Are Women Obligated To Hear Parshas Zachor?
This week we read parshas zachor. There is a mitzvas assay for one to remember that which Amalek did to us on the road as we left Mitzraim. If one does not remember he will have transgressed a lo sassay. The Sifri in parshas Ki Saitzai says that the way in which one is to remember is by reading the parsha in the Torah that discusses Amalek's attack and the commandment to remember and annihilate Amalek found at the end of parshas Ki Saitzai. The Gemara in Migilla 30a says that we should read parshas zachor prior to Purim in order that the remembrance of what Amalek did should be adjacent to the reading of the annihilation of Amalek.
The Sefer Hachinuch states in mitzvah 603, that women are exempt from the mitzvah of remembering that which Amalek did to us. He explains that this is because it is not upon women to wage war and avenge the enemy, therefore they are exempt from remembering that which Amalek did to us. It is evident that the Chinuch is of the opinion that the mitzvah of remembering that which Amalek did to us is a prerequisite to the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek, therefore the fact that women are not obligated in the war against Amalek is reason to exempt them from the mitzvah of remembering that which Amalek did to us.
The Minchas Chinuch asks several questions on the ruling of the Chinuch. One question that he asks is that the Gemara in Sota 44b says that everyone must go out to war for a milchemes mitzvah even a kallah from her chuppa. Additionally one can ask, that the Chinuch himself writes in mitzvah 425 regarding the mitzvah to kill the seven nations that even women are obligated. Evidently, women are obligated in waging war and thus even according to the Chinuch's logic (that the two mitzvos are connected) they should be obligated in the mitzvah of remembering that which Amalek did to us.
My Rebby, Reb Shmuel Berenbaum zt"l, suggested that we can differentiate between the mitzvah to annihilate Amalek and the other mitzvos. The words of the Chinuch are indicative that in his opinion the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek is in essence to take revenge. As the Chinuch says "for it is upon men to wage war and avenge the enemy and not women." Regarding the mitzvah to destroy the seven nations the Chinuch writes that "the seven nations started worshiping all sorts of idols… therefore we are commanded to destroy them… by performing this mitzvah and succeeding to annihilate them we will have benefited for we will no longer be able to learn from their ways". The source for this is the passuk that says regarding the obligation to kill the seven nations "So that they will not teach you to act according to all of their abominations that they performed for their gods (Divarim 20:18)."
The essence of the mitzvah of annihilating the seven nations is to rid the word of evil and bad influences. The essence of the mitzvah to annihilate Amalek is to avenge them. Women are obligated to go to war however when the essence of the war is to avenge, they are exempt. As the Chinuch says it is upon the men to avenge and not the women. Therefore for a milchemes mitzvah or to kill the seven nations women are obligated. They are only exempt from the milchama against Amalek since it is a war whose purpose is to take revenge.
Reb Shmuel added that there is a possible nafka mina (difference) between the two mitzvos. If there is one who is about to die on his own, is there an obligated to kill him. If he is an Amaleki then we would still be obligated to kill him to take revenge. If he is of the seven nations where the purpose of the mitzvah is to rid the world of the evil influences then perhaps there would not be an obligation to kill him since he is going to die and not influence either way.
I want to suggest another answer to the Minchas Chinuch's questions on the Chinuch. The Radvaz, in his commentary to the Rambam (hilchos milachim 7:4) where the Rambam writes that for a milchemes mitzvah even a kallah from her chuppa must go to war, asks "is it the derech for women to go to war? Does the passuk not say the glory of a woman is inside (Tihilim 45)?" the Radvaz answers that perhaps the role that the women assumed in the war was to bring provisions to their husbands.
Based on this we can explain that although women are an integral part of the war they do not partake in the actual killing of the enemy. As previously mentioned the Chinuch is of the opinion that the mitzvah of remembering that which Amalek did to us is a prerequisite to the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek, as the Rambam (hilchos milachim 5:5, and sefer hamitzvos mitzvas assay 189) explains that one should bring himself to remember that which Amalek did to us in order that he is in the mindset to wage war. We can suggest that only one who is obligated to partake in the actual killing of Amalek is obligated to remember that which Amalek did to us. Therefore women are exempt since they do not partake in the actual killing ofAmalek.
There are several achronim that paskin that women are obligated to hear parshas zachor, and one should consult a Rav regarding halacha limaisa.
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Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 3/01/2012 11:41:00 PM