Given that Tallis and Tefillin are mitzvos given primarily to men (Kiddushin 29b), is there a beged ish issue with women wearing them? If there is, would we apply the rule of Asi Asei v'dachi Lo Sa'aseh and say that the positive commandment of Tefillin should override the negative commandment of Beged Ish?

Although related, this is independent of the general controversy of whether women may wear Tallis/Tefillin. I am asking in respect to the specific issue of Beged Ish. Because of my point about Asi Asei v'dachi Lo Sa'aseh, the fact that someone allows women to put on Tefillin is not a proof either way, unless they address the issue of Beged Ish explicitly.

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    I remember a Gemara in eruvin in last chapter addressing this about shabbat if it is a ...b.n I'll search
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:37
  • What aseh is there? They are exempt according to everyone
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:42
  • What does the Tallis look like? Plenty of four cornered garments are beged ish and plenty are beged ishah (at least nowadays)
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:43
  • @kouty judaism.stackexchange.com/q/41169/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:45
  • @DoubleAA That was part of the question - does an aseh that they are performing, even if they're not obligated in it, override the lav? Though perhaps I might be better off splitting that into a separate question. As for the type of Tallis, let's say for argument's sake we're talking about your average Tallis gadol.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:54

4 Answers 4


The Targum Yonasan to the verse prohibiting a woman to wear men's gear says specifically it includes Tallis and Tefilin. However, that doesn't seem to be the prevailing opinion. The Aruch HaShulchan and Rav Moshe Feinstein both address the issue of women wearing Tefilin, and neither of them concludes that it's prohibited because of that Targum Yonasan.

At first glance -- and someone please correct me if there are sources otherwise -- asei doche lo saaseh shouldn't apply anyhow as the most it would be for women would be a kiyumis, not a chiyuvis -- a meritorious thing to do, but not an obligation, for a woman to wear tallis or tefilin.

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    It should be noted that targum yonasan on the Torah regularly makes halachic statements which directly contradict the Talmud. Even if it was composed by someone of authority, it's clearly coming from a different tradition than our halacha (eg. Beit shammai or others who we don't rule like) and is hence of nearly no modern practical halachic value
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 23:50
  • The oddity of the TY is that while there is no mitzvah for women to wear Tallit or Tefilin, that doesn't intrinsically make them a beged ish - just a chovas ish. Does a woman's obligation to cover her hair make all wigs beged ishah, even those designed "for men?" Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:07

Way back in 1978, I was a student at the Hillel Summer Institute. Rabbi Joe Pollack, the Hillel director at Boston University, and a Chabad rabbi, was asked this question by a female student. That summer there were two women who wore tallis and tefillin. Of tefillin he deferred answering the question as to whether women are allowed to put on tefillin because of the case of Rashi's daughters, whom legend says, wore tefillin. See Baumgarten, Elisheva (2004). Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe. Princeton University Press. p. 88. As to whether tefillin are clothing, Devarim 6:8 explicitly says that tefillin are "ornaments."

Rabbi Pollack then addressed the tallis issue: He told one woman that she could wear her tallis -- although he believed there was no requirement for her to do so, and perhaps no reward. The other woman, however, was forbidden to wear her talls. Everyone wondered where he was going with that. He explained: "You wear a factory-made tallis, where I assure you that every worker there is weaving it and attaching the tzitzit with the intention that a man would wear it. Therefore your tallis is a beged ish, and forbidden to be worn by a woman." The other woman, he explained, had made her own tallis, and therefore could wear it without concern. Presumably he would hold that tallisim that were specifically desingned and made for women could be worn by women and not by men, but at the time, there wasn't yet a big market for tallesim made for women. That would be changed with the publication of The First Jewish Catalogue.


Mishna and Gemara in Eruvin

A mishna in Eruvin (95a) says:

One who finds phylacteries outside the city on Shabbat, where they are in danger of becoming lost or damaged, brings them in to his house pair by pair by donning them in the manner in which they are typically donned for the mitzva

The Gemara in Eruvin 96ab discusses about the mitsva or not mitsva to wear tefilin on Shabbat, is it a mitsva which change through time. From this question depends an other question about duty, or option, or prohibition for a women to wear tefilin.

If tefilin are not a mitsva for women, are they prohibited or authorized to wear tefilin?

There are several opinions in the sugia. One of them is that women have to wear tefilin and tefilin is not mitsvat asse shehazman gerama. An other opinion is that women are authorized to make mitsvot without duty for them, to wearTefilin for instance.

Here is a statement from a berayta (96b)

One who finds phylacteries brings them in pair by pair, whether the finder is a man or whether she is a woman, and whether the phylacteries are new or whether they are old.

This berayta disagrees at least with the opinion that women should be discouraged from mitsvat tefilin.

Tosfot, Raavad, Rif, Rambam, Rashba.

אבל באשה לא פליגי - וא"ת דילמא משום דהוי מלבוש לאיש כדאמר בפרק במה אשה (שבת דף סא.) דתפילין דרך מלבוש עביד

Tosfot asks: Even if tefilin is not a mitsva for women, and women are discouraged from mitsvat tefilin, to wear them as mitsva is discouraged, but why not wear tefilin garment?

