Sunday, September 22, 2013

Celibacy and the Catholic Church (part 2)

Just to clarify for my readers: The indented text is quotations from Mr. Korn’s comments to my previous post (with the italics him quoting my words from said post). The unindented text is my responsa to Mr. Korn’s comments. (For anyone who has not been following the discussion since the beginning, I suggest reading this post in which I respond to Mr. Korn’s comments to my post Moses’ Black Wife.) In Mr. Korn’s rantings, he frequently moves off topic, so I decided to ignore much of his tangential ranting each of which can be a discussion in its own right. I have continued to focus on the issue of whether or not there is a precedent in Judaism for the concept X-tian concept of celibacy. I begin with Mr. Korn’s strongest argument:
Actually, I don’t agree with what you wrote. You write that separating from his wife was necessary for him to attain the highest level of spirituality in order to redeem his people from bondage, but that is simply not true. In fact, Moses only separated from his wife after he had already led the Jews on their Exodus from Egypt and only after he served as the main conduit of HaShem’s will at the Revelation at Mount Sinai, not beforehand. His so-called “celibacy” was not necessary for him to reach his level, it was an outcome of the fact that he had reached his high level like I have already explained to you in my previous post. Even without Rabbi Nachman's chiddush about the true meaning of shal na'alecha ma'al reglecha as referring to prishut min ishto, one can calculate very clearly from Torah chronology that from the time of the burning bush Moshe never slept with Tzippora again. They started out traveling together to Egypt, but after she saved his life from the serpent, he sent her back to Midian. Then when Jethro returned with her after Kriyat Yam Suf Moshe was busy preparing the people for the Mt. Sinai revelation, so it is certain Tzippora was not with him during the Exodus events out of Egypt and reasonable to assume she did not live with him during the Omer period leading up to Matan Torah at Mt. Sinai, which was the culmination and purpose of the Exodus from Egypt. This is even more certain according to the opinion that Jethro and Tzippora did not come to Sinai until after Matan Torah!I realize you have an ideological desire to pretend that Moshe was holy enough to invoke the miracles of the Exodus and to confront the Evil Mouthed Pharaoh (Pe Ra) and the initial stages of wilderness wanderings still cohabiting with his wife, but you have made a grave error that even a child who is familiar with the story of the Exodus would recognize. If your dissembling is not deliberate, then frankly I am shocked at your naivette. Perhaps you should study Talmud less and Torah more.
Even if you are right that Moses first separated from Zipporah from the time of the burning bush all the way through his  travelling to Egypt and the Ten Plagues and the Exodus and Matan Torah until reuniting with her and Jethro (which I am not convinced is true), the fact still remains that Moses was NOT COMMANDED to separate from his wife until Matan Torah when all Jews were commanded to separate from their wives and were afterwards allowed to return their wives except Moses who received special instructions, ואתה פה עמוד עמדי “And you—here—you shall remain with Me” (Exodus 5:28). This is the source for Moses’ understanding that it was HaShem’s will for him to separate from his wife. He may indeed have separated from her beforehand, but that was not due to a commandment, but was rather because of circumstantial situations.
Indeed, chastity is a virtue. Chastity means preserving one’s sexual innocence when outside the context of a permitted marriage in order to use their sexuality in such a context. Chastity is something to be admired. It requires one to only engage in allowed sexual conduct, but it obviously presumes the existence of permitted sexual relations. Celibacy, on the other hand, whereby one vows to never engage in sexual expression, is simply a dream. Thank you for affirming the blessedness of chastity. As for celibacy, you are right that for an unbeliever in Yeshua who has not yet surrendered his life to the Divine Messiah, it would be a pointless dream. But sometimes our dreams lead us to our reality, if we desire the vision of hope the Holy Spirit has planted within us. So for now forget about celibacy, since so long as you resist the Holy Spirit as manifested in God's Son, you cannot possibly recognize its validity or legitimacy or even feasibility. As Yeshua said: What is impossible for man is possible with God.
So you agree that it takes a miracle for a healthy man to remain celibate? In Judaism, we don’t believe that serving HaShem and doing the right thing requires a supernatural miracle. Every person has his own ability to make his or her own decisions and live based on those decisions. People can choose between doing right and wrong. If celibacy is “the right thing” but is impossible to achieve without a miracle, that means that it can’t be the right thing, for it is not naturally attainable. Nahmanides (to Numbers 5:20) writes that there is no commandment or law in the Torah which depends on a “miracle” (with one exception, see there). One may pray to HaShem to get help in carrying out his decisions, but ultimately, the final decisions on what to do rests within man’s abilities and responsibilities.
