Friday, March 30, 2007

A Woman’s Requirement to Recite the Haggadah

The Sefer HaChinuch lists as Mitzva number 21, the biblical requirement (Mitzvas Aseh) that women are required in Sipur Yetzias Mitzraim, the recitation of the Exodus story… the Haggadah

The Minchas Chinuch asks how that could be the case? Women are completely exempt by law in any of the positive biblical commandments that are time bound (Mitzvos Aseh SheHaZman Gramma). And reciting the exodus story on Passover is certainly a time bound positive commandment?

One cannot use the usual principle of Af Hen Hayu B’Oso HaNes...they too were involved in that miracle… to explain the requirement. True, women were involved in the miracle, but this is a principle of a rabbinic nature and applies only to Mitzvos D’Rabbanan…rabbinically mandated ones, such as lighting the Menorah on Chanukah. The sages required as part of that Takana, that women are to be included even in time bound positive rabbinic enactments if they were involved in the miracle. But this principle is not utilized in biblical commandments, even when women were involved in the miracle… such as the Passover exodus. They are thus exempt from doing those Mitzvos. So the question remains, why are women required to recite the Haggadah?

The answer can be found in another principle. The Torah obligates women in a positive biblical commandment when there is a negative commandment associated with it. Men and women are then equally required by Torah law to honor all negative commandments.

But what negative commandment is associated with the reciting the Haggadah?

It is based on the following: Kol SheYeshno B’Bal Tochel Chometz, Yesh Lo BeKum Ochel Matzos. The Lav…requirement to not eat Chametz, a negative commandment… is tied to eating Matzah, a positive one. A woman is, therefore, equally required to eat Matzah the same as is a man.

So, how is that tied to Sipur Yetzias Mitzraim? What is the basis for requiring women to recite the Exodus story on Passover? Is there a negative commandment associated with it? The answer is the following.

One of the reasons cited in the Gemarah for referring to Matzah as Lechem Oni, is that it is a “bread” upon which many things are “answered”. Reciting the Haggadah ties Matzah, the Lechem Oni, to the recitation of the Hagadah. It therefore becomes part of the Mitzvah of eating the Matzah itself, thus making it a biblical requirement for women too: Kol SheYeshno B’Bal Tochel Chometz, Yesh Lo BeKum Ochel Matzos.

Taken From Torah L’Daas