As noted, the first Mishnah in Masechet Arakhin opens with the expression ha-kol ma’arikhin ve-ne’erakhin – all persons are fit to evaluate or to be made the subjects of valuation – for the purpose of the vows of arakhin that are described in Sefer Vayikra (27:1-8). This leads the Gemara to ask what the words ha-kol – “all persons” – comes to include, which leads to an examination of Mishnayot throughout the Talmud that open with this expression. On today’s daf (=page), among the laws discussed are:
- ha-kol shohatim – all are fit to perform ritual slaughter
- ha-kol hayavim be-sukkah – all are obligated in the commandment of sukkah
- ha-kol hayavim be-tefillin – all are obligated in the commandment of phylacteries
- ha-kol hayavim be-teki’at shofar – all are obligated in the commandment to hear the shofar on Rosh Ha-Shanah.
In each case the Gemara discusses who might have been left out of these halakhot that the Mishnah specifically includes with the words ha-kol.
The first example on the daf is that all are included in the commandment to read Megillat Esther on Purim, which the Gemara explains includes women, who are ordinarily free of performing mitzvot aseh she-hazman geramah – positive commandments that are dependant on time.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches that women are obligated to hear the reading of the megillah, she’af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes – since they were involved in the miracle of Purim. There is a difference of opinion regarding this teaching. According to Rashi and most of the commentaries, Jewish women were included in Haman‘s decrees of destruction, and are therefore obligated to participate in the thanksgiving festivities that celebrate the rescue of the Jewish people. Rav HaiGa’on, the Rashbam and others argues that the Gemara’s intent is that Jewish women played a crucial role in the miracle, in that Esther orchestrated the events that led to Haman’s discovery and hanging.
In either case it is clear that women are obligated in the mitzvot of the day. How this affects women and their own reading of the megillah is the source of some dispute.
According to Rashi and the Rambam it appears that women are obligated in reading the megillah and therefore can read for others, as well. The Me’iri and the Ritva rule that women are obligated in the mitzvah, but they nevertheless cannot read for others because of an external reason, for example because it is not appropriate for the honor of the community for women to play such a public role. Finally there are those who suggest that women cannot read for others because their obligation is not to read the megillah, but only to hear the megillah.
A full discussion of this issue appears at http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/tfila/frimer2.htm