Peninei Halakha

06. Parashat Zakhor

The poskim disagree about whether women must hear Parashat Zakhor. According to most poskim, women are exempt because the mitzva to remember what Amalek did is linked to the mitzva to eradicate Amalek, and since women are not commanded to fight in wars, they need not remember what Amalek did to the Israelites (Sefer Ha-Ĥinukh §603). Others maintain that women have a connection to the mitzva of war since they must assist the fighters, and therefore the mitzva to remember Amalek applies to them too. Although the Sages ordained a specific time to read Parashat Zakhor – the Shabbat before Purim – according to the Torah it has no set time. Since hence it not a time-bound mitzva it applies to women as well (Minĥat Ĥinukh ad loc.).

In practice, according to most poskim women are exempt from hearing Parashat Zakhor; however, le-khatĥila it is preferable that she hears it in order to satisfy all opinions. A woman who has difficulty getting to the synagogue but still wishes to fulfill the mitzva should recite the passage from a ĥumash, since according to many one thus fulfills the biblical obligation to remember. In a place where a Torah class is held for women in the synagogue, it is permissible to take out a Torah scroll to read them Parashat Zakhor. Even though there is no minyan present, it is still preferable that they hear the passage from a kosher Torah scroll. 1

  1. The mitzva can be fulfilled on the Torah level by commemorating it once a year, and therefore the mitzva is not considered time-bound. However, according to many, since women do not wage war, they are not obligated to remember the eradication of Amalek. The poskim who disagree maintain that women are obligated to fight in mandatory wars (milĥemet mitzva), and Radbaz (on MT, Laws of Kings 7:4) explains that they are required to supply soldiers with food and water. Although women are exempt according to most poskim, they should preferably satisfy all opinions, as stated in Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:84. See Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 14:7 n. 9.

    The poskim disagree about the parameters of the biblical obligation. Rosh implies that the Torah commandment is to hear the Parashat Zakhor from a valid Torah scroll, whereas Ramban indicates that this is a rabbinic enactment. Likewise, there is disagreement about whether according to the Torah it must be read with a minyan (see Peninei Halakha: Zemanim, ch. 14 n. 7). It seems that if it was the Sages who ordained reading the passage with a minyan and from a Torah scroll, it would constitute fixing a specific time – the Shabbat before Purim. Since the rabbinic enactment is thus time-bound, women are exempt from it. Even according to the opinion that women must remember Amalek, they would not need a Torah scroll. So states Kaf Ha-ĥayim 685:30 in the name of Limudei Hashem and Erekh Ha-shulĥan §2.

    Thus, le-khatĥila, women should hear it with a minyan. If they cannot, it is best that it is read to them from a Torah scroll without a minyan. If that too is not possible, then it is best that it is read from a ĥumash. Still, some  Aĥaronim state that a Torah scroll is not removed from the ark for women (see Responsa Kinyan Torah 7:53 and Halikhot Beitah 9:8). However, it is unclear what the problem with removing a Torah scroll for them is since in principle it is permissible to remove one for the sake of Torah study. The custom in Ashkenazic communities was to take out a Torah scroll for the women’s reading, as cited by Minĥat Yitzĥak 9:68 and Torat Ha-mo’adim 2:13.

    Women are exempt from the other three special parshiyot read in Adar (Shekalim, Para, and Ha-ĥodesh), for they are time-bound. According to those who maintain that Para is a biblical mitzva (as cited in SA 685:7), perhaps women are obligated since the Torah does not specify a particular time. However, MB 685:15 states that according to many Aĥaronim it is a rabbinic obligation whose time is fixed in Adar, so women are exempt.

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Translated By:
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