Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Pew Report and the Orthodox Community (and Other Assorted Comments), part 2

The Pew Report and the Orthodox Community (and Other Assorted Comments), part 2
by Marc B. Shapiro

Continued from here.
Returning to the matter of Jewish men and non-Jewish women, it is noteworthy that the Spanish scholar R. Solomon Alami (14th-15th centuries), in his ethical will to his son, specifically warns him to abstain from sexual relations with non-Jewish women.[1] Note how in the following passage he also assumes that Reuben actually had sexual relations with his father’s concubine (an opinion also shared by talmudic sages, though in my experience the alternative view, that he didn’t actually do this, appears to be the standard approach among contemporary darshanim).

בבת אל נכר אל תחלל בריתך. היה גבור כארי למשול בתאוותך, תהי צדיק מושל יראת א-להים להטיבך באחריתך. השמר ממר ממות ופרוש מן הזימה. טמאת השם רבת המהומה. וזכור דבר זמרי ורעתו. וחרפת שבטו ברדוף נשיאם תאוותו. הלא אל אלה חטא שלמה מלך ישראל ונחלקה מלכותו. וזכור צדקת יוסף אשר גבר על יצרו ולא נתן מאוויי גבירתו. ותשב באיתן קשתו. עם גודל יופיו ועדונו והוא בבחרותו. והיה זה סיבה לשום במרום מדרגתו. וכל בית אביו חיו בזכותו. ונתנה לו הבכורה ונדחה ראובן בחללו יצועי אביו מבכורתו. כי לא יאות הכבוד לנקשר בזימה בכחשו.

An Italian list of takkanot from 1418 also speaks about this problem, that Jewish men thought that there was nothing wrong with having sex with non-Jewish women[2]הנשים הנכריות מותרות בעיניהם. The fact that the various moralists speak about this issue shows that it was a real problem. While suggestions were offered to help men overcome sexual temptations, there was a recognition that, as the Talmud, Hullin 11b, states, “There is no guardian against unchastity,” אין אפוטרופוס לעריות. This principle is quoted by R. Joseph Karo in Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 22:15.[3] Yet interestingly enough, in R. Karo’s Magid Meisharim[4] he is told that since he is entirely involved with service of God he cannot be seduced even by a naked woman.

מאחר שלבך תמיד אינו מהרהר אלא בעבודתי אפילו תפגע באשה ערומה לא תבוא לידי חטא
We know that there were some who argued that it was better for men to use Jewish (single) prostitutes so that they not come to having sex with married women or engage in homosexual acts.[5] (I am referring to places where Jews could not avail themselves of non-Jewish prostitutes, as the punishment for this was often execution.) R. Moses Hagiz[6] argues against this position, stating that we do not permit a lesser offense to prevent one from violating a more severe offense. He even calls this approach hukot ha-goyim.

והלכו בחוקת הגיום שזו היא טענת פטור אצלם אכן אנו בני ישראל הקדושים כשהשני איסורים הם מדאורייתא או תרי דרבנן אין לנו להתיר הא' מחשש שלא יבא לעשות האחר

This passage is quoted by R. Isaac Lampronte, Pahad Yitzhak, s.v. boel aramit. He then adds that he heard from a hakham that sex with a Jewish prostitute is worse than sex with a non-Jew because of the possibility that that one will violate the niddah prohibition.

דיכול לבוא לאיסור נדה שהיא בכרת

Notice how he doesn’t say that one will certainly violate the niddah prohibition, only that it is a possibility. What this means is that even the Jewish prostitutes were expected to go to the mikveh, but that one can’t assume that they would indeed do so, and this explains why sex with a non-Jewish woman is preferable.[7]
But he adds that this should not be said publicly or to an ignorant person as this knowledge could lead men to have sex with non-Jews since they will mistakenly conclude that the prohibition is not so serious. 

אין אומרים דבר זה בפרהסיא או בפני עם הארץ, כדי שלא ינהגו פריצות בביאות גויות.

What we are discussing was not simply theoretical since R. Isaac Arama, writing in fifteenth-century Spain, tells us that not only did the Jewish community leaders (שופטי ישראל) not take prostitution seriously, but in a few (קצת)[8] communities Jewish prostitutes were welcomed and even supported with Jewish communal funds (!).[9] This was done as the prostitutes were thought to be performing a public service, since without them it was thought that men would be led to have sex with married women or non-Jewish women (which as mentioned already could lead to execution). From a responsum of R. Judah ben Asher,[10] we see that even in an earlier era this point had been made with regard to “loose women” (and was rejected by R. Judah who thought it was better to have sex with a non-Jewish woman for whom the niddah prohibition did not apply):

