108b - Wine

  • Rav Ezra Bick

            During the last two weeks, we learned the sugya dealing with "heseiba," reclining during the seder. We now begin a new sugya, discussing some aspects of the requirement to have four cups of wine during the seder.

            We are on the last line of 108a: "Ve-amar R. Yehoshua ben Levi".

            The webpage for this week's shiur is at


            The Rashi and Tosafot cited in today's shiur, aside from being scanned, also appear in a typed and punctuated version on the webpage.

            Do not forget to answer the questions before continuing past the dotted lines.

            (Except for the next one. But if you insist, I can ask a question here as well. What is one supposed to do before continuing past the dotted line?)


Ve-amar R. Yehoshua ben Levi

And R. Yehoshua b. Levi said: Women are obligated in these four cups, for they also were part of that miracle.


1.         First, a note on the order of what at times appears to be an orderless text. This statement in the gemara begins with a conjunction, "and." The reason is that the previous section of the gemara concluded with a statement of R. Yehoshua b. Levi. The gemara now continues with another statement of the same sage, concerning a related topic. The explanation of the order is the name of the sage who is being quoted. This is a not uncommon phenomenon in the gemara.


2.         Now to the content. R. Yehoshua is stating that women are obligated in the mitzva of four cups of wine on the seder night, and he provides a reason for this obligation. Since women are generally obligated in mitzvot, the first question is: why is it necessary to give a special reason for this obligation? What is the reason why I would have thought that they are not obligated? In other words, what is the "hava amina," the hypothetical claim, which R. Yehoshua is rejecting?


            Tosafot provides an answer.


She-af hen hayu be-oto ha-ness

For they also were part of that miracle - but were it not for this reason, they would not be obligated, because women are exempt from positive mitzvot that are time-caused. Even though the four cups are de-rabbanan (of rabbinic status), they were enacted on the model of the de-oraita (biblical status).


            The general rule that women are exempt from any positive time-caused mitzva SHOULD have led to their being exempt from the four cups of wine, which are time-caused - they apply only on the night of Pesach. R. Yehoshua is saying that the cups of wine are an exception to the rule, because "they also were part of that miracle."


            Tosafot continues and raises the point that it is a rabbinic obligation. Apparently, Tosafot thinks that one might claim that the exemption rule of positive time-caused mitzvot should not apply to rabbinic obligations. Tosafot rejects this claim, because all rabbinic obligations are enacted on the model of the biblical mitzvot, and follow the same rules. Hence, even though the four cups are de-rabbanan, women SHOULD have been exempt, were it not for the reason of R. Yehoshua.


3.         Finally, what is the reason for the obligation of women? What does "they also were part of that miracle" mean?


            Rashi (and the Rashbam) writes:


She-af hen hayu be-oto ha-ness

For they also were part of that miracle - as is said (Sota 11b), "They were redeemed in the merit of the righteous women of that generation."  The same is said concerning the reading of the megilla, that it is because they were redeemed through Esther. And the same concerning the light of Chanuka.


            Now read the corresponding Tosafot (s.v. "hayu"). (I am numbering the parts of the Tosafot for later reference).


Hayu be-oto ha-ness

1. Were part of that miracle - The Rashbam explained that they were redeemed through them, and so too with the megilla through Esther, and on Chanuka through Yehudit.

2.  But this is difficult, as "af" ("she-AF hen hayu" - "they ALSO were part") implies that they are not primary.

3.  And furthermore, in the Yerushalmi the text reads "for they also were part of that uncertainty," which implies part of the danger of "to destroy, to kill, and to eradicate."

4.  But that which is said that they are exempt from sukka, even though they were part of the miracle of "for I seated in sukkot," there it is a positive mitzva m'de-oraita (of Torah-biblical status). The four cups, however, which are de-rabbanan (of rabbinic status), were enacted for women as well, since they were part of the miracle.


      What are the two explanations, of Rashi and of Tosafot, for the phrase, "For they also were part of that miracle"? (Tosafot's explanation is embedded in section 3).




            Rashi understands that in these cases - there are three in different places in the Talmud, the four cups of wine, reading the megilla on Purim, and lighting candles on Chanuka - women, or an individual woman, was instrumental in the deliverance. Being "part of the miracle" means being an instrumental part of the miracle itself. The Tosafot, based on the variant in the Talmud Yerushalmi, understands that women were included in the deliverance means that they were delivered, they were saved. They were part of the PROBLEM in the sense that they were endangered and hence benefited from the deliverance.