There is not such thing as a “spiritual gift”. High levels of spirituality are not given to people as “gifts”, they are attained through hard work in perfecting their character traits, studying and keeping the Torah, and maintaining a close relationship with HaShem based on both fear and love. We can agree partially. We believe that the new birth through Jesus Christ brings us to the point where we can then follow His advice about sanctification. But no spiritual progress can be made without first surrendering ourselves to Him. Just as no Jew can partake in the customs of the Jewish liturgical year without first eating of the Qorban Pesach. Jesus is the starting point, but it is not an easy road. He speaks of the narrow gate through which we must endeavor to pass. But He also tells us: "My yoke is easy and My burden light."
Why do I have to first submit to the bastard from Bethlehem is order to achieve completion? Why can’t I submit completely to HaShem Himself? From where did you make up that no Jew can partake in the customs of the Jewish liturgical year without first eating of the Korban Pesach; there is no such rule! Perhaps the narrow gate through which one must endeavor to pass refers to the defloration of virgins whose vaginas are narrowed due to their hymenal tissue which shows that even the bastard from Bethlehem understood concepts unbecoming of someone who was supposedly celibate.
On the contrary, according to your Christian fairytales, the bastard of Bethlehem was really a son of “god” because “god” had impregnated Mary. From here we see that “god” himself does not adhere to the standards of celibacy preached by the church because “god” himself impregnated a woman. In fact, he impregnated a married women! Not only does the Christian god not believe in celibacy, he actually engaged in adultery. No wonder Christianity is such a corrupt and debauched religion. I thought Jews believe that in every marital union and pregnancy there are three parties: husband wife and Holy Spirit? Don't you claim that all sexual unions are simply a conduit to bring down a godly soul from Heaven into the conceived child? Isn't this the Jewish ideal of being fruitful and multiplying? Doesn't Rashi say in Parashat Bala'am that God sifts through every drop of semen emitted in holy sexual union to find the seed that will produce Messiah?
It’s true that Jews believe in every martial union, the presence of HaShem (Shekinah) is there, but Jews also believe that martial unions when done properly and with the proper intentions, are a commandment and are actually positive actions. When a man is having relations with a woman, the Shekhina is there. If X-tians believe that such sexual relations are impure, then why would the Shekhina come as a result of an improper action? According to Judaism, HaShem is not a hypocrite, He does not command people to do things which He Himself does not follow. For example, HaShem Himself keeps the Shabbos and thus can expect his constituents to do the same. According to X-ianity, god is a hypocrite. The X-tian god tells people that in order to achieve completion, one must refrain from sexual relations, yet, according to their folklore, he himself engaged in sexual relations (with a married woman no less) to impregnate Mary the hooker. How does X-ianity reconcile this discrepancy?
In the days leading to Matan Torah, HaShem commanded all the Jews to separate from their wives in order to achieve an extra-special level of holiness in order to receive the Torah. This extra-special level of holiness meant that all the Jews should be free of sexually-caused ritual impurity (other ritual impurities such as niddah, zav, meis, metzorah, etc… were not addressed in this commandment). This arrangement was done more for the women than for the men. Men who experience a seminal emission (whether through normal sexual relations, masturbation, involuntary nocturnal emissions, etc…) may immediately immerse in a Mikva and would become pure upon nightfall (as long as he is not seeing a certain type of gonorrheal flow of semen for three consecutive days which could render him impure for more than a week in which case he is a zav). So for the men, abstinence of only one day would suffice to insure purity at the time of the reception of the Torah. However, there is a halacha that a woman who discharges semen (originally received through relations with her partner) within three days after engaging in sexual relations immediately becomes ritually impure like a man who experienced a seminal emission. Now, in order to avoid the women being ritually impure at the time of the receiving of the Torah, HaShem had them separated from their wives in order to make sure that they would not have inside them semen that was less than three days old and thus would not become ritually impure. As mentioned above, after the receiving of the Torah, HaShem commanded every many to return to “his tent” (a euphemism for his wife) except for Moses. If meeting HaShem directly to accept the Torah necessitates abstinence in order to achieve certain purity, then surely HaShem himself practices abstinence for He is the epitome of purity. If so, how can X-tians say that god impregnated a woman, an act which is, according to X-tian theology, dirty and impure?