ומוטב שיסתכנו הגופים מן הנפשות
Arama tells us that on different occasions he argued with the communal leaders, and also before גדוליהם which I assume means their rabbis, that it is one thing if someone commits a sin in private. In such a case, Arama would probably agree that it would be better for a man to have sex with a Jewish prostitute than with a with a non-Jew. (It must be that these prostitutes went to the mikveh, as Arama doesn’t mention anything about the niddah prohibition.) But Arama is firm that it is absolutely forbidden for the community – and he includes in this בתי דיניהם showing that the rabbis were complicit – to countenance any sin whatsoever, in this case welcoming in Jewish prostitutes, even if this strict stance leads to people committing greater sins or being executed by the non-Jews.[11]
R. Isaac Bar Sheshet (Rivash) had earlier also testified to the fact that the “gedolei ha-dor” had acquiesced to the existence of Jewish prostitutes in order to prevent men from visiting non-Jewish women, with all the dangers this entailed.[12] Contrary to Avraham Grossman,[13] I do not think that the Rivash is saying that this is what the “gedolei ha-dor” should do when faced with such a circumstance. Rather, he is simply telling us what they did, and we don’t know if he agreed with this approach. I am curious to hear if readers agree with me. Here are the words of the Rivash:

והרמב"ן ז"ל כתב בפ' התורה שהיא אזהרה לב"ד שלא יניחו בנות ישראל להפקיר עצמן לישב בעינים על הדרך או בקובה של זונות לזנות לכל יבא. בואו ונצווח על דורנו שאין דומה יפה, וגדולי הדור העלם יעלימו את עינים פן יכשלו בני פריצי עמנו בנכריות ותצא אש ומצאה קוצים ונאכל גדיש

Returning to intermarriage, we see something very interesting in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 39. According to this text (which is paralleled by other midrashim[14]), Jacob’s sons married their sisters. The explanation given is that they did so in order not to marry the local inhabitants: 

כדי שלא יתחתנו בעמי הארצות

This is quite an incredible assertion, since incest is forbidden under the Noahide code. If there were no eligible marriage partners, one would have expected Jacob’s sons not to marry at all rather than marrying their sisters. R. David Luria, in his commentary on the passage, does not even deal with this problem, instead noting that elsewhere in rabbinic literature one finds that Jacob’s sons did marry the local women. (For some reason, R. Luria’s edition does not include the words כדי שלא יתחנתו בעמי הארצות, which comes right after the text stating that Jacob’s sons married their sisters. This does not appear to be an act of censorship, since the real issue is not the explanation for their marriages, but the incestuous marriages themselves, and this is still found in R. Luria’s edition.) 

The Tosafists have a simple response to this problem: Since the Torah had not yet been given Jacob’s sons only observed what they wanted.[15]

מאחר שלא נצטוו על התורה אע"פ שידעוה ברוה"ק מה שהיו רוצין היו מקיימין ומה שלא היו רוצין היו מניחין.

Nahmanides, Commentary to Gen. 38:2, assumes that each of the brothers married one of the twins of the other brothers, but not their own twins. Furthermore, no one actually married a complete sister, i.e., sons of Leah did not marry daughters of Leah. Thus, they did not violate Noahide Law. (I think this is probably also what the Tosafists assumed in the passage mentioned above.) While Nahmanides’ understanding works with some of the midrashim, it cannot be fit into the language of Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 36, which states explicitly that each son was born together with his future wife:

  וכולן נולדו זווגן עמם חוץ מיוסף שלא נולדה זווגה עמו

Furthermore, Bereshit Rabbah 80 states that Simeon married Dinah, and she was his sister from the same mother. It is precisely in order to answer this problem that a Tosafist cites the Aggadah[16] that Dinah was actually first impregnated in Rachel, and God later transferred her to Leah, meaning that Simeon and Dinah were really not from the same mother.[17] (Many have pointed out that this has implications to the debate about the status of children born from surrogate mothers.[18])

The Maharal explains that the situation of the brothers marrying their sisters was an exceptional case, since if they did not marry them the only available marriage partners would have been pagan women.[19] As the Maharal notes, the parallel is to the sons of Adam who were permitted to marry their sisters since there was no one else for them to marry. This permission to marry their sisters was known to Jacob through ruah ha-kodesh, and the Maharal adds that one should not think that this contradicts the Torah, “for the one who gave the Torah forbade [it] and the one who gave the Torah [also] permitted [it].” In other words, God is the source of the law so he can choose to alter it if he chooses. 

This approach can also explain the story of the akedah which troubles so many. If the reason not to murder is because God says so, then God can, if He wishes, permit murder in certain cases. I don’t want to get into the issue of Natural Law and the Euthyphro problem. Suffice it to say that most people would assume that the prohibition against incest is indeed part of Natural Law and not simply because God forbids it. Yet it must be noted that Sanhedrin 58b records a view that the Noahide code does not forbid marriage between brothers and sisters. According to Sanhedrin 58b, and this is followed by pretty much all commentators and halakhists, a non-Jew is permitted to marry his daughter. See also Mishneh TorahHilkhot Melakhim 9:5.[20] That at least some of the prohibitions on incest are not part of Natural Law would also seem to be a necessary conclusion of the Sifrei,[21] which states that the Children of Israel were driven to tears when Moses told them that they could no longer marry their sisters (from their fathers).[22]

וישמע משה את העם בוכה למשפחותיו . . . שהיו ישראל מצטערים בשעה שאמר להם משה לפרוש מן העריות מלמד שהיה אדם נושא את אחותו ואחות אביו ואחות אמו ובשעה שאמר להם משה לפרוש מן העריות היו מצטערים.

