Introduction to Deracheha

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Why is it important for women to engage directly with halachic texts? An introduction to Deracheha.

(ח) שְׁמַ֣ע בְּ֭נִי מוּסַ֣ר אָבִ֑יךָ וְאַל־תִּ֝טֹּ֗שׁ תּוֹרַ֥ת אִמֶּֽךָ׃

(8) Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and do not abandon the teaching of your mother

ד"א "שמע בני מוסר אביך" - זו תורה שבכתב; "ואל תטוש תורת אמך" - כל מה שנתפרש לך בסיני מפי הגבורה בתורה

‘Hear, my son, the instruction of your father (mussar avicha)’ – this is written Torah. ‘And do not abandon the teaching of your mother (torat imecha)’- all that was explained to you at Sinai from God’s word’.

Rav Y. D. Soloveitchik 'A Tribute to the Rebbitzen of Talne', pp. 76-77

Father teaches the son the discipline of thought as well as the discipline of action. Father’s tradition is an intellectual-moral one. That is why it is identified with mussar, which is the Biblical term for discipline… What kind of Torah does the mother pass on?….That Judaism expresses itself not only in formal compliance with the law but also in a living experience. She [my mother] taught me that there is a flavor, a scent and warmth to mitzvot. I learned from her the most important thing in life—to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of his hand resting upon my frail shoulders.

Rav Y. D. Soloveitchik, Chumash Mesoret haRav, Bamidbar, pp. 221

There were two mesoros that Moses transferred to Joshua. One is the tradition of Torah learning, of lomdus. The second mesorah, the hod, was experiential. One can know the entire Maseches Shabbos and yet still not know what Shabbos is. To truly know what Shabbos is, one has to spend time in a Yiddishe home.

Rav Y. D. Soloveitchik, cited R. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, The Rav, vol. 1, pp. 149-150

He taught me something that no one else taught me. Perhaps there is one exception, my mother… He taught me how to live Judaism and not just practice it.

Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, 'Rupture and Reconstruction The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy', pp. 65, 67, 71

And a way of life is not learned but rather absorbed. Its transmission is mimetic, imbibed from parents and friends, and patterned on conduct regularly observed in home and street, synagogue and school….It is no exaggeration to say that the Ashkenazic community saw the law as manifesting itself in two forms: in the canonized written corpus (the Talmud and codes), and in the regnant practices of the people. Custom was a correlative datum of the halachic system. And, on frequent occasions, written word was reread in light of traditional behavior….Custom is potent, but its true power is informal. It derives from the ability of habit to neutralize the implications of book knowledge. Anything learned from study that conflicts with accustomed practice cannot really be right, as things simply cannot be different than they are. Once that inconceivability is lost, usage loses much of its force.

שו”ת מהרי”ל החדשות צג

הנח להו לבנות ישראל, אם אינן נביאות הן, בנות נביאות הן. ומנעוריהן בקיאין הן על פי אימותן והורתן.

New Responsa Maharil 93

Leave the daughters of Israel be, [for] if they are not prophets, they are daughters of prophets. And from their youth they are expert in accordance with their mothers and their teachings.

אמר רבינא אמרה לי אם אבוך עביד כרבי חייא

Ravina said: My mother told me: Your father acted in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Ḥiyya

שו”ת ר”י הזקן סימן מו

אם אינם נביאות, בנות נביאים הם וגדולי הדור ויש לסמוך על המנהג:

Responsa Ri Ha-zaken 46

If [women in this area of Halacha] are not prophets, they are daughters of prophets and the great ones of the generation, and one one should rely on the custom [they relate].

דרישה ופרישה הקדמת בן המחבר

האשה החשובה הגבירה הצנועה והחסידה והישרה הלא היא אמי מורתי הרבנית מרת בילה…ראויה היא לחלוק לה כבוד ולהעלות על הספר קצת מעשיה הטובים להיות לנו לזכר לדורות ולמען ילמדון ממנה כל בנות ישראל…ולכבוד שבת עשתה כל מיני מטעמים ומעט נהנה מהם רק שלחה לעניים ולבני בית. וכל ימיה הן בימי החורף הן בימי הקיץ עמדה תמיד בזריזות קודם אור היום כמה שעות והרבית להתפלל בכוונה גדולה בתפילות ובתחנונים לפני המקום ברוך הוא. ובידה מפתח עזרת הנשים שהיתה ראשונה מבאי בית הכנסת ואחרונה שעה אחת או שתים אחר יציאת העם מבית הכנסת שהגמירה תפלותיה ותחנוניה. ואחר התפלה לא שם נפשה לשום דבר בטלה רק מחיל אל חיל עוסקת בתורה פרשה של ימי השבוע עם פירוש רש”י ושאר מפרשים כידוע לכל תלמיד אבי מורי ורבי ז”ל מאוכלי שלחנו שתמיד אשר היו פוטרין השלחן בדברי תורה היתה אוזרת כגבר חלציה במשא ומתן בדברי תורה ולפעמים אשר המציאה מדעתה איזה פשט מתוק מדבש נופת תטופנה שפתותיה ובפרט בדיני נשים ובהלכות נדה היתה בקיאה כמעט כאחד מבעלי הוראה.

Rav Yosef Falk, Introduction by the Author's Son to Derisha and Perisha

The dignified woman, the noble, modest, and pious and righteous lady, is she not my mother and teacher Rebbitzen Mistress Bayla…She is worthy to apportion her honor and to put in writing a little of her good deeds, to be a record for us for generations and so that all daughters of Israel will learn from her…And in honor of Shabbat she made all sorts of delicacies and enjoyed them little herself; rather, she sent them to the poor and to members of the household. And all her days, whether in winter or in summer, she always arose early some hours before the light of day and uttered many prayers and entreaties with great intentionality before God blessed be He. And in her hand was the key for the women’s section [of the synagogue], for she was the first to come to the synagogue and the last, by an hour or two after most had left synagogue, as she finished her prayers and entreaties. And after the prayer she did not turn to any frivolous matter, but went from valor to valor, occupying herself with the Torah portion of the days of the week with the commentary of Rashi and other commentators, as is known to all students of my father and teacher of blessed memory, who sat at his table. For always, as they would end the meal with words of Torah, she would gird her loins like a man in the discussion of words of Torah. And sometimes she would conceive some original explanation sweeter than honey nectar flowing from her lips. And especially in laws pertaining to women and in the laws of nidda she was nearly as expert as one of those who issue halachic rulings.

משנה ברורה הקדמה

כי אין הדין יכול להתישב היטב בדעת האדם כל זמן שאין יודעו בטעמו ונמוקו

Mishna Berura, Introduction

For the law cannot sit well in someone’s mind as long as he does not know it along with its logical grounds and reasoning.

Shayna Goldberg, 'Why I Believe in Women and Their Batei Midrash'

A woman who has seriously engaged in traditional analysis of our primary texts can converse in them as an ‘insider.’…She is privy to a more sophisticated understanding and appreciation of how halacha operates, and as such often develops a deeper respect for the halachic system. She can understand the key principles in play. She can differentiate between de-Oraita, de-rabbanan and minhag. And she can understand when and why exceptions can be made…A woman who has studied an issue in depth has a greater ability to value different approaches, to understand different opinions, and to appreciate decisions that different communities make.