Question: Are women obligated to perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum? If not, may they perform this mitzvah?
Short Answer: Women are not obligated to perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum, but according to many poskim, they may perform this mitzvah.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 285:1) codifies the mitzvah of Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum (“SMVT”), which is the obligation on every male to read the parshah twice and the targum (Onkelos) once before hearing K’rias HaTorah on Shabbos. The Mishnah B’rurah (1), citing the Gemara (B’rachos 8a-8b) notes that one who fulfills this mitzvah will be rewarded with long life.
As explained in Article #1, there are essentially two reasons for SMVT. First, that SMVT is an expression of a person’s obligation to learn Torah, particularly the obligation to learn Chumash. This is the opinion of the Levush. Second, SMVT is connected to K’rias HaTorah, either as a form of preparation for K’rias HaTorah (T’rumas HaDeshen) or as a fulfillment of a person’s obligation to not only “hear” K’rias HaTorah but to also “learn” the K’rias HaTorah (Aruch HaShulchan).
II. What About The Women?
So, what about the women? Are they obligated to perform SMVT, as well? The Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch do not address this directly.
Rav Menashe Klein (Mishneh Halachos 6:60), the Ungvarer Rebbe who died in 2011, was asked this very question. He takes for granted that SMVT is “bichlal limud haTorah” – is a form of learning Torah – and thus unequivocally rules that women are not obligated to perform SMVT. Women are possibly forbidden to learn Torah (according to certain Rishonim) and even according to the Rambam (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:13), who permits women to learn Chumash on their own, this is not ideal, and thus, there certainly is no obligation on women to fulfill SMVT.
Rav Klein, however, appears to take for granted that SMVT is a form of learning Torah, and simply does not address the opinions (above) that hold that SMVT is connected to K’rias HaTorah. According to these opinions, are women obligated in SMVT?
To address this question, we first must address whether women are obligated in K’rias HaTorah. The Mishnah B’rurah (282:12), based on a Maseches Sofrim cited in the Magen Avraham, writes that women are obligated to hear K’rias HaTorah, but notes – without explaining why – that the minhag was just the opposite, that women often left shul by K’rias HaTorah. The sefer Halichos Beisah (9:12) suggests that perhaps women could not hear K’rias HaTorah or perhaps they were niddos and felt it improper to come to hear K’rias HaTorah in such a state.
Regardless, the clear ruling of the Mishnah B’rurah is that women are technically obligated in K’rias HaTorah. In fact, the Dirshu edition of the Mishnah B’rurah cites poskim who rule that nowadays a woman should try to hear K’rias HaTorah. Thus, we are back to our original question, according to the Mishnah B’rurah, are women obligated to perform SMVT?
III. A Resounding “No”
The poskim are clear, that no matter what the reason for SMVT, women are not obligated in SMVT. For example, the Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasah (42:60) rules that even though “it is good” for women to hear K’rias HaTorah, they are not obligated in SMVT. In his footnotes, he cites the Mishneh Halachos, as well as the Aruch HaShulchan (282:11), who implies that women are not really obligated in K’rias HaTorah.
Moreover, the sefer Hilchos Shabbos B’Shabbos (Vol. 4, p. 319) writes that women are not obligated in SMVT. Even though the Levush writes that the word “Sh’mos” is an acronym for SMVT and thus there is an obligation on all “Yisrael” to perform SMVT based on the first pasuk in Parshas Sh’mos, this obligation is limited to “B’nei Yisrael” (as stated in this pasuk) and not “B’nos Yisrael” (women).
The sefer Halichos Beisah (9:12) also writes that women are not obligated in SMVT, as SMVT is not really connected to K’rias HaTorah.
IV. Option To Perform?
But, may a woman perform SMVT? While the Mishneh Halachos (ibid) implied that she should not perform SMVT, many poskim disagree. Chazon Ovadia (Shabbos 1:13) writes that they may perform SMVT. Likewise, the Ohel Yaakov (SMVT, citing Gam Ani Odeka, siman 14) cites Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl who both rule that it is permitted for a woman to recite SMVT. Note, though, that Rav A. Grossman (cited ibid) writes that the clear minhag is obviously not that way.
Finally, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Ohel Yaakov) doubts that women receive the reward of long life even if they do perform SMVT, as it is likely that this reward is only given to those who are obligated in – and fulfill – this mitzvah.
Next Week’s Topic: May an aveil perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum (“SMVT”) during the week of shiv’ah? What about on the Shabbos of shiv’ah?