As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), semikhah – laying of hands on the sacrifice – is one of the essential activities associated with individual korbanot. The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that all who bring a sacrifice must perform the act of semikhah, with certain exceptions. Among those listed as an exception are women.
The source quoted by the Gemara for this ruling appears together with sources limiting a servant or an agent performingsemikhah on behalf of someone else, which, in the case of a woman, would be her husband. Based on this, most commentaries understand the Mishnah as limiting women from performing semikhah on her husband’s sacrifice; with regard to her own sacrifice the source that frees a woman from the obligation to perform semikhah appears in Vayikra 1:2(see Kiddushin 36b), although Rabbi Yossi permits them to do so (see Eruvin 96b).
Tosafot ask why there is a need for the Torah to free women from the obligation to perform semikhah, since it is a mitzvat aseh she-hazeman gerama – it is a positive, time-bound commandment, which women are generally not obligated to perform – since semikhah is performed only during the day and not at night. Many answers are offered in response to this question.
– Tosafot suggest that since the commandment of semikhah and that of shehitah (slaughtering the sacrifice) are connected, we might have thought that just as a sacrifice can be slaughtered by a woman, similarly she would be obligated in semikhah.
– Rabbi Akiva Eiger argues that it is incorrect to assume that simply because it is performed during the day, semikhahshould be considered a mitzvat aseh she-hazeman gerama. According to his view, only the shehitah must be done during the day. The fact that shehitah is performed immediately after semikhah, leads us to perform semikhah during the day, but that is only for technical reasons.
– The Sefat Emet points out that sacrifices themselves are mitzvot aseh she-hazeman gerama, yet women offer sacrifices much as do their male counterparts. We can therefore conclude that the rule freeing women from performing positive, time-bound commandments does not apply to the sacrificial service.
– Finally, in his Netivot ha-Kodesh, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Salmon suggests that we should not view semikhah as being the responsibility of the person offering the sacrifice, but as an obligation connected to the sacrifice itself. From that perspective one could have suggested that even a sacrifice brought by a woman would require semikhah.