Women Writing STAM: Index & Summary

Soferet

Index

  1. Introduction
  2. Maseches Sofrim
  3. The Tur (& the Drisha)
  4. Megilas Ester
  5. Additional Sources

Summary

Introduction

  • Although historically sofrei STAM have always been men, a growing group of women have recently begun writing Sifrei Torah, tefilin, and mezuzos.
  • Some of these women maintain that there is halachic justification for doing so.
  • The Gemara (in two different places) quotes a beraisa taught by Rav Hamnuna (aka Rav Chinina), which clearly says that women are not eligible to write STAM.

Maseches Sofrim

  • There is another list of the people who are ineligible to write STAM in maseches Sofrim, and women do not appear on that list.
  • Advocates of women writing STAM claim that the list in maseches Sofrim supports their position.
  • In spite of this claim, there is substantial evidence that the list in maseches Sofrim is not authoritative.
  • All of the Rishonim and Achronim (with one possible exception) definitively decide the halacha according to Rav Hamnuna – that women may not write STAM.

The Tur (& the Drisha)

  • The Tur references Rav Hamnuna’s beraisa when discussing the laws of tefilin, but not when discussing the laws of Sefer Torah.
  • The Drisha presents an argument that the Tur holds that women are allowed to write Sifrei Torah (but not tefilin or mezuzos).
  • This conclusion of the Drisha is not compelling, and is rejected by all later poskim.

Megilas Ester

  • Sifrei Torah have more stringent halachos than scrolls of the other books of Tanach (kisvei kodesh).
  • Megilas Ester has some of the stringencies of Sifrei Torah and some of the leniencies of kisvei kodesh.
  • Some authorities say that a megilas Ester written by a woman is invalid, but the majority of those who address the topic hold that it is kosher.
  • Many of the poskim who permit women to write megilas Ester in theory, also hold that lechatchila you should not read from such a megila in practice.
  • If there is no other megila available, bidi’eved a megila written by a woman can be used to fulfill the mitzva of megila reading.

Additional Sources

  • There is a long list of Rishonim and Achronim who reference Rav Hamnuna’s beraisa as the definitive halacha.
  • There are minor variations among these poskim in the exact phrasing of the halacha, but they all clearly say that any STAM written by a woman is invalid and must be put into geniza.

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