Are women considered part of the covenant?

In Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) we recite the words “ve’al britcha shechatamta bivsarenu”, “and for your covenant which you have sealed in our flesh.” These words refer to Brit Mila, ritual circumcision, a mitzvah which was first given to Avraham and his descendents in Breisheet 17:10-12 and is reiterated in Parshat Tazria, Vayikra 12:3.

In the Talmud, Brachot 48b, Nachum HaZaken taught: One must mention the covenant of circumcision in the blessing of the Land (node lecha, the second blessing of Birkat HaMazon). The reason according to Rashi is that the Land of Israel was promised to Avraham as part of the covenant of circumcision, as it says in Breisheet 17:8, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns.”

Since women are not subject to the commandment of brit mila, should they still say “ve’al britcha shechatamta bivsarenu”, “and for your covenant which you have sealed in our flesh?”

You can ask the same question about the words “Ve’al Toratcha she’limadetanu”, “for your Torah which you have taught us”, as women do not have a formal obligation to study Torah. The question can also be asked about the words “al she’hinchalta la’avoteinu”, “that you have given a heritage to our forefathers”, as women are not the inheritors of the Land of Israel.

According to Magen Avraham, women are in fact required to recite these verses in Birkat HaMazon.

For the verse about Torah study, since women are obligated to study the parts of the Torah that pertain to them, they still have an obligation in Torah study even if it is differs from a man’s.

For the verse about inheriting the Land of Israel, the inheritance of the Land is based on the tribe and is passed down from father to son, yet we know that there are exceptions as in the story of the daughters of Tzelophchad where the father died and there were no sons so the daughters did in fact inherit.

As far as Brit Mila, although women don’t have the physical imprint, the mitzvah was given to the entire nation of Israel, so every Jewish person is considered part of the covenant. Although some mitzvot are only observed by men, others only by women, others only by Kohanim and others only by Livi’im etc. together we form the Jewish nation as one unit.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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