            Logically, Tosafot makes a lot of sense. There are mitzvot which commemorate miracles, and it stands to reason that anyone who benefited from the miracle should celebrate it. Hence, although women are exempt from time-caused mitzvot, there is a special reason to ensure that they are not exempt from these.


            Tosafot's explanation, however, leads him to a problem concerning the mitzva of sukka (section 4). What is the connection between the new explanation and the obligation of sukka?




            Tosafot understands that his explanation does not depend on there being danger. If a mitzva commemorates a miracle, then the principle of the gemara, as he understands it, requires that anyone who was included in the benefit of the miracle should be included in the obligation of the mitzva. The Torah states explicitly that the mitzva of sukka commemorates the fact that " I seated the Jews in sukkot when I took them out of Egypt." Hence, since women participated in the miracle itself when they left Egypt, they should be obligated to sit in the sukka. But this is not the case, and women are exempt from sukka, the reason, in fact, being that it is a positive time-caused mitzva.


            On the other hand, according to Rashi, where the principle of "for they also were part of that miracle" refers to a case where a woman was instrumental in the operation of the mitzva, the mitzva of sukka has no special feminine aspect, so there is no special reason to obligate them.


            What is Tosafot's answer to this question?




            Tosafot restricts the principle of "for they also were part of that miracle" to mitzvot that are de-rabbanan. The logic of requiring anyone who benefited from a miracle to commemorate it makes sense, but we have no source for it in the Torah. In Torah obligations, we follow the rules that we learn from the Torah, including that which exempts women from any positive time-caused obligation. In de-rabbanan laws, however, the logic of the principle is persuasive, and we therefore assume that the Sages followed it when instituting this obligation.


            In other words, we know the minds of the Sages, but cannot presume to impose our logic on God.


            If you look at the printed edition of the Talmud, there is a (right-hand) marginal note next to the end of the Tosafot, which sends us to the parallel Tosafot in Megilla (4a). Let us follow that instruction.


            In Rashi's commentary to Megilla, the principle is explained as "for women were also included in Haman's decree "to destroy, kill, and eradicate, from youth to aged, child and woman…." This, as we have seen, is the explanation of Tosafot (but not Rashi) in Pesachim. Tosafot (s.v. she-af") there cites the Rashbam as explaining like Rashi in Pesachim, and he then asks the question from the phrase "they ALSO" (section 2 in our Tosafot). He therefore concludes,


Therefore it appears to me that they also were part of the uncertainty of to destroy, kill, and eradicate; and so on Pesach they were subjugated by Par'o in Egypt, and so on Chanuka the evil decree very much applied to them.

Concerning matza, there is one who asked: Why is it necessary to (derive the obligation of women from) the rule that "anyone who is included in 'Do not eat chametz' is included in 'Eat matza'," it could have been derived from the reason that "they also were part of that miracle"?

The answer is that that reason only obligates m'de-rabbanan.


            Matza is a positive time-caused mitzva. Women therefore should be exempt. In fact, unlike sukka, they are obligated, but not because of the reason that "they also were part of that miracle." The Talmud gives another reason, based on the juxtaposition of the negative commandment of eating chametz (the exemption of women from time-caused mitzvot applies only to POSITIVE commandments, not prohibitions) with the obligation to eat matza. Tosafot gives the same answer here that he did in Pesachim concerning sukka. This principle does not apply to de-oraita mitzvot.


            Read the line in the Tosafot in Megilla concerning the inapplicability of the principle to mitzvot de-oraita (chametz), and compare it carefully with the line in the Tosafot in Pesachim about the mitzva de-oraita of sukka. The two statements are not, in fact, identical. What is the difference?




            Tosafot in Pesachim says that women are exempt from a de-oraita time-caused mitzva even if they are part of "that miracle." The principle of "they also were part of the miracle" is simply inapplicable to de-oraita mitzvot. This reflects the case of sukka, where women are exempt.


Tosafot in Megilla seems to be saying that, were it not for the reason of the juxtaposition of the prohibition of chametz and the obligation of matza, women would indeed have been obligated to eat matza because of the reason of "they also were part of the miracle," but this obligation would have been only m'de-rabbanan. The gemara, based on the derivation of the juxtaposition, states that women have a Torah obligation to eat matza and not only a de-rabbanan one. In other words, the principle applies to de-oraita mitzvot, but only on a de-rabbanan level. In the case of matza, it would have obligated women m'de-rabbanan to eat matza, while men are obligated de-oraita.


