In her book, Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, Dr.Haviva Ner-David2 cites Rashi’s daughters’ “tradition” of wearing tefillin as setting a precedent.
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Whether women are allowed to don tefillin is the subject of great debate.
The Rema (OC 38:3) rules that it should be discouraged, and the Gra (comments to OC 38:3) contends that women are prohibited from wearing them.
Ironically, some scholars argue that during the early medieval period there was actually a general laxity among men or even outright neglect of the mitzvah of donning tefillin.
Rabbi Moshe Couchi, in the introduction to Halachot Gedolot, states that he preached in France about the importance of putting on tefillin daily and that, as a result, people were more conscientious about putting on tefillin.4 The question of women wearing tefillin is particularly interesting because in general, Ashkenazim, based on the opinion of Rashi’s grandson Rabbeinu Tam, maintain that women may take upon themselves time-bound mitzvot from which they are exempt and recite a berachah.
FACT: There is no evidence that Rashi’s daughters wore tefillin.
BACKGROUND: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known colloquially as “Rashi,” is the commentator par excellence on both the Torah and Talmud.Born in Troyes in northern France in 4801 (1040 CE), he descended on both sides from influential families.He studied in Worms, Germany, under some of the leading rabbinic authorities of his time and established a yeshivah in Troyes that was destined to become one of the principal disseminators of Ashkenazic tradition. The two daughters about whom some information is known are Miriam and Yocheved.In the wake of the destruction of the German Jewish centers by the Crusaders, Rashi established France as the Torah capital of Ashkenazic Jewry. Both of them married great Torah scholars and bore and raised the undisputed leaders of Ashkenazic Jewry.Yocheved married Rabbi Meir ben Shmuel, one of Rashi’s star pupils, and they had four famous sons: Yitzchak (“Rivam”), Shmuel (“Rashbam”), Shlomo the grammarian, and the youngest and most famous, Yaakov (“Rabbeinu Tam”).Miriam married Yehudah ben Nathan (“Rivan”) who finished Rashi’s commentary to Makkot.1 Rashi appears to have had another daughter, Rachel, and a fourth daughter who died young.