On Women and Torah Reading
What is Torah Reading?
I. Deut 31:12
Gather the people – men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities – that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and to observe faithfully every word of this teaching.
II. Tosefta Megillah
On yom tov five
On yom hakipurim six
On Shabbat seven…
All go up to make up the quorum of seven, even a minor and even a woman, don’t bring a woman to read before the masses.
III. Piskei HaRosh Brachot 47
And the fact that a minor and a slave and a woman who are not [obligated] in Torah study are included in the quorum of seven [who receive aliyyot to the Torah on Shabbat] is because the sefer torah is there for the purpose of being heard, and the blessing is not said in vain, for they do not bless “Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us in the words of the Torah” but rather “Who has chosen us and given us [the Torah].”
How to Read Torah And How to Follow the Halachah – A Test Case – The Baal Korei
IV. Tosefta Megillah 3:12
In a synagogue which only has one person who can read. That person stands and reads and sits, and stands and reads and sits … even seven times.
V. Shulchan Arukh:OH 139:2
One who doesn’t know how to read, one needs to protest against them so they do not go up to read from the sefer torah. And if you need one who doesn’t know how to read (if he is a Cohen or a Levi and there is no-one else save him), if when the reader reads for him word after word, he knows how to repeat it and read it from the written text he can go up. And if not, he should not go up.
VI. Rosh Megillah 21a 3:2
The thing we do now, where the shaliach tzibbur reads, that is so as not to embarrass people who can’t read.
Women and Reading Torah
VII. Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:8
This is the operating principle. Anyone who is not obligated in a thing cannot exempt the masses from their obligation.
VIII. Masechet Sofrim 18:5
Women are obligated to hear the reading of the book (sefer) as are men.
IX. Talmud Megillah 23a
Our teachers taught: All go up to make up the quorum of seven, even a minor and even a woman. But the Wise said don’t call a woman to read from the Torah because of cavod hatzibur, the honour of the congregation.
Cavod HaTzibur – The Honour of the Community
X. Talmud Megillah 24b
Why is someone dressed in rags not allowed [to read from the Torah]? Because of the honour of the congregation.
XI. Talmud Sotah 39b
The shaliach tzibur is not allowed to take the dressings off the ark in front of the community because of the honour of the community.
XII. Talmud Yoma 70a
It is not permitted to roll the sefer torah [from one reading to another] in front of the community because of the honour of the congregation.
XIII. Talmud Gittin 60a
The Galileans asked Rabbi Helbo, ‘Is it possible to read separate humashin [of each book of the Torah] in the synagogue in public? He did not know what to answer, so he asked in the Beth Hamidrash. They [said] that a scroll of torah which is missing of one flap cannot be read from. But this is not conclusive: in that case something was lacking, here nothing essential is lacking. Rabbah and Rabbi Joseph both agreed that separate humashin should not be read from out of respect for the congregation.
XIV. Mendel Shapiro (C21 Orthodox)
Is kevod ha-tsibbur a durable, timeless perception that withstands shifting cultural sensibilities, or is it a temporal statement of local mores and customs that is authoritative only as long as its underlying assumptions remain vital and convincing?
XV. Bet Yosef, OH 135 13 D’HM Katav HaKol
Rabenu Yerucham disagrees with the Rokeach who wrote that in a city where everyone was a Cohen, one Cohen would read repeatedly. He wrote that women would read, since ‘all go up to the make up the quorum of seven, even … a woman.’
XVI. Hagahot vHidushim MeHaRaivetz on Tosefta Megillah, aval amru
It seems that that is possible [to call a woman] and the first part is talking about a time when there are not seven men who are expert readers and there is an expert woman and they can’t do it without her.
XVII. Or L’Zion - Rav Ben Zion Aba Shaul
This thing needs investigation, because if women would never went up, what would the purpose of saying ‘all go up to make up the quorum of seven.’ Therefore it seems that in a place where there is no worry about the honour of the community – for example in a place where the davenners are all members of one family and the woman is the head of the house, and all the rest of the men are her sons and grandsons, in that case there is no lessening of the honour of the community were she to go up, and it would be fine to include her to go up to the Torah … but the thing needs investigation.
XVIII. Bet Hadash, OH 53
The matter is simple, when The Wise make an alteration, and worry about the honour of the congregation, it is not in the hands of the congregation to forgo [their honour]. If this wasn’t so every alteration made by The Wise … [would be lost] and that would be horrid…. And moreover it would split Israel into factions, this congregation would forgo, this wouldn’t. For sure they cannot forgo and uproot the alterations of the Wise.
The term cavod hatzibur does not refer to the dignity of the congregants, rather it is not dignified for the congregation to be represented [by an unbearded prayer leader]and commended before the Almighty by a person lacking in imposing appearance. Similarly a woman may not read publically because it is a genai to the congregation.
XIX. Golinkin, Summaries of Teshuvot of the Vaad Halakhah (Masorti Movement)
If a woman is only excluded from reading the Torah because of kevod tzibbur, may the congregation "relinquish its honor" and allow a woman to read? Some authorities say that a congregation can relinquish its honor while others say no, but in most of the cases we have found, most of the authorities rule that a congregation may "relinquish its honor". This would therefore hold true in our case as well.
However, even if we were to rule the opposite, there is no need in this case for the congregation to relinquish its honor. In the [late Talmudic] period the disgrace to the congregation stemmed from the fact that men learned how to read the Torah and women did not and thus it would disgrace the men to have a woman read in public. Today, of course, this is no longer the case.
XX. Talmud Eruvin 14b
Go out and look at what the people are doing.