R. Ari Chwat has made the following interesting point.[23] The fact that the Sages state that the sons of Jacob married their sisters, something forbidden under Noahide law, illustrates how important it was for them to show that the brothers did not marry Canaanite women. In order to free them from the stain of intermarriage, the Sages were even prepared to claim that they had incestuous marriages. This shows how bad intermarriage was regarded by them.

נראה שכך יש להבין גם את המדרש (פרקי דר' אליעזר פל"ה [צ"ל ל"ו] וב"ר פ, יא) שבני יעקב נשאו את אחיותיהם, למרות שיש בכך משום האשמתם בגילוי עריות, דבר שאסור אפילו לבני נח מלפני מתן תורה. אלא שרצו חז"ל ללמד זכות על אבותינו עצמם, ולנקותם מעבירת נשואי תערובת, עבירה בעייתית בדורם של חז"ל. כלומר: היות ועבירת נשואי אחיות לא עמדה על סדר יומם של חז"ל, ממילא האשמה זו תפגע בכבודן של אבותינו פחות מאשר להאשימם בנשואי תערובת, מעשה המתאים רק לשפלים ביותר בעם.

Regarding intermarriage, take a look at the following fascinating responsum from R. Meir of Rothenburg that appears in Teshuvot Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, ed. Agus, no. 72 (pp. 152-153). 

It begins by referring to the widow of a man “who was not pure”. What does this mean? From the responsum it would appear that this woman was “married” to a non-Jew. Based on the answer, it seems that she was claiming that she had done nothing wrong with this “marriage”, as she had received rabbinic permission, and therefore she should not suffer any stigma.[24] R. Meir tells us that he knew a woman of whom it was said that the rabbis permitted her to have sexual relations with a non-Jew. He also states that he heard that in France the rabbis permitted this for several women. What this appears to mean is that the rabbis permitted the Jewish women to live with non-Jewish men (since the rabbis were certainly not permitting promiscuous sexual relations). Irving Agus reasonably suggests that the reason these “intermarriages” were permitted is that refusal to allow them would have endangered Jewish lives.[25]

R. Meir does not accept this permission at all, and points out that the talmudic examples of Jewish women having sexual relations with non-Jews were when they were forced. Yael’s sexual encounter with Sisera was intended to weaken him out so she could then kill him. Following R. Meir’s responsum, there is an additional note, apparently from R. Mordechai ben Hillel, stating that it is not certain that had Esther and Yael consulted with halakhic authorities that they would have been given permission for their actions. The copyist rejects this point, noting that since the actions of Esther and Yael were done in order to save the Jewish people, what they did was certainly permitted. Howewver, one cannot use these cases to also permit other women to have sexual relations with non-Jews.

On the general matter of sex, I would like to call readers’ attention to a book that recently appeared. It is called Devar Seter and no author is given. You can see the book here.

This book is, as far I know, the most liberal work on the halakhot of sex ever to appear. I am worried that if I get too explicit and explain what I mean by “liberal” that some readers’ internet protection will prevent them from accessing this post. Therefore, I won’t say any more about the book except than I find it interesting that a number of rabbis who praise it only feel comfortable doing so anonymously.

Another book on sex recently appeared, this time in English, which also has a very liberal perspective, although it is not focused on halakhah but is a self-help book. It is authored by Rabbi David Ribner and Jennie Rosenfeld and is titled The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy.[26]

A reader alerted me to an article on the book available here, and asked if I could comment on the following excerpt.

It is widely believed that ultra-Orthodox Jews are so concerned about modesty that they have sex through a hole in a sheet.

But this is a total myth, says Ribner: "There has never been a group of Jews anywhere in the world that has advocated having sex through a hole in a sheet. That has never happened. It doesn't happen today, it never happened in history. It's not advocated in any text within the Jewish community."

I have no idea if there is anyone today who uses a sheet for sexual intercourse. There is certainly no community that insists on this (not even the Gur Hasidim, whose sexual behavior is extremely ascetic). However, it is simply incorrect to say that this action is not advocated in any text. Usually, when you have a widespread rumor like this, there is some basis for it, even if the original source has been distorted. 