If God chooses to impregnate a woman without a male union, how is that "adultery", especially since God chose a woman who was betrothed and thus legally married in every sense of the word even requiring a Get of divorce to end the union! I fail to see why you would consider this an act of vulgarity.
I fail to understand the logic of your argument. The definition of adultery is one engaging in sexual relations with a married woman other than his wife. Mary the whore was not “married” to god, she was “betrothed” to Joseph (who, if he was Chinese would definitely wear a Green Hat) and essentially married to him, not to god. Therefore, it would be forbidden for her and god to engage in sexual relations and it would even be hypocritical of god to do so if he commanded that one may not lie with another’s wife. Why should that not be considered an act of vulgarity? (And by the way, how did Mary the harlot remain a virgin if she was supposedly penetrated by god who deflowered her and stripped her of her maidenhood?)
Again, the exact opposite of what you are saying is true. As is readily evident, when one is busy travelling and is in “foreign” territory and situations, his sexual urges peak. This is clearly seen from the Torah allowing one to engage with a “woman of beautiful form” should he chance upon such a lady when at war (see Deut. 21:10-15). When one is away from home, his sexual desires become stronger. Accordingly, celibacy would only be more difficult in such a situation. In fact, if Paul really did travel the world to try and dissuade pagans from their religion, he probably took his wife with him, or had multiple wives in different cities, or engaged in “call girls” and the like to fulfill his sexual appetite. (And that’s if we judge Paul favorably and assume that he did not engaged in illicit sexual practices such as masturbation, pedophilia, homosexuality and the like). Thanks for judging Paul favorably. I meant to write that scholars estimate he travelled 20,000 miles by foot, not 2,000. There is no way he would take a woman on such arduous and perilous journeys, especially since his life was constantly at risk. Paul loved and respected women enough to desire their safety and not simply to use them as a release for his own selfish sexual desires. Your point about Isha Yafat To'ar is interesting, but it again is not the norm. The Sages say it is not a recommended course of action but a concession to fallen human nature which in the heat of war is easily aroused to sexual defilement. But St. Paul walked in the Holy Spirit and spoke of the fruit of the spirit all believers can enjoy; Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness Goodness Faithfulness Gentleness Self-Control. They are gifts from Yeshua to all who trust in Him.
Let us allow history to speak for itself. Over the span of several X-tian expeditions in their so-called "Crusades”, the Church sanctioned the raping and murder of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women by holy knights on a holy mission to liberate Jerusalem from the Moslems. Read any history book, rape is the most common action that men engage in when on expeditions away from home, especially in times of war. This is the natural inclination of all men, it is unavoidable. Whether one believes in the bastard of Bethlehem does not change the reality that men have urges that have to be addressed. I would assume that Paul either did not really make the journey he was reported to have taken (an approach taken by many) or that he also raped and pillaged along his way as X-tians have done in the past or that he took his wife with him or perhaps he turned to his hand or his male companions for “comfort”. Perhaps if X-tians hadn’t tried to endorse this impossible ideal of celibacy, they would not have had such a sexually violent history.
I definitely do hesitate to respond to all the members of your CC list. Many of them are on your blacklist against their will. Ever since you decided to add me to your list, I have seen many people who requested that you remove them from the list (from some reason they click reply all instead of just reply), but you hesitated to do so and delayed doing so (although, granted, it seems that eventually you do remove them from your list). I have removed them from our conversation and also have directed them to your blog. I apologize for intimidating you. They are people with whom I have had many religious dialogues and also are fascinated by Jewish rabbinical teachings. I thought they would enjoy interacting with you, but I think many of them are grieved at the animosity they think I have provoked in you. For example they blame me for inciting you to write "bastard of Bethlehem" and think you would be better of spiritually had I never bothered to write to you in the first place, according to the principle that it is better to oppose Jesus silently than actively openly and audibly. If I have provoked your animosity to Jesus I apologize.