            In all honesty, this difference between the two Tosafot could be eliminated by changing one letter in the text of the Tosafot in Megilla. The printed text reads, "the answer is that that reason only obligates M'DE-RABBANAN." If we would read, "the answer is that that reason only obligates B'DE-RABBANAN," it would mean that the principle only applies TO de-rabbanan mitzvot, which is the position of the Tosafot in Pesachim.




We actually learned only two lines of gemara text this week, spending most of our time on the Tosafot. Next week, we shall try and finish the sugya of the four cups. But first, an interesting discussion of the ramifications of the discussion of "they also were part of that miracle" from the shiur of Rav Yair Kahn.



Tosafot Hayu

            Women are obligated to perform those mitzvot which are related to historic events in which they were involved ("Af hen hayu be-oto ha-ness").  According to the Rashbam, this halakha applies only in cases where women played a CRUCIAL role, such as the Purim story where Esther features prominently.  Similarly, women played a vital role in the Exodus as "the redemption was due to the righteous women" (Sota 11b) and, thus, they are obligated to drink the four cups of wine.

            Tosafot, based on the Yerushalmi, argue that "af hen" relates to situations where women were affected by the events, even though they did not play a specific role in bringing about the salvation. Based on this interpretation, Tosafot question why women are not included in the mitzva of sukka.  After all, women as well as men were protected by sukkot in the wilderness.  Tosafot respond that "af hen" only relates to mitzvot of a rabbinic nature.  Sukka, which is biblical, is consequently not included.

            However, R. Yosef Ish Yerushalayim (see Tosafot Megilla 4a) apparently argues that "af hen" applies even to mitzvot DE-ORAITA.  He states that the biblical obligation requiring women to eat matza, could have been derived from "af hen."  [This appears in the last line of the Tosafot in Megilla, which I did not quote in the shiur above - EB.] Nevertheless, it is clear, according to him, that "af hen" does NOT apply to the mitzva of sukka.  R. Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l explained that "af hen" applies only to mitzvot belonging to the category of "pirsum ha-nes" - publicizing the miracle.  Women, who were delivered by a miracle, are included in the obligation to praise HaShem publicly.  Therefore, we only find "af hen" regarding Megilla reading, lighting Chanuka candles and drinking the four cups of wine on the seder night.  All of these mitzvot are categorized as "pirsum ha-nes."  According to R Yosef Ish Yerushalayim, the mitzva to eat matza is also included in this category.  After all, matza expresses the "suddenness" of the redemption.  Sukka, however, is not an example of "pirsum ha-nes", and women are, therefore, not obligated due to "af hen." (Tosafot who suggest that women be obligated in sukka due to "af hen" may accept the theory of R. Moshe, but argue that sukka is also categorized as "pirsum ha-nes"; see She'iltei Giborim beginning of Sukka who derives this from a verse.)

According to the Sefer HaChinukh, women are obligated in the de-oraita mitzva of sippur yetzi'at Mitzrayim (recounting the exodus on Pesach night). The Minchat Chinukh questions the source of this din - women should be exempt as it is a time-caused commandment. However, in light of the distinction of R. Moshe, we can understand the opinion of the Sefer Ha Chinukh: Since the purpose of this mitzva is clearly pirsum ha-nes, women are included in the obligation to retell the story of the Exodus.

            This category of mitzvot has other ramifications as well. The mishna (99b) states that even paupers are obligated to fulfill the mitzva of the four cups of wine. Normally, a person is not required to spend more than a fifth of his money in order to fulfill a positive commandment.  Nevertheless, here we find that a pauper is required to receive charity in order to fulfill the mitzva of the four cups of wine.  The Maggid Mishneh (Hilkhot Chanuka 4:12) explains that this is because the mitzva of arba kosot is categorized as "pirsum ha-nes."  Regarding this category, there is no limit of a fifth.  Based upon this, he explains the Rambam's ruling that even a pauper who has no food is required to accept charity or sell his possessions in order to fulfill the mitzva of Chanuka candles.

In a similar vein, Rashi (on the mishna) requires a pauper to purchase a pillow to lean on. This is congruent with his opinion that the purpose of haseiva is to demonstrate freedom, thus defining it as a mitzva categorised as pirsum ha-nes.