What is the origin of the idea of sex through a sheet? The Jerusalem Talmud, Yevamot 1:1, states that R. Yose ben Halafta, who performed the levirate marriage with his sister-in-law, had sex in this fashion: דרך סדין בעל. In case the words דרך סדין were not clear to readers, R. Baruch ben Isaac explains in Sefer ha-Terumah, Hilkhot Halitzah (Jerusalem, 1983), p. 46a, that it means that R. Yose ben Halafta made a hole in the sheet[27]:

נקב עשה בסדין דרך מקום ביאה 

This was done so that his personal pleasure be reduced and the focus be on the mitzvah.[28] The Talmud records that he had five children with this woman, and it is not clear if he used the sheet throughout their marriage or only in conceiving the first child (see Korban ha-Edah, ad loc., and also R. Hayyim Kanievsky’s commentary).[29]
If this was all we had, it would not be of great significance. All it would show was that one talmudic sage used the “hole in the sheet” method. There is no implication from the passage that anyone else adopted this approach. Yet based on this text, R. Meir of Rothenburg indeed assumed that when it came to levirate marriage this was the general practice among the pious during tannaitic times.[30]

ואפי' חסידים הראשונים דור התנאים כשהיו מיבמין היו בועלין דרך סדין כדמשמע בירושלמי (פ"ק דיבמות ה"א) ר' יוסי בר' חלפתא הי' בועל יבמתו דרך סדין

R. Jacob Emden, whose writings include a good deal about sexual matters, assumes that this type of hasidut is only applicable with levirate marriage, but not with one’s wife.[31]

דווקא ביבמה יש מקום לחסידות כזה לא זולת

There is also another significant passage, and it comes from the Vilna Gaon. He comments on the following text from the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 240:8:

וי"מ מגלה טפח ומכסה טפח שלא היה ממרק האבר בשעת תשמיש כדי למעט הנאתו

The point of this text is that even during sex one should attempt to lessen the pleasure. In his note on this passage, the Gaon ties R. Joseph Karo’s words to what we have just seen in the Jerusalem Talmud. He then states that although one can say that R. Jose ben Halafta acted this way only because he was performing a religious ritual (levirate marriage), nevertheless, “it is also proper to act this way with one’s wife.” In other words, in contrast to what R. Jacob Emden wrote, the Gaon tells us that the practice of sex through a sheet is according to one opinion a valid and even recommended method of lessening sexual pleasure. A well-known talmid hakham who examined this text at my request wrote to me that since the Gaon does not object it implies acceptance, meaning that the Gaon would have approved of the proverbial hole in the sheet.

Use of a sheet would appear to be contradicted by the following passage in Ketubot 48a:

R. Joseph learnt: Her flesh [שארה] implies close bodily contact, viz., that he must not treat her in the manner of the Persians who perform their conjugal duties in their clothes. This provides support for [a ruling of] R. Huna who laid down that a husband who said, ‘I will not [perform conjugal duties] unless she wears her clothes and I mine’, must divorce her and give her also her ketubah.

Yet this text, which rejects the approach of the Persians, is itself opposed by R. Gamaliel who stated: “For three things do I like the Persians: They are temperate in their eating, modest in the privy, and chaste in another matter [i.e., sexual behavior]” (Berakhot 8b).[32]
Another interesting point related to sex and seforim is the following. Megillah 13b states: “R. Johanan said: Bigthan and Teresh were two Tarseans and conversed in the Tarsean language. They said: From the day this woman came we have been able to get no sleep. Come, let us put poison in the dish so that he [Ahasuerus] will die.” 

Bigthan and Teresh couldn’t get any sleep since they could not go to sleep as long as the king was awake. But why was the king not going to sleep? Rashi explains that he found Esther so attractive that he had lots of sex with her, and this was keeping him up at night.

מתוך שהיתה חביבה עליו היה מרבה בתשמיש 

R. Baruch Epstein, Torah Temimah, Esther 2:23, offers a different explanation of the Talmud. He claims that Ahasuerus was up at night because he so enjoyed taking walks with and talking to Esther. 

כי היה מטייל ומשוחח עמה הרבה

What I can’t figure out is why R. Epstein expects us to prefer his understanding, which turns Ahasuerus into a perfect gentlemen, over that of Rashi.[33]

Finally, let me offer an example of distortion when it comes to sex. R. Israel Yanovski, Taharat Yisrael, vol. 2, p. 100b, no. 33, states:

מי ששם אצבעו בתורף אשה פריצות גדולה היא ויש בו איסור

The source offered for this surprising invasion of the marital bedroom is R. Yerucham, Toledot Adam ve-Havah, vol. 1, netiv 23 (p. 192d in the standard edition). Yet R. Yerucham says something very different.[34]

מי ששם אצבעו בתורף אשת איש פריצות גדולה היא ויש בו איסור ואפילו המסתכל אבל אינו חייב מלקות

The only question is if R. Yanovski’s quotation was a careless error (copied perhaps from R. Dovber Karasik, Pithei Olam, Orah Hayyim 240:16, who uses the same mistaken wording) or an intentional distortion due to puritanical feelings.[35]  R. Moshe Stern, Be’er Moshe, vol. 3 p. 204, assumes the former while I think the latter is also possible. I say this because Taharat Yisrael is quite an extreme work when it comes to sexual matters, which R. Yanovski wants to limit as much as possible. Thus, he praises those tzadikim whose children, we are told, equal exactly the number of times these tzadikim had sexual relations. In other words, if a certain tzaddik only had three children, then in his entire life he only had sex three times.[36]
As for other pious peopleR. Yanovski, based on kabbalistic sources, tells them to avoid sexual relations on Rosh Ha-Shanah (and tavo alav berakhah if one can abstain for the entire Ten Days of Penitence), Hoshana Rabbah, the three days preceding Shavuot and also on Shavuot, from Rosh Hodesh Av until the 11th of Av, the first and second night of Passover, the nights of Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah, and hol ha-moed Pesah (unless it falls on Shabbat). If this wasn’t enough, he also assumes that sex is forbidden on Hanukkah and Purim and any day that you don’t recite tahanun (!).[37]

בחנוכה ופורים נראה דאסור וכ"ש שאר ימים שאין נופלין על פניהם בהם דאסור בלי ספק

Finally, let me call attention to Berakhot 57b which states that three things resemble the World to Come, "the Sabbath, sunshine, and tashmish." What does tashmish mean? Normally you would assume it to mean tashmish ha-mitah, i.e., sexual relations. However, the Talmud explains that it doesn't mean this but refers to "tashmish of the orifices."

R. Samuel Alexandrov claims that the original rabbinic saying indeed meant what it said, i.e., that sex resembles the pleasure of the World to Come. However, the later sages didn't want people to focus on sexual matters so they explained the passage in a different way.[38]

Regarding the connection between sex and the World to Come, R. Solomon Alkabetz quotes "the kedoshim" that sexual pleasure is one sixtieth of "the true pleasure", i.e., the World to Come.[39]

To be continued

* * * * * *

Most of R. Yanovski’s Taharat Yisrael (mentioned in this post) focuses on the laws of niddah and mikveh. It was printed twice in Europe and then was reprinted in the United States in 1952. This latter publication was dedicated to the memory of R. Judah Leib Forer, the rabbi of Holyoke, Massachusetts. This page appears at the beginning of the book.

Here is the page of American haskamot added for this edition. This is one of a handful of haskamot from R. Soloveitchik, and I think is the first to appear in print.

Regarding R. Forer, who was an outstanding student of R. Hayyim Soloveitchik, there is a good deal of information from family members available on a website here. Among the points noted was that R. Shach was a student of his. 

Here is the title page of Milei de-Igrot, consisting of Torah letters between R. Forer and R. Mordechai Gifter. There is also one letter from R. Shach to R. Forer. On p. 181 we also see that R. Forer delivered a shiur at RIETS. (There is another volume of Milei de-Igrot and this contains letters between R. Gifter and his teacher R. Moses Aaron Poleyeff. There is a good deal of biographical information about R. Gifter in this latter volume, including his difficult relationship with R. Bernard Revel.)

The one point I would like to add to all the recollections that appear on the website I have referred to is that R. Forer was unique in that he was the spiritual leader of both the Orthodox and Conservative communities. That is, the membership of the Conservative synagogue liked R. Forer so much that while they wanted a mixed pew congregation, they also wanted him as their rabbi. This information was confirmed to me by elderly members of the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues. What is not known is if R. Forer ever actually attended the Conservative synagogue or if he was ever officially recognized as their rabbi. He was, however, the only spiritual leader in the town, recognized by all, and I don’t know of another example in history where there was one rabbi for both the Orthodox and Conservative congregations.

[1] Iggeret Musar, ed. Haberman (Jerusalem, 1946), p. 33. It is interesting that later in this work, in giving an example of an anti-Semitic decree in Spain, Alami mentions that Jews were forced to grow their beards. See p. 40. This shows that going clean-shaven was common in medieval Spain. Alami sees this as an example of midah ke-neged midah, i.e., since the Jews were improperly cutting off their beards, it was the non-Jewish authorities who forced them to grow the beards.                                                                      
[2] Jubelschrift zum siebzigen Geburtstag des Prof. Dr. H. Graetz (Breslau, 1887), p. 60 (Hebrew section). Both this source and Alami are cited in Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (New York, 1975), p. 94 (he mistakenly dates the  Italian document as 1413). Louis Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages (New York, 1964), ch. 10, reprints the Italian document (mistakenly dating it as 1416). The passage I have referred to appears in Hebrew on p. 286, but is missing, together with much else, in what is supposed to be the translation on p. 294. Among the other Italian takkanot is one stating that a man can only wear one gold ring. See Jubelschrift, p. 59. I mention this only because some have the mistaken perception that Jewish men never wore rings. See also S's post here which has a painting of R. Bernard Illowy wearing a ring.
[3] In the days of the Talmud we find that plenty of betrothed, but not yet married, couples were having sex, or at least suspected of it. See Ketubot 9b, 12a.
[4] Parashat Miketz, mahadura kama.
[5] R. Moses Sofer, She’elot u-Teshuvot Hatam Sofer, Even ha-Ezer no. 133, writes:

ועוד דזנות דפנויה קיל לאינשי ולא משמע להו איסורא כל כך אע"ג שהם נדות, ועינינו רואות דרובן פרוצות בפנוייתן ונעשות צנועות אחר נישואי[הן]י

Understood as written, the second part of this sentence is quite incredible, as the Hatam Sofer is stating that most unmarried Jewish women are sexually active. Yet there is no question in my mind that what he is really means is that most of those who are sexually active before marriage, behave properly after marriage. See here.
[6] Leket ha-Kemah (Amsterdam, 1707), p. 29a.
[7] R. Jacob Kamenetsky was adamant that it is worse for a man to marry a non-Jew than to marry a Jew who won’t observe taharat ha-mishpahah. See Emet le-Yaakov, parashat Ve-Yehi, p. 237, translated here.
[8] Perhaps this should be better translated as “some communities”, but I am dan le-kaf zekhut. See also Abraham Neuman, The Jews in Spain (Philadelphia, 1944), vol. 2, p. 279 n. 42.
[9] Jewish prostitutes definitely felt that they were part of the community. See R. Raphael Ankawa, Karnei Re’em (Jerusalem, 1910), no. 225, for a responsum sent to Brazil, regarding whether it was permissible for the synagogue to accept charity from the prostitutes, as well as a parochet they made for the synagogue. See also R. Moses Isserles, Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 153:21. R. Raphael Aaron ben Shimon, Nehar Mitzrayim (Alexandria, 1908), vol. 1, p. 12a, discusses a case where not only did the prostitute donate a parochet, but she also inscribed her name into it in golden letters. As R. Raphael notes, this is especially problematic since if allowed then people praying in synagogue would see her name staring down upon them and this would invariably lead to improper thoughts. (He adds that this particular prostitute had been with a lot of the young Jewish men.) Therefore, he ruled that the parochet could not be used and any gifts from prostitutes to the synagogue could not have their names on it. He also mentions a prostitute who donated a sefer Torah to the synagogue (!), and this was accepted on the condition that her name not appear on it..

Regarding Jewish prostitutes, see also the documents from the Russian archives recently published in ChaeRan Y. Freeze and Jay M. Harris, Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia (Waltham, 2013), pp. 337ff., and see also Dan’s earlier post here. In 1611 the Prague Jewish community ordered the Jewish prostitutes to leave. See Simhah Assaf, Ha-Onshin Aharei Hatimat ha-Talmud (Jerusalem, 1922) p. 114. Any prostitute found plying her trade after this time would have a mark of shame branded onto her skin!

וזו שתזנה ח"ו מהיום והלאה יתוו עליה תו-קלון על ידי ברזל לוהט

See also Takanot Kandia, eds. Cassuto and Artom (Jerusalem, 1942), no. 31.

Pimps also felt that they were part of the community. See R. Joseph Hayyim, Rav Pealim, vol. 2, Orah Hayyim, no. 18, who rules that it is forbidden to give a pimp an aliyah, even if he only deals with non-Jewish prostitutes and non-Jewish clients. R. Hayyim Palache ruled that pimps must be expelled from the Jewish community. See Masa Hayyim, p. 14a. R. Solomon Kluger discusses Jewish pimps in Ha-Elef Lekha Shlomo, Yoreh Deah, no. 192, and see also R. Hayyim Palache, Hayyim be-Yad, no. 19, and R. Hayyim Hezekiah Medini, Sedei Hemed, Pe’at ha-Sadeh, ma’arekhet alef, no. 152 (s.v. apotropos le-arayot) .
[10] Zikhron Yehudah, no. 17.
[11] Akedat Yitzhak, Bereshitsha’ar 20.  
[12] She’elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rivash, no. 425.
[13] Hasidot u-Mordot, p. 240 n. 96:

הוא סבר שעל "גדולי הדור" להעלים עיניהם מקיומן של זונות יהודיות מחשש לתגובה קשה של הסביבה הנוכרית, אם יהודים יקיימו יחסי מין עם נשים נוכריות
[14] See Torah Shelemah, Gen. 37, note 200, and see also Rashi, Gen. 37:35.
[15] See Da’at Zekenim mi-Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, Gen. 37:35
[16] See Berakhot 60a.
[17] Tosafot ha-Shalom, ed. Gellis, to Gen. 46:8.
[18] See R. Avraham S. Avraham, Nishmat Avraham (Jerusalem, 2007), vol. 3, p. 32.
[19] See Gur Aryeh, Gen. 46:10.
[20] The one exception I know of is Meiri, Sanhedrin 58b, who states that a non-Jew cannot marry his daughter. Even though the Talmud rejects this opinion, Meiri does not see this rejection as the Talmud’s final word on the subject. אפשר שדרך דחיה הוא וסוגיא בעלמא. However, just a few lines below this Meiri writes that if a Jew’s daughter (through a non-Jewish woman) converts to Judaism, he can marry her! While R. Abraham Sofer doesn’t comment on this seeming inconsistency, in R. Yitzhak Ralbag’s edition of Meiri on Sanhedrin, published in Sanhedrei Gedolah, vol. 4, he writes:

ק"ק לשיטת רבינו שב"נ אסור בבתו איך מותרת לו אחר הגירות.

Before you reply that the convert is like a “new person” and thus has no connection to her father, recall that in Yevamot 22a it explains that the incest prohibitions that are applicable for a non-Jew remain forbidden (rabbinically) even after conversion. So how then, according to Meiri, can a father marry his converted daughter?
[21] Ba-Midbar 90. See also Shabbat 130a.
[22] See also Maimonides. Hilkhot Melakhim 9:5, that this is permitted for non-Jews. I will return to the matter of incest in a future post.
[23] See his article “Ha-Zakaim be-Mikra ve-Hayavim be-Hazal,” available here.
[24] See Irving Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (New York, 1970), vol., 1, p. 279.
[25] Teshuvot Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, p. 33. See also Agus in Jewish Quarterly Review 49 (1959), pp. 217-218.
[26] A number of years ago two of my friends got married. One of them met with his rabbi for “the talk”, and was told that when it comes to sex, pretty much everything is permitted. The other friend attended a “hatan class” in New York City. He called me one night, surprised at being told that in sexual relations only one position is permitted. This was stated as a matter of halakhah and the directly opposing statement of R. Moses Isserles, Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 25:2, was never even mentioned. R. Isserles writes:

ויכול לעשות עם אשתו מה שירצה . . . ובא עליה בין כדרכה בין שלא כדרכה או דרך איברים ובלבד שלא יוציא זרע לבטלה. ויש מקילין ואומרים שמותר שלא כדרכה אפילו אם מוציא זרע אם עושה באקראי ואינו רגיל בכך. ואף על פי שמותר בכל אלה כל המקדש עצמו במותר לו קדוש יאמרו לו

Note R. Isserles’ last sentence. In other words, my friend’s hatan teacher decided (without asking his students) that all the future grooms sitting before him were going to be called קדוש.
[27] See also R. Moses of Coucy, Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, pos. no. 52. R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski, She’elot u-Teshuvot Ahiezer, vol 3, no. 24:4-5, has a different understanding.
[28] R. Nahman of Bratslav stated that not only does the tzaddik not experience any sexual pleasure, but he suffers during sex, even more than a boy suffers during circumcision. See Arthur Green, Tormented Master (Woodstock, VT, 1992), p. 39. Regarding sexual pleasure, there is an old question as to why one does not recite a blessing over it. R. Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov stated that before sex one should make a shehakol on food or drink and include in thisalso the anticipated sexual pleasure. See his Magid Ta’alumah (Bnei Brak, 2006), to Berakhot 40a, 43a. Recognizing that people will find this suggestion quite strange, especially as no one before him ever had this idea, R. Zvi Elimelech adds:

כתבתי זה מסברתי והמשכיל לא ישליך דברי אחרי גיוו כי דברי טעם הם

Elsewhere, R. Zvi Elimelech writes that optimally one should not have any pleasure from sex. See Igra de-Firka (Jerusalem, 1973), p. 28b (no. 197):

ובאמת עפ"י התורה יותר טוב שלא ליהנות

[29] See also Tosafot, Shabbat 118b, s.v. eima, that R. Yose ben Halafta performed yibbum with five different women.
[30] She’elot u-Teshuvot Maharam be-R. Barukh, ed. Bloch (Budapest, 1895), no. 866.
[31] Mor u-Ketziah 240.
[32] It is also worth noting that R. Isaac Luria held that one’s tallit katan should remain on during marital relations. See R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Orah Hayyim 8:7. See also Magen Avraham, Orah Hayyim 240:22, and R. Avner Afgin, Divrei Shalom, vol. 5, pp. 417ff. R. Mordechai Eliyahu, Darkhei Taharah ha-Shalem, p. 278, writes:

והמקפידים ללבש טלית טקן כל הזמן חוץ משעת רחצה, יניחו בשעת התשמיש את הטלית על צוארם שלא יחצץ ביניהם

[33] A friend pointed out to me that R. Ovadiah Yosef adopted R. Epstein’s explanation. See Hazon Ovadiah: Purim, p. 279. 
[34] R. Yerucham’s formulation is also quoted by R. Moses Isserles, Darkhei Moshe, Even ha-Ezer 21:2.
[35] R. Yanovski’s “revision” of R. Yerucham relates to the matter of female sexual pleasure. There is a good deal to say about this, especially with regard to the approach of the Gur hasidim which forbids any foreplay from the husband. However, for now, let me just note that R. Joseph Hayyim says the exact same thing, and unlike the Gur hasidim who see this as an added stringency, he sees it as an actual prohibition (which for many women would mean that in their entire lives they would never experience any sexual pleasure ומפני הצניעות אקצר.) See Ben Yehoyada, Niddah 13a:

גם הנשים אסורות להשחית הזרע שלהן, כמ"ש רבינו האר"י ז"ל. מיהו נראה גם באשה אם בעלה עושה משמוש ידים באותו מקום דרך שחוק והתעוררות תאוה ודאי גורם לה בזה הזרעה לבטלה, ואיכא איסור של השחתת זרע
(See, however, Torah li-Shmah, no. 504, where he does not regard this as an actual prohibition.)

The Lehem Mishneh, Hilkhot Ishut 15:18, says the exact same thing as appears in Ben Yehoyada without using any kabbalistic sources:

כשהבעל ממשמש באותו מקום דודאי מן הדין אסור לעשות כך דאסור למשמש שם

Lehem Mishneh’s view is accepted by R. Isaac Palache. Yafeh la-Lev, Even ha-Ezer 25:8.

R. Yitzhak Abadi, Or Yitzhak, vol. 2, p. 65, is very disturbed by the Lehem Mishneh and states:

הוא תמוה לחדש כן בדברי הרמב"ם מכח קושיא בדבריו . . . ובכלל עצם הענין הזה לחדש דברים כאלה בלי שום ראיה הוא דבר תמוה, ובפרט שרש"י אומר בפירוש שמותר, ועוד שמצוותו בכך

Regarding the talmudic statement, Niddah 13a, נשים לאו בנות הרגשה נינהו, R. Moshe Malka, Mikveh ha-Mayim, vol. 6, p. 57, writes as follows, in surprisingly strong language:

כמה קשה עלי שמועה זו שהיא נגד הטבע, וכי נשים לאו בני הרגשה נינהו? וכי אינן נהנות גם הן מתשמיש כמו הגברים?

I was surprised to see that R. Shlomo Aviner does not regard female sexual pleasure as having any real significance. Here are passages from two separate letters (quoted in Yakir Englander and Avi Sagi, Guf u-Miniyut be-Siah ha-Tziyoni-Dati he-Hadash [Jerusalem, 2013], p. 108).

מה שאין אשתך נהנית בשעת החיבור אין זה אסון, זה קורה לנשים רבות, והעיקר שהיא אינה סובלת מזה. היא נהנית הנאה רגשית פנימית מעצם הקרבה, מעצם האהבה האחווה השלום והרעות, ואינה זקוקה להנאה גופנית

בעניין ההנאה  מה שאינך נהנית, אינו קריטי, ישנן נשים שלא נהנו כל ימי חייהן אפילו פעם אחת ולא הפריע להן, אלא הכול היה באהבה גדול

I hope to return to this very interesting book. But for now I can't resist citing a passage from R. Eliezer Melamed (quoted ibid., p. 128). Not only could an American Modern Orthodox rabbi never express such sentiments (if he wants to keep his job), but I am convinced that even if such a passage appeared in an American haredi publication, the women would be quite offended.

איזו אישה כשירה? העושה רצון בעלה, זה הסדר. כאשר יש החלטה כזו או אחרת, בנהוג שבעולם שהאיש הוא הקובע, כך מקובל. כאשר זה לך כך, בדרך כלל שני בני הזוג לא מרוצים. אפילו אם האישה שמחה שהיא מחליטה בלבד ומשפיעה על מהלך העניינים, בסוף היא מתמרמרת שהיא לא נשואה לבעל, לא לגבר, אלא לסמרטוט. כמובן שיכולים להיות דברים מסוימים שבהם האישה קובעת, "נו, תחליטי את איזה צבע נבחר לספה". הבעל ג'נטלמן, בבקשה, תחליטי את. אבל הוא נותן לה את המנדט להחליט, כך מקובל

R. Aryeh Leib Steinman, Ayelet ha-Shahar, Kiddushin 30b, also states that a wife is obligated to obey her husband. It is easy to find plenty of earlier sources that say this, but I wonder how many haredi women today have such an understanding of their position in a marriage.

Regarding R. Melamed's point that a man has to be a "man", it reminded me of an interesting Meiri to Kiddushin 82b. The Talmud, ibid., states: "Happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females." Meiri suggests the following explanation: "Woe to him whose sons are like females," with all the negative implications this implies:

שבניו נקבות שהזכרים פחותים וחסירים, ואשרי מי שבניו זכרים שנמצא בהם השלמות המכוון בהם

R. Yoel Schwartz, Ben Torah vi-Yeshivah (Jerusalem, 1978), p. 143, mentions this Meiri in the course of his discussion of male and female roles in Judaism. Schwartz makes the following very enlightened comment about how men should relate to "women's work", i.e., housework.

טיפוח הבית, הוא חלק האשה כמו שביארנו לעיל, מאחר שכאמור שטח זה הוא בתחום האשה, מי שמתעסק בטיפוח הבית מפסיד את כל ערך התועלת של קנין תורה

I shouldn't mock it, however. If these guys can get their women to go along, who am I to protest? It wasn't that long ago that pretty much all men had this Archie Bunker-like attitude.
[36] Taharat Yisrael, vol. 2, p. 97b.
[37] Taharat Yisrael, vol. 2, p. 97a.   
[38] Mikhtevei Mehkar u-Vikoret (Vilna, 1907), vol. 1, p. 51. See also David Biale, Eros and the Jews (Berkeley, 1997), pp. 42-43, who sees here a conflict between the Sages and popular belief, with the latter assuming that there is a place for sexuality in messianic days. (When the Talmud refers to the World to Come it means the messianic era.)
[39] Shoresh Yishai (Sziget, 1891), to Ruth 3:7 (p. 56a).

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