfos, that only a boy from the age of thirteen may join to make a Zimun.
4) FORCING AN "EVED KENA'ANI" TO LEAVE ERETZ YISRAEL
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the Mishnah in Kesuvos (110b) that states, "ha'Kol Ma'alin l'Eretz Yisrael" -- "all may force [their families] to ascend to Eretz Yisrael." The Gemara teaches that these words ("ha'Kol Ma'alin") include Avadim as well. An Eved Kena'ani who wants to live in Eretz Yisrael can force his master to allow him to live there. When the Mishnah in Kesuvos says, "v'Ein ha'Kol Motzi'in" -- "no one may force another to leave Eretz Yisrael," it is teaching that when an Eved flees to Eretz Yisrael, his master may not take him back to Chutz la'Aretz.
If an Eved may force his master to ascend to Eretz Yisrael, then it is obvious that his master may not force him to leave Eretz Yisrael once he is there. What is the Mishnah teaching when it says "v'Ein ha'Kol Motzi'in"?
(a) RASHI here (DH l'Asuyei Avadim) explains that the Mishnah is teaching that an Eved who is being sold has the right to demand to be sold to someone living in Eretz Yisrael. An Eved who is already the property of a Jew cannot demand from his master that he allow him to go to Eretz Yisrael. Accordingly, one would not know from this Halachah that when an Eved flees to Eretz Yisrael, his master may not take him back to Chutz la'Aretz, and, therefore, the Mishnah needs to teach that "Ein ha'Kol Motzi'in."
(b) RASHI in Kesuvos (110b, DH l'Asuyei) explains that the Mishnah is teaching that the master may force his Eved Ivri (Jewish servant) to move to Eretz Yisrael with him. Accordingly, one would not know what the Halachah is in a case in which the Eved Ivri flees to Eretz Yisrael.
(c) TOSFOS (DH l'Asuyei Avadim) cites the opinion of the RI who explains that the Mishnah is teaching that an Eved Kena'ani indeed may demand that his master either move with him to Eretz Yisrael or free him. Why, then, does the Mishnah need to teach that if the Eved flees to Eretz Yisrael, his master in Chutz la'Aretz may not demand his return?
Tosfos (DH l'Asuyei Eved) offers two answers. In his first answer, he explains that even though an Eved may demand to live in Eretz Yisrael, one might have thought that an Eved who escapes from his master and flees to Eretz Yisrael should be penalized and returned to his master. The Mishnah teaches that the Eved is not penalized by being returned to his master.
(d) In his second answer, Tosfos suggests that one might have thought that the first Halachah, that an Eved can demand that his master let him live in Eretz Yisrael, applies only in the case of an Eved whose master travels to Eretz Yisrael frequently. The Mishnah teaches that if the Eved runs away from his master who does not travel to Eretz Yisrael, he still is not returned to his master.
5) MAY AN "EVED" FORCE HIS MASTER TO LET HIM LIVE IN YERUSHALAYIM?
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the Mishnah in Kesuvos (110b) that states, "ha'Kol Ma'alin l'Yerushalayim" -- "all may force [their families] to ascend to Yerushalayim." The Gemara derives from these words that a man may force his wife, and a woman may force her husband, to move to Yerushalayim from elsewhere in Eretz Yisrael, even if it involves leaving an aesthetically attractive location to an unattractive location.
Why does the Gemara not derive from the Mishnah that even an Eved may demand that his master let him live in Yerushalayim, as the Gemara derives from the Mishnah's earlier statement, "ha'Kol Ma'alin l'Eretz Yisrael," that an Eved may demand that his master let him live in Eretz Yisrael?
(a) TOSFOS here (DH mi'Naveh) answers that for an Eved there is no special dispensation for living in Yerushalayim over any other part of Eretz Yisrael. (The verse "Lo Sasgir Eved El Adonav" (Devarim 23:16) teaches that an Eved is not returned to his master only when he flees to Eretz Yisrael, but not when he flees to Yerushalayim.)
(b) TOSFOS in Kesuvos (110b, DH v'Ein) answers that because of the great holiness of Yerushalayim, only Meyuchasim (people of pure lineage) are sought to reside in Yerushalayim. Therefore, the Rabanan did not institute that an Eved Kena'ani (who is not Meyuchas) may force his master to let him live there.