Women reading the Torah for women


Thank you for the wonderful site.
I would like to know what your opinion is regarding women reading the Torah just for women, without “Birchot Ha-torah” (but stopping at every aliya and reciting certain pesukim instead).
This isn’t a halachic “kriat Hatorah“, but is there a halachic problem to do so (for a Bat-Mitzvah, on Simchat Torah etc.)?
The motivation of having this kind of reading would be to connect the women the Torah in an experiential matter.
Thank you.

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Asked on December 7, 2021 10:36 am
Private answer

Thank you for your question!

This question is essentially communal, and its ramifications for the community’s identity, cohesion, and avodat Hashem play a major part in any decision. Arriving at a balanced decision entails consultation with a local religious authority who is in position to judge what will be of most spiritual benefit to the specific community. In cases like these, communal customs and norms can have greater halachic weight than written sources. Our response is intended as a preliminary discussion of the general issues.

We discuss the halachic issues involved in women reading from a sefer Torah exclusively for other women here. This type of reading is not considered Keri’at Ha-Torah, since there is no minyan, so berachot should indeed not be recited. (See here for a discussion of reciting pesukim in this context.) Rather, it is considered a form of learning Torah from a Torah scroll. Such readings can be technically permitted, though a number of rabbis have opposed them.

Whether pursuing this type of reading/learning is desirable really depends on the community and framework in which it would take place. These experiences can really be very powerful, since they bring women close to the sefer Torah and encourage women's learning of traditional cantillation (ta’amim), which adds another layer of understanding to the text. These readings/learnings can also prove challenging, since participants often seek to approximate the ritual of having an aliya.

The challenges might be moderated if a community seeks out positive ways to emphasize the Torah learning aspects of this type of experience over the ritual ones. For example, not holding the reading at the same time as the minyan’s Torah reading, choosing to break up the reading with divrei Torah (perhaps making note of insights related to the ta’amim), and inviting a number of women to stand next to the Torah and look within it when it is open.

See more Q&A here.

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Answered on December 7, 2021 10:41 am