To whom are you apologizing? Don’t let your close-minded friends stop you from engaging in your path towards finding the truth. One can only discern the truth through rigorous debate and cross-examination. By continuing in this discussion with me, you are showing to us all that you yourself question and in fact debase the values and doctrines of the Catholic Church. Of the people on your famed CC list, I happen to know two of them personally and they both told me that they are on your list against their will and have all your emails set to go straight to their junk mail/bulk mail folder.
What you are saying is true that there is not one right decision in Judaism. But the truth is that different people have different abilities and inclinations and no two people tick the same. Your examples about the proper way of spending excess money and the proper way of engaging in prayer are good examples of this. Different people have different ways of expressing their servitude of the HaShem. רחמנא ליבא בעי. אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכוון לבו לאבינו שבשמים. These concepts tell us that HaShem does not want quantity, He wants quality. Even when a person acts within the confines of Torah Judaism, there are still many personal and private choices which need to be made and there is not general right-or-wrong answer for everyone. Judaism is not a one-size-fits-all religion. There are various different strains of legitimate Judaism with each one focusing on a different facet of serving HaShem (even if sometimes their concentration on their focii are a cause in some laxity in other areas, as long as they don’t systematically and purposefully abandon one area of the Torah). For example, Chassidim may focus more on serving HaShem through prayer and immersion in the Mikva, while Misnagdim focus more on serving HaShem through Torah study and intellectual pursuits, Centrist/Modern Orthodox people may focus more on serving HaShem through perfection of their interhuman relations, Sephardic people might focus serving HaShem through Kabbalah, etc… All of these are legitimate answers and legitimate options, as long as one stays within the confines of Judaism. Thanks for explaining this. If so, then why was there such opposition to Chassidism when it first emerged? And why did so many Chassidim oppose Rabbi Nachman when his approach was revealed? If each approach is tailor made to the unique spiritual qualities of different Jewish people, why were they so cotroversial even to this day among other Jewish groups? Can't one group recognize that its spiritual pathway might not suffice for the needs of other kinds of Jews?
Good questions! I see you are indeed a thinking person… The answer is that had there been no opposition to Chassidism when it first emerged, then the movement would have indeed shifted to such a far extreme that it would have left the confines of Judaism. An historical example of this is X-tianity which started out as a sect of Judaism with its own small quirks in how to serve HaShem. As X-ianity matured, it veered farther and farther away from Judaism eventually dispensing with the most vital clauses of the Torah and becoming a religion of its own. The Jewish opposition to Hassidism insured that Chassidism would be kept in check and would not veer too far from traditional Judaism with its focus on certain aspects of Avodas HaShem. Hassidim always wanted to be considered part of the mainstream Judaism, and so as their movement developed, they did not deviate too much from mainstream Judaism, so that they can remain within the community. At the end of the day, no self-respecting Jew would count a Xtian in a minyan, yet even the most vehement Misnagid would count a Hassid in a minyan. We see in our days that because opposition to the Chabad-Lubavitch Messianic movement is so clear and outspoken, the movement will be faced with a dilemma within the next generation: They will have to completely separate themselves from the Jewish community at large and face ostracization or they will have to tame them extremist views in order to be more compatible with mainstream Judaism.
I do not believe that all Catholics priests are unchaste either, but certainly the overwhelmingly majority of them are. Of those priests who have taken an oath of celibacy, only those who are truly mentally or physically impotent are able to keep their oath. This is pure conjecture on your part. You have no concrete evidence for saying this. Perhaps it is even wishful thinking. Just check out Padre Pio, Edith Stein, Catherine Drexel, and so many many other Catholic religious celibates and saints!
You are right it is mere conjecture on my part. But it is an educated analysis based on the reality to which even you agree as mentioned above. Regarding the specific examples which you cite, two of them are women. We are not discussing celibacy for women and I must iterate that I never doubted the reality that a woman can physically in fact remain celibate (even though Judaism does not necessarily condone such a practice). Our entire discussion is regarding the priesthood (which is denied to women in the Church) which requires taking an oath of celibacy. The third person whom you cite was known to have had various physical maladies (and apparently some mental issues as well) and it is not surprising for me to hear that he had no sex drive.