וי"ל דהיינו דוקא לאיש משום דרגיל ללובשן בחול אבל לאשה לא כדאמרי' התם וחלופיהן באיש דמידי דחזי לאיש לא חזי לאשה ומידי דחזי לאשה לא חזי לאיש:‏

Tosfot answers: Why tefilin are soon as clothes for men? Because men have a mitsvat tefilin in most weakdays. This mitsva generates an habit to see men wearing tefilin. On Shabbat we can say that wearing tefilin for a man remains a way of dressing. But if there is no mitsva for women but on the contrary this is discouraged, the tefilin are for women as men's clothing.

The Rashba in chiddushin reports in name of Raavad and Rif stated against the Berayta. Women cannot wear tefilin on Shabbat.If a woman see tefilin on public domain on Shabbat, she cannot take them even as a way of clothing because tefilin are not woman's clothing. So tefilin are not a clothes for women.

Rambam (Shabbat 19, 23) also reports the halacha mentioning men only, not women:

What should a man do when he finds tefillin in the public domain on the Sabbath? He should wear them in the ordinary fashion, placing the head tefillin on his head and the arm tefillin on his arm, enter a home and remove them there {despite that Shabbat is not zman tefilin}

The Rashba himself doesn't agree with this reasoning, but practically ruled as the Rif (and Rambam).

Magen Avraham

In Magen Avraham, OC 301, sk 54 (regarding the same halacha of a man who finds tefilin on Shabbat), the psak is also that a woman cannot wear Tefilin at Shabbat. But he adds that this shows that tefilin is a greater problem than Beged Ish, because this is a beged generally used without secular utility. And similarly a Talit Gadol. He says that a woman who walk in Public domain with a Talit Metsuyetset is Chayevet Chat'at. {as @Double AA noted in comments, the statement about Talit with tsitsiot is a consequence of habits only. If we assume that women can make as option mitsvot which are men's duty only (opinion of rabbi Yose). But the rule regarding tefilin has additional parameters, see below in note Rama siman 38}

אבל אשה אסור' להכניסה ואף על גב דק"ל דמותר לצאת בשק מפני שהרועים רגילים לצאת בהם מקרי מלבוש לכל אדם שאני נשים שהן עם בפ"ע (שבת דף ס"ב) ולכן נ"ל שאם יצאה בטלית המצוייצת חייבת חטאת אבל דבר שהוא מלבוש גמור לאיש מותרת אשה לצאת בו ועיין ביורה דעה סי' קפ"ב משא"כ טבעת לא מקרי מלבוש גמור:‏

CONCLUSION, it seems from the Magen Avraham that Talit and Tefilin are men's garments (as the Targum Yonatan cited by @Shalom states).


In Shulchan Aruch OC 38, 3, the Rama in name of the Col Bo says that we have to dissuade women from wearing tefilin because they are not accustomed to watch for body hygiene, not because they are exempt only.

Following the Rama, women are discouraged from wearing tefilin for the mitsva side of their wearing, so, even as clothes it is prohibited as men's clothing. But that the reason is not because they have no duty.

Regarding Talit, the reasoning of the Col Bo is not relevant. If a woman wants to wear a Talit in way to make mitsvat tsitsit, we have not to dissuade her. So talit is not men's clothing, because they are not discouraged from Talit.

  • @msh210 fixed ..
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 21:16
  • So, in conclusion, you're assuming that its status of Beged ish hangs on whether women can wear them? As I said in the question, perhaps you can argue asi aseh v'dachi lo sa'aseh. Can you edit in if that would apply here? (By the way, that Gemara can't be on 76. That discusses a round window being used for Eiruvei Chatzeiros.)
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:30
  • 96 @DonielF sorry צו is the daf
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:31
  • @DonielF asse implies that it will be beged Isha, see the tosfot inside
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:34
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    @kouty None of these sources are relevant to what today's habits happen to be. They could be different from 10 years ago and 10 years from now. If all women started wearing Tefillin every day, it would no longer be a man's garment. Moreover, if somehow all women wore Tefillin and men didn't, it would become a women's garment. I don't think either of these options is particularly likely to happen anytime soon, but it's technically possible.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:46

Women are permitted to wear Tallis and Tefillin. They are not required to as it is not a positive time-bound mitzvah (Kiddushin 29a) and not mandatory for them as it is for men. But, like with any other optional mitzvah, it should be up to women to decide whether they want to fulfill it or not. It certainly not Beged Ish as it is not a regular clothing specific to men. To say it's forbidden is misinterpretation of the law.

This is Torah, and no rabbi can change it, no other Jewish code can replace it, no matter what. Torah does not say "excluded", it says "exempt". Therefore, they are only exempt.

Women, according to Torah, are spiritual just like men and were created in the image of G-d. No one can deny it. Only other religions do.

  • "It certainly not Beged Ish as it is not a regular clothing specific to men" Why does Beged Ish require something to be "a regular clothing"? Also in what way is it not specific to men, given that 99.999% of those who wear them are men?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 18:58
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    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 19:09
  • Men are not even obligated to tallis gadol by the Torah.
    – ezra
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 20:26
  • I'm not sure where you're getting that many here may argue that "Judaism is patriarchal 'men-only' religion." But this entire answer seems irrelevant. I'm not asking if women are allowed to wear Tefillin or not. I'm asking if there is a beged ish issue of them doing so, independent of the mitzvah of Tefillin.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:27
  • Not all Tanayim hold Nashim Somchim Reshus. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:46

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