Kiddush Levana

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I have been learning about kiddush Levanah and wanted to know if you think women can or should say it.

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Asked on November 19, 2020 8:00 pm
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Kiddush levana is at its core a beracha, which opens in praise of God’s creation and the workings of the natural world and concludes with a paean to renewal, as signified by the moon. We recite it when the moon is visible, ideally outdoors, in the first half of the Jewish month– at least three days after the new moon. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 42a) likens reciting it in its time to receiving the Divine presence (Shechina), and notes that the women of Bavel would recite the concluding line of the beracha “Baruch ata Hashem, mechadesh chodashim” “Blessed are You, God, Who renews the months.”

In his comments to that passage, Meiri (13th-14th c. Provence) notes that women who cannot recite the full beracha recite only that last line. The implication is that women otherwise recite the full beracha as men do.

By the 16th century in Poland, however, Shelah (Ot Kuf) teaches that women do not recite kiddush levana out of embarrassment, because of a kabbalistic idea that Chava caused the diminishing of the moon. Minchat Yitzchak (8:15) explains that though the moon was diminished on the fourth day of creation and Chava did not exist until the sixth day, God’s awareness of the future sin played a part in the diminishing. On the other hand, Beni Ish Chai (Rav Pe'alim OC 4:34) writes that, according to his understanding of kabbala, Shelah's rationale does not prevent women from reciting kiddush levana.

In the 17th century, Magen Avraham (426 beginning; 296:11) cites Shelah. He also suggests that kiddush levana is a positive time-bound commandment from which women are exempt, and that women do not perform positive time-bound commandments voluntarily when there is no mitzva action other than reciting the beracha.

Aruch Ha-shulchan (426:14) agrees that kiddush levana is time-bound, and that women do not typically say it, but he raises no objection to women reciting it voluntarily.

Rav Shlomo Kluger (Ha-elef Lecha Shlomo 193) suggests that kiddush levana is not entirely time bound, because the timing depends primarily on a natural phenomenon rather than on a specific date. He writes that specifically the final line, the one that women of Talmudic times recited, is not time bound.

Where does this leave us? Women may rely on the longstanding custom not to recite kiddush levana and on the widespread view that kiddush levana is time bound–and even then may recite the last line. If a woman does not have a specific custom not to say it and she generally recites berachot on voluntary mitzva observance, then there is a strong halachic basis for her to recite the full beracha.

As above, the essential part of kiddush levana is the beracha, though additional statements and verses are recited. A woman who chooses to recite these other parts may feel awkward joining when they are said outside by a group of men. In this type of situation, a mechitza is not obligatory, just a little distance, and she may forgo the individual greetings and the dancing (though, in practice, the dancing during the recitation is often minimal). She may also recite kiddush levana on her own, or in the company of family members or of other women.

Chodesh tov!

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Answered on November 19, 2020 8:25 pm