Everyone has tests which HaShem expects them to overcome and doing certain things can make those tests easier or harder. For example, for someone who has the test of a strong desire for pedophilia, it is a good idea for him to get married to help him deal with his test better rather than to try and remain celibate and end up stumbling with the altar boys and the like. Even St Paul says this: It is better to marry than to burn with illicit lust. But it is even better to seek the gift of chastity. That's why Catholics say that both marriage and celibate priesthood are sacraments, but the priesthood is greater. Also Catholics considering celibacy are given an opportunity to experience the lifestyle before taking the vow. They are never locked in and never accept it unknowingly.
Judaism believes that all Jews are priests, HaShem says that the Jews are “a nation of Priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Thus, if celibacy is something expected of the priesthood, then it should be something within the reach of every single individual, not just a few “lucky” individuals. Do yohu not find it hypocritical that the Church allows and even encourages one to indulge in all sorts of sexual promiscuity before taking the oath of celibacy. If sexuality is bad, then ban it altogether (which, of course, is impossible), and if it is good then what is the great sacrament of celibacy?
Everyone has different types of tests from Heaven, some people pass those tests and some people fail them; I don’t see that sexual crimes is more prevalent in the Orthodox Jewish community than it is in other communities. Every community has its individuals who do not fare with HaShem’s tests and indeed it takes wisdom and humility to seek His help! (The website to which you referred me is blocked on my web filter on suspicion that it contains pornography and profanity.) So are you saying that even with the Torah to guide them Jews cannot expect to turn out more sanctified than anyone else? This surprises me!
Why does this surprise you? Everyone has the ability to make their own decisions. Sometimes some people—even holy people—make the wrong decisions and choose to follow the path of evil. That does not detract from the sanctity and/or truism of the Torah, it simply reaffirms the fact that HaShem had granted people free will to choose their own paths. If everyone only did the right thing and could not do anything else, then there would be no free will and there would be no point in life. As I already mentioned, reward and punishment is meted out based on a person’s good and bad actions. HaShem gives people tests as a chance to accrue more reward if they pass the test. Not everyone is fortunate to pass every test with which they are presented. If one indeed follows the path of the Torah, that can simply reveal to a person what is considered good, but it does not negate his ability to make his own decisions. Those members of the Orthodox Jewish community who commit crimes know that their crimes are wrong, but that they chose to do so anyways because they could not overpower their temptations for sexual indulgence, or money, or honor, or whatever it was that drove them to do whatever it was that they did.
The website is not pornographic. It is run by a former Chabadnik who became disillusioned with what he believes is the failed messianism of the movement and has put up a blog revealing abuses. He himself is still an Orthodox Jew and has blocked me from posting comments on his blog since he too hates Yeshua.
Tell that to my web filter because it says that FailedMessiah is a pornographic webpage.
I will, however, note that there is not prohibition barring a Jew from marrying a girl who has not yet reached puberty. You must understand the social context of those times and it was quite widespread and accepted for men to marry pre-pubescent girls even though they cannot become pregnant. I thought the Talmud Kabbalah and Chassidism speak of a biyah ra'uyah levlad, that intercourse must be done in a way that could cause impregnation. I do not believe that any self-respecting and God-fearing Jewish parent would allow pre-pubscent daughters to be married and become sexually active, and if they did they should be put in jail for child abuse! I will have to ponder whether I should draw attention to your comment that seems to authorize and encourage sexual depravity within Jewish society, exactly as many anti-Semites charge about Talmudic rationalizations for child molestation and erotic sex with boys, etc..
You are right that the it is not a good idea for one to marry off his pre-pubescent daughters. The Talmud writes that this is included in the prohibition of Leviticus 19:29. To saw that they should be jailed for child abuse makes a lot of sense in light of current social norms and mores, but in the context of the ancient world, it was not as serious a crime. Marriages were often not about sex as much as they were about power and wealth. Regarding the oft-repeated anti-Semitic charge about Talmudic rationalizations for child molestation, etc… I suggest reading this article by Gil Student and in fact his entire website entitled The Truth About the Talmud.

