October 21, 2012

Working women in the Talmud

Said Rava, "like the women of Mechuza who eat but don't work", and end up stealing from their husbands. Or they cause the husband to steal (Shabbos, end of 32). Said Rava, these ladies of Mechuza, even though they don't work on Friday, it's because they feel like delicate Barbi dolls, because the whole week they also don't work; still, they get rewarded (for not working on Friday). (Psachim 50b) (Mechuza was Rava's city)

"If you wait for the money your wife brings in, you will never see blessing from that money. But that's only if she goes to the market and rents out scales, or other stupid things like that, and she makes little money for a lot of embarrassment, but if she makes things and sells them, that's very good, like it says in Mishlay 31 "sodin osesa vatimcor" (Psachim ibid)

However, all this is only partial work that she must do in exchange for his feeding her (It's a Takana). (See Ksuvos 64b) And besides that, even if she brings in 100 maidservants we still make her do something so she shouldn't go crazy (Ksuvos 59b) but the main guy who brings in the bread is the husband. And in fact that's what it says in the Ksuva, "ani efloch veazone", "I will work and feed you". Many Kollel guys would be shocked to hear this. 

So if she really wants she can go to Bez Din and shlepp her husband out of Kollel. (I'm not getting involved) But there have always been women who sacrificed their needs so the husband should be able to sit and learn. Like the Ran says in  Kiddushin 29b, that the Bovel wives used to do housework and business, so the men would be able to learn even after marriage, but the Israeli wives were 'pitchechis', and they would just sit and eat and not do work, so they had to do all their learning before marriage. 

But if you know that your husband just goofs off all day; go ahead and shlepp him out of Kollel, before he cuts his head off with a chain saw (True story). He'll feel a lot better. 

But it's not true that ideally only a small percent of Jews should be in Kollel and the rest should work. Ideally, we should be like the generation of Chizkiya, (Sanhedrin 94) where they couldn't find a single boy or girl, man or women, that was not an expert in the laws of tuma and tahara. (End of 94) (See Brachos 35b, it gets rather complicated)

So the women did learn Torah after all. They just didn't learn Talmud.