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but exempt from its performance (e.g., a woman), and one who lacks “kedushat Yisrael” and is not obligated altogether ab initio (e.g., a gentile).28 The former still falls under the umbrella of the general obligation of Kelal Yisrael, despite the exemption.29 A woman, therefore, may—should she so wish—join together with the rest of Kelal Yisrael and perform that ritual from which she is exempt,30 and receive reward. Rabbeinu Tam and the Ashkenazic posekim further maintain that women may also opt to recite the applicable blessing,31 including the word “ve-tsivanu.” The phrase, “Who has sanctified us and commanded us,” refers not to individual Jews, but to the people of Israel as a singular entity, of which women are an integral part.32

Rabbeinu Tam no doubt intended these guidelines to be applied broadly, so that anyone—man or woman—who is exempt and yet performs a mitsvah may also make the relevant blessing.33 In fact, Rabbeinu Tam supports his ruling, inter alia, from the pleasure expressed by the famous blind amora, R. Joseph,34 at hearing R. Judah’s opinion that the blind are freed from the obligation to fulfill positive commandments. R. Joseph erroneously believed that, as one who would be performing such mitsvot on a voluntary basis, he would be worthy of greater spiritual reward than one who is obligated. From R. Joseph’s expression of joy, Rabbeinu Tam deduces that when fulfilling a non-obligatory commandment, nothing is altered in its performance—including the recitation of the attendant benedictions. Were this not the case, argues Rabbeinu Tam, why would R. Joseph have been so happy? As a patur ve-ose, he would have been precluded from reciting these benedictions and, hence, from obtaining the concomitant reward! By invoking the blind, male R. Joseph as precedent, Rabbeinu Tam manifestly indicates that his principle is gender-neutral; we are not, as R. Goren assumes, dealing with a special dispensation. Indeed, the halakhic literature is replete with applications of Rabbeinu Tam’s patur ve-ose me-vareikh principle to cases not specifically involving women.35

It is apparent, then, that Rabbeinu Tam’s principle is equally effective for men and women. Yet, in a case where fewer than ten males are available, R. Goren would acknowledge that Jewish law and tradition prohibit the males assembled from reciting the public prayer texts even on a voluntary basis. Absent the requisite ten men, those praying are not merely exempt from reciting the public prayer texts—no obligation exists, ab initio. Under such circumstances, even R. Goren would agree that the patur ve-ose principle would not apply. Why, then, should it be any different for women?36

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