An excellent paper about this subject showing the difference in opinion between Judaism's encouragment of sexuality and marriage and Christianity's rejection of those concepts in favor of celibacy and abstinence has been written by Prof. Adiel Schremer. Below is a copy of his paper on the topic:


Shir Mevashir Yeshua said...

rabbi Chaim,

You have not answered persuasively at all Rashi's seifa on Isaiah 7:14. According to Jewish Law a pre pubescent girl is not allowed to engage in marital relations. So it is not possible to conceive of a situation wherein the Alma in this verse would be too young to bear children.

The Christian view that Mary was a mature woman who conceived without a male agent is much more compelling.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

As I already mentioned, there is no such law that a pre-pubescent girl is not allowed to engage in marital relations. And anyways, I never said that Isaiah 7:14 refers to a pre-puberty girl. In fact, I actually declined to discuss the notion of virgin birth which has already been refuted time and time again and is not the point of our discussion. We are discussing whether there is a Jewish tradition of celibacy or not, nothing more. If you want to read more about how Isaiah is not referring to a virgin birth, see here and here.

Shir Mevashir Yeshua said...

I am sorry but I closed down my google account and cannot post directly to your blog, so I am submitting question here.

Regarding this exchange, here is my response:

You have totally evaded my question! I am amazed at your chutzpa that surpassses what i have seen from most rabbis!

(1) No self respecting parent would marry off a pre-adolescent girl. (Shtay Sa'arot). Especially not one discussed in a prophecy of Isaiah!

(2) Whether or not you think Isaiah 7:14 refers to a pre pubescent girl, Rashi's seifa makes such an assertion in writing: Alma hi ayna rauyah levlad.

Please deal with the questions and stop slip sliding away!

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

I already told you I am not interested in debating the myth of the virgin birth.

Shir Mevashir Yeshua said...

I don't understand why you cannot just answer the question! You aren't avoiding me, you are avoiding addressing Rashi's comment.

In case you don't comprehend, Rashi's first and second explanations focus on the two possible signs offered to Ahaz.

(1) Sign of the name of the child

(2) Sign of the mother of the child.

In his second explanation Rashi offers a very unusual comment:

Alma hi ve'ayna ra'uyah levlad = She is a maiden and not able to get pregnant.

Now the question is what does Rashi mean by this? Does he mean that as a maiden she is too young to get pregnant? If so, then that goes back to the question of whether a self respecting Jewish parent would marry off a pre pubescent girl and allow her to engage in sexual intercourse. Halacha clearly states such a thing is wrong and immoral, even though the marriage is technically valid. Do you think Isaiah's prophecy is talking about such a marriage that amounts to little more than child molestation?

What else could Rashi possibly mean here? I have asked you to explain and you keep avoiding the question, which suggests to me you don't have a good answer! What is the value of a Mir Yeshiva education if you can't answer such a simple thing???

In my opinion the New Testament account of the Virgin Birth is the only fulfillment that makes sense. This is because it explains both Rashi's raisha and saifa in one go: the supernatural sign is in BOTH the mother's conception and the child's name Emmanuel, since via the supernatural conception the child is truly Emmanuel, God with Us!

Shir Mevashir Yeshua said...

RASHI on Isaiah 7:14

14. Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel. יד. לָכֵן יִתֵּן אֲדֹנָי הוּא לָכֶם אוֹת הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ עִמָּנוּ אֵל:
the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign: He will give you a sign by Himself, against Your will.

is with child: This is actually the future, as we find concerning Manoah’s wife, that the angel said to her (Judges 13:3): “And you shall conceive and bear a son,” and it is written, “Behold, you are with child and shall bear a son.”

the young woman: My wife will conceive this year. This was the fourth year of Ahaz.

and she shall call his name: Divine inspiration will rest upon her.
Immanuel: [lit. God is with us. That is] to say that our Rock shall be with us, and this is the sign, for she is a young girl, and she never prophesied, yet in this instance, Divine inspiration shall rest upon her. This is what is stated below (8:3): “And I was intimate with the prophetess, etc.,” and we do not find a prophet’s wife called a prophetess unless she prophesied. Some interpret this as being said about Hezekiah, but it is impossible, because, when you count his years, you find that Hezekiah was born nine years before his father’s reign. And some interpret that this is the sign, that she was a young girl and incapable of giving birth.

My halachic scholarship abilities are not what they once were, but it seems to me these sources indicate that a girl should never be married off before puberty and that doing so would constitute a sin and moral crime. I am aware of the Midrash that claims David seduced (raped?) Bathsheba when she was only 7 years old and she gave birth to Solomon at age 9. Given this the stance of contemporary Judaism and Christian Zionism to mock Islam for Mohammed's marriage to Ayisha at age 9 seems hypocritical in the extreme!

Mechon Mamre on Jewish Marriage Laws

The minimum age for marriage under Jewish law is 13 for boys, 12 for girls; however, the kiddushin can take place before that, and often did in medieval times. The Talmud recommends that parents marry off their children when they reach puberty, but many Jewish communities delay marriage till the age 18, or somewhere between 16 and 24, putting needless physical and mental strain on Jewish youth and often causing them to sin.
The Torah sets forth a list of prohibited relations. Such marriages are never valid. A man cannot marry certain close blood relatives, the ex-wives of certain close blood relatives, a woman who has not been validly divorced from her previous husband, the daughter or granddaughter of his ex-wife, or the sister of his ex-wife during the ex-wife's life time. For a complete list, see 613 Mitzvot (Commandments).
The offspring of such marriages are mamzerim (bastards, illegitimate), and subject to a variety of restrictions; however it is important to note that only the offspring of these incestuous or forbidden marriages are mamzerim. Children born out of wedlock are not mamzerim in Jewish law and bear no stigma, unless the marriage would have been prohibited for the reasons above. Children of a married man and a woman who is not his wife are not mamzerim (because the marriage between the parents would not have been prohibited), although children of a married woman and a man who is not her husband are mamzerim (because she could not have married him).
There are other classes of marriages that are not permitted, but that are valid if they occur and that do not make the children mamzerim. The marriage of minors, of a Jew to a non-Jew, and of a kohein to the prohibited classes of women discussed below fall into this category.

Toby Katz said...

First of all, why didn't Rashi himself consider this verse to be talking about a virgin -- and mother of a god to boot? Obviously if you think you understand Rashi -- you don't!

Second of all, I was married for 13 years before I became pregnant. A young woman who is infertile and then gives birth -- that is indeed a wonderful thing, and if predicted by a prophet, it is a sign from G-d.

--Toby Katz

Shir Mevashir Yeshua said...

OK. now I see her comment. Is she saying that the gist of Rashi's words is:

So long as she struggles to conceive (HaAlmah Harah) no matter how long she has been married she is considered in this prophecy to be an Almah? Is there anyone who can confirm such an interpretation?

This would seem more credible to me if Rashi had written: Ayna Ra'uyah levlad ve'az Almah hi = She cannot conceive and therefore remains an Almah.

But he writes the inverse: Almah hi ve'ayna ra'uyah levlad, which to me implies that because of her maidenly status she cannot conceive.

Although it is indeed wonderful for any married woman struggling to become pregnant to conceive a child, in this case her explanation does not seem credible to me, because Rashi seems to be saying that Because she is a maiden she is not able to become pregnant = Ayna ra'uyah levlad.

Nobody would have called Ms. Katz an Almah = Maiden during the 13 years she struggled to become pregnant while married. She would be termed a beulah, ayshet ish, etc. Not an Almah! And even if she could be termed an Almah in a sense, an Almah is not normally considered infertile.

Rashi seems clearly to be saying in the second part of his gloss that the miraculous sign to King Ahaz is in the Almah herself, and the miracle is that she became pregnant when she would not normally be able to.

She was barren simply because she was too young to become pregnant. That seems the most reasonable explanation to me anyway.

Now given this, there are only two possible ways a Jewish maiden could be unable and unexpected to become pregnant:

(1) If she was too young (pre-puberty)

(2) If she was betrothed but not married.

I agree with Ms. Katz that Rashi does NOT want to invoke the Christian explanation of the pregnancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But he also sees something miraculous in this Almah's pregnancy. So he says that she would ordinarily be unable to conceive a child for some unstated reason.

Again I ask, what unstated reason could that be?

If Ms. Katz can forward a recognized rabbinical exegete who might clarify this crucial point, that would be a blessing.

Menachem Mevashir

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

From Toby Katz:
An almah is a young woman, whether married or not. The Hebrew word for a virgin is besulah. Isaiah uses the word almah -- "a young woman will conceive." Rashi says the sign is that a young woman who could not formerly conceive, now will be able to. Isaiah is referring to the king's wife -- the king in his own time -- many centuries before Jesus.

The word for a girl is yaldah. An almah is NOT a girl who is too young to get pregnant. That would be a yaldah.

Please forward to Mr. Korn (mevashir), thank you.

--Toby Katz

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