Peninei Halakha

10. Torah Reading

All agree that women are exempt from Torah reading on weekdays and holidays; however, on Shabbat, according to MA 282:6, women must hear the Torah reading, for the Sages instituted that the whole Torah must be heard through the course of the year. Nevertheless, according to the overwhelming majority of poskim, women are exempt from Torah reading on Shabbat, since this is a time-dependent mitzva. This is indeed the practical halakha. Still, if she is able, it is good that a woman hear the Torah reading on Shabbat, since all poskim agree that although she is exempt, if she hears it, she fulfills a mitzva and receives credit for it. 1 (The disagreement about whether a woman must hear Parshat Zakhor will be addressed in 23:5 below.)

During hagbaha (the lifting of the Torah) it is a mitzva for both men and women to see the script, bow, and recite “Ve-zot ha-Torah…” (“This is the Torah…”) (SA 144:2). Some women are accustomed to acting stringently and refrain from looking at the Torah scroll when menstruating, while others are lenient. Those who wish to be lenient are permitted, since technically there is no prohibition against this. 2


  1. Megilla 23a states: “Every Jew can be counted among the seven people called up to the Torah, even a minor and even a woman, but the Sages say that a woman does not read the Torah out of consideration for the dignity of the congregation (kevod ha-tzibur).” MA 282:7 states that from the fact that women can be included in principle among the seven people called up to the Torah, it can be inferred that they are also obligated in Torah reading. This is explained in Sofrim 18:4, where it is implied that they are even obligated to hear the haftara. Even though women are not obligated in the mitzva of Torah study, MA maintains that the Sages also instituted the reading for women so that they will hear the whole Torah, just like they are obligated in the mitzva of hak’hel. However, most poskim disagree, and some reinterpret MA to mean that it is advisable for women to hear the reading but not compulsory. This can be inferred from Tosafot and Rosh, as well as other Rishonim. See also Mor U-ketzi’a and AHS 282:11. MB 12 adds that there are places where women customarily leave the synagogue at the time of Torah reading.
  2. Rema 88:1 writes that some women customarily do not enter the synagogue during menstruation (yet once the blood ceases, although they have not yet immersed in the mikveh, this stringency does not apply). Some poskim permit everything, and this is the accepted position. Nevertheless, people are stringent in practice, and only on the Days of Awe does everyone customarily attend the synagogue. MB 88:7 states that women customarily attend the synagogue but do not gaze at the Torah scroll while it is being lifted. It is clear that in principle it is permitted for a woman who is menstruating to look at the Torah scroll, SA YD 282:9 states that all people in a state of impurity, even nidot, may hold the Torah scroll and read from it. Many women practice this le-khatĥila and even at the time of their menstrual cycles look at the Torah while it is being lifted. See Yalkut Yosef part 1, p. 135, and below 9:7 n. 5.

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Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman