Saturday, January 28, 2006

Abominable Relations

Abominable Relations

When creating the world, HaShem plainly and simply forbade homosexuality, He twice called it an abomination. In the Levitical sexual prohibitions, the Torah proclaims[1], “And [with] a man, do not lay in [the fashion of] laying with a woman, for it is an abomination (toevah[2]).” Furthermore, it is stated again[3], “And a man who lies with [another] man in [the fashion of] copulating with a woman [i.e. carnally], both have committed an atrocity, they shall surely die, their blood is upon themselves.” The prohibition against Sodomy applies equally to Jews and non-Jews. The source of the Noachide’s prohibition is from the verse describing Adam’s marriage to Eve, which states[4], “…and he shall cling to his wife…” this implies he shall cling to his wife and not to another man[5]. Sodomy is almost unique in that it is a universal and global prohibition, even the Rambam, who says that Canaanite slaves are not bound by the rules against incest, agrees that male Canaanite slaves cannot have same-sex relations. Moreover, committing Sodomy also violates two more precepts: The Biblical injunction against wasting or needlessly destroying[6] and the Biblical injunction against performing any acts that are considered repulsive[7].

The Sefer HaChinuch explicates[8] the nature of the prohibition of gay intercourse by explaining its roots: HaShem created His world for it to be inhabited, so it is logically illegal for people to engage in acts of Sodomy, which needlessly waste human seed. Concerning heterosexual activity, even when there is no potential for pregnancy (e.g., she is already pregnant, she is post-menopause, etc…), it can never be deemed pointless usage of one’s seed for in doing so one is fulfilling the precept of pleasing his wife, onah. This explains why the Talmud[9] equates an adult woman marrying a minor boy and vice versa[10] to prostitution; such relations have little to no possibility of bringing about conception or pregnancy, and thus are considered wasteful. However, once married, the relations are not forbidden. Due to the unnatural nature of homosexuality, it is considered an abomination (“to’eva”), a term exclusively used to describe homosexuality and not any other type of forbidden relation. In addition to the fact that anal relations are “dirty, disgusting, and repulsive in the eyes of all intelligent beings”[11], it is not fitting for a person, who was created to serve his Creator, to disgrace his body with such despicable acts. The Torah commands all Jews to “be holy”[12]. A person’s body is likened to a holy sanctuary[13], and thus desecrating one’s self by committing Sodomy is akin to desecrating the Holy Temple.

Although the reasoning to outlaw homosexuality is purely halachik, there are also social reasons to do so. Children raised on homosexual families are said to be more likely to become homosexual themselves, which eventually will cause world population to fall. The Talmud discusses[14] the effects of homosexual acts on stabilizing family continuity: in an exchanged between Bar Kappara and Rebbi, it is revealed that toevah is a portmanteau of the words to'eh atah Vah, “you err with it". Rashi, Tosafos, and the Ran explain[15] this implies that a man would leave behind his wife and children in order to pursue homosexual liaisons, thus destroying family unity and stability[16].

The term “Sodomy” is a Biblical reference to the town of Sodom (possibly the present-day Bab edh-Dhra). The inhabitants of Sodom were known for their moral degradation as the Torah testifies about them[17], “And the people of Sodom were evil and sinners to G-d, very much so.” Rashi points out[18] that their evilness refers specifically to the evil they committed with their bodies[19]. Before the destruction of Sodom, the citizens of this unholy city requested of Lot to send out his guests (who were actually angels) from Lot’s house so that they may “know them.” “Knowing” in the Biblical sense, is a euphemism for sexually relations (e.g. Genesis 19:5). Rashi[20] and his grandson Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir, 1085-1174), a Tosafist, explain based on the Midrash Aggadah[21] that the residents of Sodom wanted to engage in homosexual relations with Lot’s guests. This type of detestable attitude, explains the Ramban, was the cause of Sodom’s upheaval and uprooting from the world. The Torah warns[22] that anyone who performs these types of abominations shall eventually be disgorged from the Land of Israel, just as its previous inhabitants (i.e. the ancient residents of Sodom and similar peoples) were destroyed. The destruction of Sodom with fire and brimstone (salt and sulfur) was a direct result of their homosexual tendencies, and its destruction and upheaval serves as a reminder to all of society not to perform such contemptible and shameful acts[23].

In a similar vein, when forming the world, HaShem straightforwardly outlawed Bestiality. The Torah says[24], “And to all animals, you [in the male form of the word] shalt not give of your seed to defile her [i.e. the animal]; and a woman shall not stand in front of an animal for mating, [for] it is a perversion.” It is further reiterated[25], “And a man who lies [carnally] with an animal shall surely be put to death, and the animal you shall [also] kill. And a woman who approaches any animal for it to mate with her, you shall kill the woman and the animal, they shall surely die, their blood is upon themselves.” Again, based on Genesis 2:24, the Rambam[26] explains that this law applies even to gentiles[27]: It says about marital relations, “[A]nd they shall become one flesh,” which excludes domesticated animals, wild animals, and birds[28]. In his alternate explanation[29], Rabbi Avrohom ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1093-1167) explains that quote comes to teach that the purpose of relations is for partners to join physically in order to beget other humans. Sexual relations with an animal defeat the entire purpose of sex and thus are not actions condoned by the world’s Creator.

The Sefer Chinuch explains that The Holy One Bless Is He wants all the species of His world to create fruits (i.e. offspring) of their own kind. Because of this will of G-d, the opposite, the creation of unnatural hybrids (whether in plants, people, or animals), is looked down upon because it needlessly mixes various seeds. To mix one genus of plants or animals with another is absolutely forbidden[30] even to a Non-Jew as the verse states[31], "from the birds according to their species." From the fact that Noach was commanded to bring all the animals in pairs, and not to bring one animal of one species along to mate with an animal of another species, shows that there was a prohibition against the practice of mixing the seeds of animals. The Rema mi'Panu (Rabbi Menachem Azaria de Fano, 1548-1620) also includes[32] the prohibition of grafting and cross planting in his list of the thirty Noachide laws. If for lowly creatures such as a plants and animals it is forbidden to create hybrids, then surely for a person, the choicest creation from all, it is unfitting to mix his or her seed with a lowly animal’s impure seed. The most impure man—the prophet of impurity—Balaam son Beor[33] was also known to have had relations with his famous ass[34]. His female donkey asked him[35], “Am I not your jackass on whom you rode…?” On this, the Ba’al Haturim (Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher, 1270-1340), expounded[36] that the numerical value of the Hebrew words for “you rode upon me” is equal to “you mated with me,” thus Balaam had bestial relations with his Equus asinus. The man who attempted to curse the Jewish nation was himself cursed as a special curse was pronounced at Mount Gerizim that is imposed upon one who lies with any animal[37].

Just as concerning bestial relations, an active (male) partner is equivalent to a passive (female) partner[38], concerning homosexual relations, both the Sodomite (the active partner) and the Sodomized (the passive partner) are considered sinners[39]. However if the involvement of the either or both was purely unintentional, accidental (i.e. one partner was sleeping), or forced, in which case s/he or they are mere victims, then s/he or they cannot be held responsible[40]. As the Rambam elaborates, one is liable for the death penalty even for just carrying out the “initial step” of Sodomistic or bestial relations. Whether that term (ha'arah) means the beginning of the penetration (i.e. insertion of the tip) or mere physical contact between the two sexual organs is subject to an Amoraic dispute[41]. Regardless of the age of the men or animals involved in these illicit practices, one has committed a grave transgression. Just as the practical applications of the laws of Homosexual relations and bestial human-animal relations are very much comparable, the moral objections to both are similar. The waste of seed resulting from a man having sex with another man is at least tantamount to the waste of seed when one consorts with an animal, if not worse (for with an animal only one person is wasting his or her seed, while in gay relations, two men are). Similarly, the disgustingness and squalor of one making love with an animal should apply to relations between two men, regardless of whether those involved feel that it is a lovely act and is justified. Furthermore, due to their juxtaposition in the Torah –twice in fact—, one should only greet another man for homosexual relations with the same stance of repulsiveness that he greets close relatives (e.g. mother, daughter, sister, etc…) for incestuous relations.

Certain gay rights activists argue, in defense of homosexuality, that if certain “opponents to gayness” oppose gay marriages, then it is fine for them, but they should not have the right to impose their views upon other people. Furthermore, they contend that if two people “love” each other, then their relationship cannot possibly be wrong. Other so-called experts in morality, such as “Rabbi” Elliot Dorff from the University of Judaism, California (purportedly an atheist) claim that modern-day Talmudic scholars should attempt to reexamine the Torah in order to justify these sinners in their sinning. Many liberals also assert that being gay is not all about anal sex and Sodomy, but it is a lifestyle of its own, even without committing those abhorrent acts (and some gays even agree that they are disgusting and abominable). The comparison between a Kleptomaniac and Homosexual as diseases is not fair, because the former is a disease that has afflicted people throughout history and it something that society deals with, while the latter is a self-imposed sickness in which a man puts himself into a position of carnally (or passionately) desiring other men.

However, those familiar with the Noachide laws would never propose such arguments. The entire world is commanded to establish systems of justice to try to punish those who do not adhere to the standards and rules of a moral society. It indeed is the business of those trying to uphold the moral standing of the world to defend and maintain the ancient Heavenly injunctions against homosexuality. “Love” is not a justification for any type of sin, even if one loves his mother that love does not rationalize him “marrying” her[42]. Merely allowing homosexuals to join in holy matrimony, defeats the entire purpose of the institute of marriage. The raison d’etre of marriage is to produce children and thereby insure the survival of the world for future generations. However, homosexuality encourages “free sex” which does not intend bring about the birth of children, and many of its offspring are illegitimate bastards.

Even those gays who do not engage in Sodomy are still prohibited from marrying each other. This is because, as the Rema mi'Panu records[43], there is even a prohibition for Noachides merely to draw up marriage contracts for homosexuals[44]. Even non-sexual relations (e.g. kissing, hugging, etc…) between forbidden partners are forbidden under the prohibition of ‘ervah[45]. Furthermore, a gay man, who has urges for forbidden homosexual relations that a normal person does not have, to be alone with another man, especially if they are living together, can possibly be prohibited because of “Before the blind do not put a stumbling block”[46]. The Talmud understands[47] this passage to prohibit causing a person to be in a situation in which he is likely to transgress a commandment. In addition, it is clear from Tosafos (throughout the first perek/chapter of Avodah Zarah) that this rule (of not causing others to sin) applies even to a Noachide.

Some liberal Jews wish to reinterpret the Levitical passages prohibiting homosexual relations as referring to anything but actual Sodomy. One such person is Lakme Batya Elior[48] who tried to fallaciously say, loosely based on Rabbi Yehuda of Sanhedrin 71a, that just like the execution of the rebellious son[49] has never actually occurred, so too the prohibition of homosexual relations is never actually applicable. She claims that from the fact that the Torah refers to homosexual relations in terms of its similarity to heterosexual intercourse[50] shows that homosexual relations are only forbidden if the intercourse is vaginal, just as all the other forbidden relations are only vaginal. Since it is physiologically impossible for two men to engage in relations with vaginal penetration, she claims that the prohibition of homosexual relations never applies. However, her logic is flawed because HaShem would not give a specific prohibition for a situation that is inherently impossible because by definition a man does not have the female anatomy of a woman! Furthermore, even if "vaginal penetration" was possible for two men, the act would still be prohibition because Rabbi Eliezer ben Shmuel of Metz (d. 1175), a student of Rabbeinu Tam, points out[51] that the Torah outlaws "the ways which one engages in relations with a woman[52]" which prohibits both ways (if they were even possible). Ms. Elior's comparison between sodomy and the rebellious son is unjustified and has no basis because while every enumeration of the 613 commandments includes the prohibition of homosexual relations, the opposite is true concerning the commandments about the rebellious son. Furthermore, unlike the rebellious son, which has not even occurred throughout the history of the world, homosexuality has existed and there are gays. It is quite clear that the prohibition of homosexuality is meant for practical application, while the laws of the rebellious son are purely theoretical.

Another typical so-called refutation against the biblical injunction against homosexual relations is that the prohibition only applies if done as a ritual. Elior herself points out that the prohibitions described in the book of Leviticus are only forbidden because they were done as pagan rituals by the Canaanites. She writes, “In this context, the law against ‘cohabiting with a male as with a woman’ gets the interpretation that men were standing in for sacred priestesses to have sex with other men - not because those other men were homosexual, but because it was the ritual.” This means that relations with a man are only forbidden if under the guise of a religious observance, but if done freely. However, the Torah does not make mention of such a clause in the prohibition, the verse clearly implies that all such fornications with men are forbidden. The Torah did not draw a distinction between whether the relations were done in the context of a pagan sacrament or were done “for the fun of it.” Even assuming the Canaanites engaged in such relations, as they did in burning their children to the molech, in boiling kids in their mother’s milk, in shaving the corner of their hair, and in other acts outlawed by the Torah, that does not say that the Torah allowed for such actions outside of the context of a pagan rite. It merely shows that HaShem outlawed something that someone else actually did.

“Rabbi” Arthur Ocean Waskow of the Jewish Renewal movement offers a third warped interpretation of the biblical ban against homosexual relations. He says that perhaps homosexual relations are only forbidden when the man “replaces a woman.” However, in a situation where one is consciously and purposely engaging in relations with another, not as a replacement for a woman, but specifically for the man, Waskow says it should be permitted. In essence, Waskow is saying that for homosexuals, homosexual activity should be permitted and for non-homosexuals, it should be forbidden. Again, his logic is flawed because the Torah never makes such a distinction and because again the prohibition would never apply.

Conservative Judaism’s defender of homosexuality, "Rabbi" Bradley S. Artson, maintains[53] that the Torah never outlawed homosexuality in the context of a well-established loving relationship, only in the context of a circumstantial, casual, relation. He understands that all the cases of homosexuality that were protested against by the Rabbis of old were the non-loving kind of sexuality, where people were merely giving into their own temptations and pleasures. However, he says, if two men love each other enough, they should have the right to be able to express that love in terms of physical actions. He writes about the Torah laws, "These passages all speak about homosexual acts outside of the context of homosexual relationship. The nature of the sex is casual, almost circumstantial -- two bachelors who happen to be under the same blanket, a young boy seduced by an older man... Anonymous or coercive homosexual acts (as, for example, the prevalence of such acts in American prisons or on navy ships) are, indeed, abominations. To'evah still applies to sexual relations with minors, bath house sex, rape, sadomasochistic sex." However, Artson's reasoning is flawed because no one before has mentioned such a split between two types of homosexual relations, nowhere is such a split even hinted to in the Torah or other writings. Furthermore, concerning the other forbidden sexual relations, such as incest or zoosexuality, there is no leeway given for one who is in “love" with his mother or horse; all forbidden sexual relations are forbidden[54].

All the above rationale about the waste of seed can explain why male Homosexuals should be condemned; however, female homosexuality, or lesbianism, is somewhat a different issue. There is seemingly no direct prohibition for a woman to waste her seed (she has no sperm or semen to waste), and the Torah never specifically forbade female-female relations. However, they can also be included in the prohibition of male homosexuality because of the repulsiveness in their sexual relations. Concerning the prohibition of a Zonah (lit. prostitute) to a Kohen[55], the Rambam understands that the definition of a zona is any lady who engaged in forbidden sexual conduct. The Talmud says[56] that a woman who engaged in Lesbian relations is forbidden to marry a Kohen; this is because she engaged in forbidden conduct and gains the status of a zona. These types of relations fall under the prohibited category of “Egyptian acts”[57] and according to Maimonides are Biblically forbidden. Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Katz (d. 1614) of Lemburg, argues on the Rambam, and says[58] that while there is no precise Biblical source for forbidding Lesbian relations, it surely is Rabbinically forbidden. Rabbi Yaakov Culi (1685-1732) writes[59] that it is debatable whether women are included in the prohibition of destroying seeds or not. He writes that according to Rabbeinu Tam, since women are not included in the comment of procreation, they are not forbidden to destroy human seeds, while according to Nachmanides, despite the fact that women are not commanded to procreate, they are still proscribed against destroying human seed. Amongst the medieval sages, there are two explanation of what exactly is the proscribed act of lesbianism[60]. According to the Rivan[61], the forbidden act of lesbianism is when a woman emits the seed injected into her by husband in the context of intimate relations with another woman. According to another explanation cited in Tosafos[62], the act of lesbianism mentioned in the Talmud is the act of Tribadism. Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1835-1909) writes[63] that even according to the first opinion, the prohibition of lesbianism is not because of the seed, which is spilled; rather, lesbianism is prohibited because of a separate prohibition banning all acts that are "Egyptian" in nature. The Mabit, Rabbi Moshe ben Yoseph di Trani the Elder (1505-1585), writes[64] that while the prohibition banning "Egyptian acts"[65] is biblical in origin while the prohibition of spilling one's seed is only possibly biblical, but not necessarily.

Even those Lesbians who do not believe in engaging in sexual relations with one another (perhaps because of the aforementioned disgustingness related to it), they should still not be married together. A lesbian lifestyle encourages flamboyance and flashiness, while the Torah tells woman to act with modesty; the lesbian lifestyle is thus contrary to the Torah’s outlook of tznius because it is, by definition, immodest. Therefore, since there seems not to be an actual Biblical injunction against Lesbianism, it is possible that for non-Jews Lesbianism might be a permitted lifestyle, but certainly, it is unbecoming of the holy daughters of Israel and virgins of Zion. In lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple, Malachi mentioned[66] as a cause of its destruction the “toevah” which were done in Israel and Jerusalem. The Talmud[67] understood that the prophet was referring to homosexual relations between men, which were a reason for the destruction of the Holy Temple. Despite present-day justification of promiscuity, may it be the will of HaShem that the Holy Temple should be speedily rebuilt in our days: Amen.

[1] Leviticus 18:22

[2] Some explain the word "taboo" is derived from the Hebrew word To'evah.

[3] Leviticus 20:13

[4] Genesis 2:24

[5] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:5

[6] Deuteronomy 20:19

[7] Leviticus 20:25

[8] §209

[9] Sanhedrin 76b

[10] Yevamos 68b

[11] Direct quote from the Chinuch

[12] Leviticus 19:2

[13] Taanis 11a-b

[14] Nedarim 51a

[15] All ad loc.

[16] “Rabbi” Bradley S. Artson has the impudence to argue on this Gemara and he says that suppressing homosexuality destabilizes and ruins families (Jewish Spectator, Winter 1990, “Gay and Lesbian Jews: An Innovative Jewish Legal Position”). He is clearly in error.

[17] Genesis 13:13

[18] Ibid. and Kiddushin 70a

[19] Contrary to the Ibn Ezra who says that their “evilness” refers to their state of interpersonal interactions with one another

[20] Ibid.

[21] Genesis Rabbah 50:5

[22] Leviticus 18:27-28

[23] See Deuteronomy 29:22

[24] Leviticus 18:23

[25] Leviticus 20:15-16

[26] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:5

[27] Although in such a case the animal is not put to death, Ibid. 9:6

[28] Perhaps also fish based on Bava Kamma 55a. However, Rabbi Yosef Ben Moshe Babad, 1801-1874, argues, see Minchat Chinuch §210:1.

[29] of Genesis 2:24

[30] Leviticus 19:19

[31] Genesis 6:20

[32] Asarah Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Chikur Din 3:21, Amsterdam, Holland, 1649

[33] See Numbers, chapters 22-24

[34] Sanhedrin 105a

[35] Numbers 22:30

[36] Numbers, ad loc. based on Sanhedrin 105a

[37] see Deuteronomy 27:21

[38] As stated explicitly in Leviticus 20:15-16

[39] Sanhedrin 54b

[40] Rabbi David Bleich of Yeshiva University supposedly feels that all contemporary homosexuals fall under the category of accidental ‘ones sinners, because they have uncontrollable urges; however, this minority opinion is not accepted by mainstream Orthodoxy.

[41] See Yevamos 55b

[42] It should be noted that comparing modern day homosexuals to zoophiles does not do the former justice because the latter has become so accepted in today’s morally degenerated society, as is evident from the coverage of the December 2005 marriage of Sharon Tendler to her dolphin Cindy.

[43] 3:21

[44] See Chullin 92a-b

[45] See Chinuch §188, who writes according to the understanding of the Bais Shmuel and the Ramban in the opinion of the Maimonides, it is forbidden to have relations with another man even by way of other limbs (besides those normally used). This is true even if not done in the fashion of lovemaking (however, the Rashbatz argues), see Minchas Chinuch Ibid. at length.

[46] Leviticus 19:14

[47] Bava Metzia 75b

[48] See her essay entitled “The Halachic Process and the Laws on Homosexuality”

[49] As described in Deuteronomy 21:18-21

[50] Meaning both Leviticus 20:13 and Leviticus 18:22 refer to a man who cohabits with another man “like a woman”

[51] Sefer Yereim, laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations, §4

[52] Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 says Mishkevai not Mishkav, this denotes the plural of ways to engage in relations by usage of the plural word for lying instead of the singular.

[53] Jewish Spectator, Winter 1990, “Gay and Lesbian Jews: An Innovative Jewish Legal Position”

[54] To Artson’s credit, he does address those issues in his “halachik responsa” and writes, "Modern psychology and psychiatry affirm that incest and bestiality reflect mental illness that will interfere with all aspects of the individual's life. Their status as mental illness is uncontested.” However, he still uses his elusive “difference” between those two and homosexuality. Such a difference is still unfounded.

[55] Leviticus 21:7

[56] Yevamos 76a, Shabbos 25a

[57] Leviticus 18:3

[58] Perisha

[59] Mishneh L'Melech to Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 21:18

[60] See Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 21:8

[61] Cited in Tosafos to Yevamos 66a

[62] To Yevamos 66a

[63] In his pseudonymous responsa Torah Lishmah §502, under the penname "Ezekiel the Blue"

[64] Kiryas Sefer to Maimonides' Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations, Chapter 21

[65] Leviticus 18:3

[66] Malachi 2:11

[67] Sanhedrin 82a

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Worshipping Idols

The laws by which Noahides are bound are quite distinct in nature from the laws of the Torah, and even when the same law exists in both codes, the applications of the laws are different. These not-so-slight variations are visibly seen in practical situations (especially concerning the forbidden relations and degrees of murder as they relate to a Jew and non-Jew). However, due to the secular nature of contemporary society, many are not aware of (or are aware, yet still deny) the existence of G-d (sometimes out of ignorance or a mere lack of proper education) and the implications that His presence in the world has in respect to the lives of everyone. The most fundamental of the positive Sinaitic commandments is the obligation to belief in the existence of HaShem, as it is written[1], “I am HaShem, your G-d.” The Sefer Minchas Chinuch does not explain the basis of this commandment as he does by all other commandments, because he states[2], “the root of this Mitzvah does not require an elucidation. It is widely known to all [people] that this belief [in G-d] is the foundation for religion and those who do not believe in this are denying the main creed and have no portion or merit in Israel.” The Rambam writes[3] that belief in G-d is such an important article as a foundation in life because all things are dependent on and directly influenced by one’s theistic belief (or lack thereof). The converse is also true; one of the most stringent negative commandments is the warning not to believe in any other gods except for HaShem, because it says unequivocally in the Bible[4], “Thou shalt not have other gods in addition to Me.” The Ramban[5] explains that this divine directive prohibits one from even believing in false gods in his heart without actually committing a physical act of idolatry.

Maimonides explains[6] the historical source for the foundation of idol worship. In the times of Enosh, humankind made a grave mistake in that they decided that they required the use of intermediaries to express they praise and thanks to G-d, and therefore they created physical idols to represent the His honor. However, eventually they began to think of these physical icons as the Creator Himself and forgot about the actual existence of a Higher Authority. Rabbi Elazar Segal-Landau (son of the Noda B’Yehuda (1713-1793), in Yad HaMelech) of Prague writes that this is what is meant when the Holy Scripture writes[7], “Then, calling in the name of HaShem became profane” because his generation profaned the name of HaShem by attaching it to physical statues. The Maharitz Chayos (Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes, 1805-1855), in his glosses to Maimonides’ Yad[8], points out that this is what is meant by the Talmudic hyperbole of “committing idolatry like Enos”[9]. While the Rambam explains the historical background behind the birth of idolatry, he neglects to explain the wickedness and wrongness of its beginnings. The Rogatchover Gaon (Rabbi Yosef Rosen, 1858-1936) explains[10] that since the people in the generation of Enosh showed equal honor to a power in addition to G-d, while in the presence of G-d (for everything is within His realm), they were considered rebelling against the King (of the World) and were thus liable for punishment. The source for this assertion –that showing honor to someone else besides the King while in the King’s presence is considered revolting against the kingdom –is a passage in the Talmud[11]; however, there are those who argue with this assertion[12].

An alternate explanation as to why idolatry, since its very inception, has always been considered evil is because committing idolatry denies the Creator and His power. The instigators in the days of Enosh felt that G-d was too high, too distant, and too great for them to relate to, so they needed a liaison. Eventually, this situation begat false prophets, who professed to relate the will of G-d by establishing new forms of worship and various sanctuaries and temples. In declaring G-d as too inaccessible to them, the troublemakers “set limits” on G-d’s abilities, thereby denying His eternal infiniteness. Rabbi Yaakov Loeberbaum of Lisa (d. 1832), the author of Nesivos Hamishpat, says even without bowing down to idols or offering to them sacrifices, merely declaring certain things to be as a result of one’s own work or power is considered heretical idolatry. He explains that this is the understanding of the exegesis in the Talmud[13] which states that King David desired to commit idolatry until Chushai stopped him; in reality, David merely wanted to attribute his military victories to his own strength and not G-d’s help. This is the meaning behind the juxtaposition of Deuteronomy 8:17, “And you shall say in your heart, ‘my might and the strength of my hand, made me all this fortune’”, to the warning against committing idolatry and straying after false lords. Assuming that one’s success is a result of his or her own toil and perseverance is denying the power of G-d and (heaven forbid) declaring Him secondary in the natural flow of the world. Therefore, attempting to achieve as much wealth, honor, or pleasure as possible can also be classified as a type of idolatry for it implies that it is within an individual’s ability to accomplish such a task unaided by divine intervention.

To both Jews and non-Jews alike, committing idolatry is forbidden. Since Maimonistic Halakha axiomatically maintains[14] that G-d is one and only one, He, therefore, cannot be considered a unification of various forces and/or personalities, as that constitutes idolatry. A Jew’s prohibition of idolatry applies to an even greater degree than a non-Jew’s, because a Jew is even forbidden to believe in shutfus, “partnerships” between the Supreme G-d and other entities, while for a non-Jew, such a belief does not constitute idol worship. This can explain why the Tritheistic Catholicism and other such branches of Christianity (or perhaps even the rest of Christianity who do not believe that the “Holy Spirit” joined the pantheon of the “Father” and the “Son”) are not necessarily considered idolatry for a gentile, while for a Jew, according to Maimonides, it is. The ruling that gentiles are permitted to believe in “partners in creation” only reflects the simple understanding of Tosafos[15] and the Rema[16]. However, the responsa Me’il Tzedakah[17] and Pri Megadim[18] write that even according to Tosfos such a belief is forbidden to any person.

The Rema mi'Panu (Rabbi Menachem Azaria de Fano, 1548-1620) enumerates[19], based on the opinion of Ulla[20], the thirty laws which a Noachide must uphold each of which is included in one of seven main categories. Because of this, the title “Ben Noach”[21] can only be conferred upon a person who upholds all seven categories of Noahide Laws. A small group of people practices what is called “Judeo-Paganism”, which is a mixture of Jewish and polytheistic/pagan practices and theology. Some of those practices involve honoring (or remembering) divinities that were among those previously rejected by the prophets of the Tanach (e.g., Molech, Ba'al, Asherah, Ra’, Daggah, Tammuz, etc…). Such superstitious adherences and rituals are quite contrary to the Torah and Noachide laws. In fact, avodat elilim (vain worship) encompasses more than one prohibition in both the Torah and Noahide laws. Those prohibitions[22] are passing a child through a fire to worship Molech, stick divination, divining of auspicious times, interpreting of omens superstitiously, witchcraft and sorcery, charming with incantations (unless it is included in the mesorah/Oral tradition), consulting with mediums and oracles, and necromancy. (Even the 30 laws as enumerated by Rabbi Shmuel ben Chofni, Gaon of Sura/Baghdad, as discovered in the Cairo Genizah, include most of those pagan prohibitions.)

Furthermore, the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ibn Maimon, 1135-1204) says[23] that one who conducts himself according to these Noahide principles merely because they appeal to his intellect, justice, or logic, is not fulfilling them properly and is thus not considered a kosher “ben Noach.” Rather, feels the Rambam, a non-Jew must believe that he is following the Noahide laws because G-d has commanded him to do so, just as G-d commanded the Jews to follow their own code of laws at the Sinaitic Revelation (and a Jew must have proper intentions, too). The Ohr Somayach (Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk, 1843-1926) explains[24] that the Rambam maintains the opinion that all commandments are followed because of their origin at Mount Sinai, and not because of any pre-Sinaitic prophecies, institutions, or practices. Indeed, this is what the Rambam wrote in his Pirush HaMishnayos (“Explanation of the Mishnah”)[25] concerning the prohibition for a Jew to consume to sciatic nerve (gid hanasheh): Although the prohibition dates back to the days of the forefather Jacob, it is presently extant only because it was repeated at Sinai.

However, the above opinion of the Rambam is not entirely accepted, for it can be implied from the Ritva (Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Alshevili, circa. 1300) that any gentile who merely fulfills his or her obligation as a moral monotheist can be called a son of Noach[26] despite whatever intentions the gentile has. This implies that one only needs to submit to his or her natural moral inclination, without believing in the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, in order to be called a righteous gentile. Furthermore, the Rambam himself seemingly contradicts his own ruling because he stated elsewhere[27] that the Jews kept every mitzvah as it was given in its own historical context (i.e. circumcision from Abraham’s time, tithing from Issac, the sciatica from Jacob, etc...) and the rest are kept because of the revelation at Horeb. This implies that a gentile should keep his laws because of it’s acceptance into moral society eons ago in history, not because of the Sinaic Revelation.

Rabbi Jacob Aaron Ettlinger of Germany (1798-1871) understood[28] that the Noachides of present days are exempt from observing the Seven Noahite Laws. He understands this based on Rav Yosef[29] who expounds, based on Habakkuk 3:6, that because the gentiles did not conform to the rules that HaShem imposed upon them, He exempted them from keeping those laws. However, this understanding of the passage in the Talmud is not quite justified, because the Talmud goes on to explain that He only made it so that they receive reward for fulfilling the commandments as if they were not commanded to do so, but they were still commanded to follow the laws. This is considered a punishment because the reward one receives for carrying out a good act that he was commanded to do is far greater than the reward for a good act that one was not commanded to do.

In any case, the moral repercussions of a society that flatly disallows for belief in G-d are serious. In addition to implicating such a society for eventual punishments from G-d Himself, such a society will degrade into a unilaterally immoral state. In rejecting G-d and His Torah, one thereby removes the cause of morality from the world and thus people would be free to do as they please (and do what pleases them). This will eventually bring further punishment as such a society will adopt prohibited practices as the norm –or at least as tolerable. The lack of such a fundamental belief in a society will produce harmful results to its constituents, which will further criminalize them for not following the innate human tendency for morality (i.e. the Seven Noahite Laws) and will cause more evil sin to run amuck in the world. The Noahide Laws offer a solution: Everyone is required to contribute to the establishment of morally upstanding courts, which properly monitor and care for the moral standing of the local populace.

[1] Exodus 20:2
[2] §25
[3] Maimonides, Laws of Foundations of the Torah 1:6
[4] Exodus 20:3
[5] Ad loc.
[6] Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry 1:1
[7] Genesis 4:26
[8] Ad loc.
[9] See Shabbos 118b
[10] Tzafnas Paneach to Maimonides ad loc.
[11] Kiddushin 43a
[12] I.e. Tosafos in Yoma 66b
[13] Sanhedrin 107a
[14] Maimonides, Laws of Foundations of Torah, Chapter 1
[15] Bechoros 2b
[16] Orach Chaim §156:1
[17] §22
[18] Orach Chaim Ibid. Eshel Avraham §2 and Yoreh De’iah §65, Sifsei Da’as §11
[19] Asarah Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Chikur Din 3:21
[20] Chullin 92a
[21] “Son of Noah”, who was deemed righteous by G-d, See Genesis 6:9
[22] Many of which can be found in Leviticus 19 and 20 and are repeated numerous times through the Torah
[23] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 8:14
[24] Maimonides, Laws of Sexual Prohibitions 14:7
[25] In the end of the seventh chapter of Chullin
[26] See Chiddushei HaRitva to Makkos 9a
[27] Maimonides, Laws of Kings, 9:1
[28] Aruch L’ner to Makkos 9a
[29] Bava Kama 38, Avodah Zarah 2b

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Relations of Humankind

Relations of Humankind

Until the initial experience of the Jewish nation at the revelation at Mount Sinai (in the year 1312), the sons of Israel—and certainly the generations preceding them—were merely Hebrews[1] not yet G-d’s chosen people. At Har Sinai, not only was there an acceptance of the Torah, but there was also a mass conversion of over sixty myriads of Jacob’s descendants (as well as others; but all proper Jews have the same status anyways, whether they converted or were born into Judaism, because, in essence, every Jew is a descendant of proselytes). Before this mass conversion, there had been no such concept as any person being legally bound by the Torah’s laws, afterwards, there was. While the Jews have their own 613 commandments which G-d gave them in the Torah[2], G-d only commanded the rest of Humankind to follow the seven (categories of) Noahide laws[3]. Even though there are over twenty forbidden relationships applicable to a Jew[4], the Rambam only lists[5] six for a gentile man[6]: his mother, his father’s wife, another man’s wife, his maternal sister, another man, and an animal[7]. Each of these sexual prohibitions is learned exegetically from one passage in Bereishis[8], save for the case of maternal sister, which is learned from Abraham’s encounter with Abimelech[9].

The holy forefathers and patriarchs of the Jewish Nation, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, were in essence mere gentiles, and as thus, they were not bound by the Torah, only, the Noahide Laws. Nonetheless, the Talmud[10] implies that the forefathers kept the entire Torah—as any Jew would be required to—from the verse, which states, “Because Abraham listened to my voice, and guarded my safeguards, my commandments, my statutes, and my Torahs”[11]. However, it would seem that many Pre-Sinaitic Hebrews transgressed certain laws as recorded in Scripture, especially laws concerning the forbidden sexual relations. Assuming that the Three Patriarchs accepted upon themselves to keep the Torah, then how could Yaakov have married the two sisters, Rachel and Leah, if marrying two sisters at the same time is regarded as one of the illicit relations as numerated in the Torah[12]? Additionally, according to Rabbi Yehuda[13], the sons of Jacob were each born with twin sisters, whom they presumably married; such an action surely violates the incest laws. Perhaps to this, one can say that even though one’s maternal sister is forbidden for relations, the sons of Jacob were able to marry their sisters because the twins born with each brother married brothers from a different mother that is permitted. However, this does not answer the question of how Shimon was able to marry his full sister, Dinah[14], if Simon and Dina were obviously maternal siblings[15]. Furthermore, how can Judah’s marriage to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, be considered a praiseworthy fulfillment of the positive commandment of the Levirate Marriage[16], if marrying one’s daughter-in-law is clearly forbidden by the Torah[17]? Finally, how was `Amram, the father of Moses and Godol HaDor (“Great man of the generation”)[18], able to marry his aunt[19] if that too is explicitly outlawed in the Torah[20]?

Despite the simple meaning of the verse[21], Abraham by any means, did not, marry his sister. Sarah, was the daughter of Haran[22], and her name was given earlier as Yiscah, because she saw (sachsa) the Holy Spirit with Divine Inspiration, and all would gaze (sochin) at her beauty[23]. Abraham called her his sister to both the Pharaoh (of Egypt) and Abimelech (of Philistine) because she was the daughter of his brother, and just like grandsons are considered like sons, so too granddaughters are considered like daughters and she can be called a daughter of Terach, and thus the sister of Abraham.

In defense of Jacob’s marriage to two sisters, the Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194-1270) explains[24] that Yaakov only married them outside of the land of Canaan, but when he arrived to the eventual Holy Land, his favorite wife, Rachel, passed away. This answer reflects the minority opinions of the Ramban elsewhere[25] and (perhaps) Rashi[26], who believe that Mitzvos are only performed in chutz la’aretz (“out of the land,” i.e. the Diaspora) as practice for the performance of Mitzvahs in Eretz Yisroel. However, according to the majority of halachik deciders (poskim), the obligation to carry out Mitzvas actively applies outside of the Land of Israel just as it applies within. Therefore, one is forced to answer like Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1530–1572) who feels[27] that the verse expounded in the Talmud[28] to prove that Abraham followed the entire Torah applied exclusively to Abraham, and not necessarily to his descendants, so Jacob did not keep the entire Torah. However, this answer is also problematic, for the Midrashei Aggadah say that when Jacob said, “I lived with Lavan”[29], he meant that he lived a Torah-True lifestyle in the house of Laban, his father-in-law, and kept all 613 commandments[30]. Rabbi Dovid Ben Shmuel Segal (1586-1667) says[31] that Jacob even fulfilled the sacrificial and communal commandments (by learning about them as learning is tantamount to doing). One sees from here that Jacob actually did fulfill all 613 commandments, just as his grandfather did.

Rather, one must answer like Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) who wrote[32] that the forbidden incestuous relationships are only forbidden by way of Kiddushin, which is a legal act of acquisition in which a Jewish man acquires for himself a wife, similar to a betrothal. Since, by definition, a Kiddushin transaction can only take effect if done by a Jew, the Avos (Patriarchs), who had the status of Noahides, were not able to marry with Kiddushin and thus were not bound by the Torah’s rules of illegal marriages in that regard. In a similar vein, the Brisker Rav answers[33] based on the words of Nachmanides[34] that all the forbidden sexual relations in the Torah are only forbidden if done in the fashion of a "Jewish marriage" which only a Jew could perform. Therefore, Jacob, a Jew with the halachik status of a Noahide, was able to follow the entire Torah without being obligated to marry only one daughter of Laban.

Rabbi Chaim Volzhiner (1749-1821) answers[35] that Jacob was able to marry two sisters, and 'Amram, his aunt Jochebed, because they prophetically knew that the world Kabbalistically needed those marriages to exist, and had they not taken place, the Torah would never have been given, and the sole purpose of the world would not have existed. He says that they relied on the fact that the Holy Torah was not yet given in their times and that a Noahide is technically and practically allowed to perform certain marriages which are otherwise forbidden to a Jew. The performance of the Torah's commandments differed before the acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai[36]. Rabbi Usher Zelig Weiss writes[37] that Jacob was a prophet[38] and a prophet is allowed to suspend a law of the Torah temporarily[39]. The Talmud relates[40] that on the day of the Future Redemption, HaShem will make a meal for all the Tzaddikim (righteous men) and after the meal, He will ask each of the Avos to lead the grace services, and each will refuse. Jacob's reason for refusal will be that he is not worthy because he married two sisters. This implies that no matter how one can justify Yaakov’s marriage to two sisters, even Jacob himself knew that there is some sort of prohibition involved in his marriage. The reason for this is that even though the ban on marrying two sisters did not apply to Jacob— because he lived before the accepting of the Holy Torah –after the giving of the Torah his actions became retroactively wrong. While when he married them, he was correct in doing so, since the Torah later outlawed his actions, he is not totally exonerated from sin or, perhaps, he is and was just being extra meticulous on himself and deemed himself unworthy, while in fact he really was. Another answering can be offered based on an idea proposed by Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz (1902–1979)[41]: He writes that before the Siniaitic Revelation, the Noahidic obligation of adhering to one’s words was stronger than any of the Torah’s prohibitions. Accordingly, one can answer that when Jacob told Lavan that he was going to marry Rachel, he was obligated to marry her even after he married Leah, for the responsibility to keep ones word overrides the Torah’s prohibition of marrying two sisters. Rabbi Shmuelevitz continues to explain that this idea was only true before the Siniaitic Revelation, but afterwards, the Torah’s obligations trumps all others.

The Torah says that if a man has relations with his sister, it is a chesed, and he shall be cut off [i.e. executed] in front of the nation[42]. The word chesed typically means "kindness"; however, in this instance, Rashi explains that the word is related to chaisuda, which means "disgrace" in Aramaic[43]. Nachmanides finds[44] difficulty in assuming that the word chesed in this context means something very different from the usage of the word throughout the rest of the Torah. Therefore, Nachmanides explains that even in this situation, the word chesed means "kindness." He explains that the Torah was saying that when a man marries his sister, he is liable for punishment because he should have acted kindly with her by not marrying her because inter-sibling marriages are always destined to fail, and the man was obviously acting of purely selfishness, which is the antithesis to kindness. The Talmud asks[45] why Eve did not die immediately after she ate from the Forbidden Fruit, as punishment for her horrible sin. In asking this question, the Talmud says that Eve's role of companion to her husband Adam could easily have been taken over by Adam and Eve's daughter, whom Adam could have married if Eve died. The Talmud answers that had Adam married his own daughter, Cain would not have been able to marry her[46], and so the world's population would never have continued. Since Eve was not killed for her sin with the Forbidden Fruit, Cain was therefore able to marry his sister[47] and continue the progeny of the world. The Talmud proves this idea by quoting the verse which states, "I said, 'the world was created through kindness'.[48]" The kindness that created the world was the kindness of HaShem by not punishing immediately Eve with death for eating from the Forbidden Fruit. Part of this kindness was allowing Cain to marry his sister and continue the population of the world. From here, Nachmanides understands how marrying one's sister can be called a kindness.

According to Nachmanides, it is only forbidden for a man to marry his sister if it is otherwise possible for the man to do a kindness to her by finding her a suitable match. However, in the case of Cain and his sister, no suitable match existed, as they were the only people in the world, so Cain was legally able to marry his own sister. Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld says[49] that perhaps this explains how the sons of Jacob were able to marry their own twin sisters. In theory, Jacob would have allowed his daughters to marry foreign men, as long as they converted to the Hebrew religion and accepted certain tenants of belief. However, he saw that all the gentiles wished to remain idol worshippers, and did not want to accept upon themselves the yoke of heaven[50]. Since there were no suitable matches for Jacob's daughters because everyone, save from the Abrahamic family, was idolaters, the sons of Jacob performed a kindness to their sisters by marrying them.

The Maharal (Rabbi Yehuda Loew of Prague, 1525-1609) offers two explanations[51] as to the state of marriage prohibitions before the revelation at Mount Sinai. He explains that because the Avos and their families accepted upon themselves the Torah, even thought they were not required to do so, each person in that family is to be regarded  a convert on his/her own right. As such, every convert is like a baby who was re-born and is not related to his previous relatives[52]. Therefore, Rachel and Leah were not considered sisters, so Jacob was permitted to marry both; no children of Jacob were considered siblings, and thus the boys were able to marry the girls. Judah was not regarded as the father of Er and Onan, so Tamar, their wife, was not his daughter-in-law. Amram and his aunt, Jochebed, were not really related either, so their marriage was perfectly legal. However, the Maharal points out that the generation of the exodus from Egypt was considered “forced converts” because HaShem raised Mount Sinai upon them and forced them to accept the Torah, and thus they retained their former relatives[53]. Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (1906-1980), the Warsaw Illui (prodigy) and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, explained that when one is forced to convert, he does not experience a change in mental attitude, so he is actually the same person as before, whereas a willing convert becomes a new person[54]. However, this is usually not applicable in practice because Judaism –unlike other religions—does not carry out forced conversion.[55]

The Maharal offers an additional understanding. Since the Torah was not yet given to Jacob, Jacob only had his prohibitions through the mouth of G-d, and if G-d told him through Ruach HaKodesh (a form of prophecy) that he was supposed to marry two sisters, then the only factor stopping him was another directly commandment from G-d’s mouth and the latter can supersede the former[56]. There is a dictum in the Talmud, which states, “the mouth that prohibits is the mouth that permits.” He also concludes that the ancestors of the Jewish Nation then did not keep any negative commandments when it interfered with a positive commandment, and they exclusively performed the positive commandments as instructed to by the Torah. The Maharal of Prague also cites numerous examples through rabbinic literature in which the predecessors of the Jewish nation specifically carried out positive commandments (such as Shabbos/Sabbaths, Shechita/ritual slaughters, Terumah/tithes, and Yibbum/levirate marriages), but not negative ones. However, this explanation of the Maharal is difficult to digest in light of the words of his cousin, the Maharsha: the Mishnah says[57] that Abraham carried out the entire Torah, and Rav said[58] that Abraham fulfilled the entire Torah and. On this, Rabbi Akiva Eiger asked[59] why Rav echoed the words of a Mishnah, which predated him. Rabbi Shmuel Edels (1555–1631), the Maharsha[60], answered that the Mishnah refers specifically to the positive commandments, which Abraham carried out, but Rav was referring to the fact that he even fulfilled the negative commandments.

The Ramban[61] discusses how Judah, the son of Jacob was able to marry his daughter-in-law and have such a marriage be called an ideal fulfillment of the Levirate Marriage. He explains that the nature of the Levirate marriage is rooted in a deep mystical secret. As explained elsewhere in the Ramban[62], the soul of the deceased is reincarnated into the soul of his widow’s new child fathered by his relative. This practice, says the Ramban, is an ancient tradition that actually pre-dated the giving of the Torah, and it is an innate practice of human natural decency; in fact, he says, it is called cruel for a man to refuse the hand of his brother’s widow in marriage. Actually, in addition to the Israelites who carried out this ritual, (the Samaritans, the Karaites,) the Xiongnu, the Mongols, the Hindus, and the Tibetans also practiced the Levirate marriage in a similar way to how the Torah prescribed it. The right to perform the Levirate marriage does not exclusively belong to the deceased’s brother, but rather it is a sort of inheritory right. In a situation where the brother refuses to do the marriage –or in the case of Shelah, son of Judah, where the levir is too young to perform the required act of intercourse –the right would be inherited by the next closest relative, and in the case of Tamar, that next relative was the father of the deceased, Judah.

Under normal circumstances, no close relative of the deceased can really marry the widow because she is considered an ervah (“[forbidden] nakedness”) to them, however in the case of the brother of the deceased; the Torah gives special permission for the performance of Yibbum. This is because HaShem specifically wanted the brother to perform Yibbum and not any other relative because the Cabbalistic outcome is greater, and simply because it was more common for a brother-in-law to perform the marriage (as Onan did) than for a father-in-law (like Judah) to do so. This also explains why the actions of Boaz in his marriage to Ruth[63] can be called Yibbum; he was the closest living relative willing to marry her[64]. The simple explanation of Judah’s marriage should be that he acquired his daughter-in-law as a wife through a legal means with his initial intercourse with her even though it was unintentional. This is because a Yibbum can effectively create a marriage even if the marital relations done were by mistake as explained in the Mishna[65]. Obviously, Judah had no idea that he was cohabitating with his daughter-in-law when he met a harlot on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep (as a form on consolation on his recent loss of his wife Shua). Rashi explains[66] that since Tamar covered her face modestly while she was in Judah’s house as his son’s wife, he did not recognize her when she dressed as a prostitute at the crossroads. This shows that he surely had no clue as to her identity when he was performing the sexual relations with her. In the end, however, when he realized that she had been the one whom he was with and that is how she became pregnant, he ceased living with her. The Ramban explains[67] that he did so despite the fact that they were totally considered married. He seemingly did so as a sort of self-piety because he believed to be sinning when in fact, he was marrying his Intended anyways. However, the Midrash[68] says that Judah was the man who instituted the idea of a Levirate marriage, so he seemingly was not just performing an age-old ceremony.

Rashi has an intricate method of explaining how Judah was able to perform the levirate marriage upon Tamar if the latter was prohibited to him because she was his daughter-in-law. A marriage of a minor girl is not effective biblically unless her father married her off. In order to avoid having a problem of indecency with unmarried minor orphans, the Rabbis decreed a rabbinical marriage for such girls. However, because the effectiveness of the marriage is only Rabbinical not Biblical, before the girl becomes a legal adult, she has the option to do miyun (refusal) to her husband and thereby retroactively annul her marriage. Rashi[69] proves that Tamar was an orphaned minor (assuming that her father was not Shem son of Noach) and that she performed miyun. Therefore, it became that she retroactively never married Judah’s two sons Er and Onan, and therefore she never had the prohibition of daughter-in-law to Judah[70].

When HaShem commanded the Jews to be careful in extra relations, besides those normally forbidden to any human, they began to cry (this is the explanation of the crying in Numbers 11:10)[71]. Rav Chisda said[72] that before Israel sinned with the forbidden relations, the Holy Presence (Shechinah) rested with each Jew as it says in the verse, “For HaShem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camps”[73]. However, after they began to sin with the forbidden relationships, the Shekhina of HaShem removed itself from them as it says, “[S]o that He shall not see a shameful [naked] thing among you, and turn away from behind you”[74]. With the will of G-d, the Holy Presence should return to His Holy Nation and to the Holy Temple, may please it be built speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] The Anglicized version of the word, Ivrim, meaning “Crossers” because they crossed the Euphrates River
[2] Makkos 23b
[3] Avodah Zarah 64a
[4] see Leviticus 18:6-20, 18:22-23, and 20:10-21
[5] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:5
[6] Although the prohibitions are given in the form of whom a man is forbidden to cohabit with, the converses are always true, so the female has a prohibition whenever the man has one.
[7] The Maimonides’ enumeration, by all means, is not accepted by everyone. The Kesef Mishna (Maran Rav Yosef Ben Efraim Karo, 1488-1575) points out (ad loc.) that the Maimonides decided the Halacha according to Rabbi Akiva (of Sanhedrin 58b), but according to Rabbi Eliezer (Ibid.) one’s father’s sister and mother’s sister should also be prohibited. Indeed the Sefer HaMizrachi (written by Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, 1455-1526) says (Genesis 46:10) that we follow the law of Rabbi Eliezer in the case of a father’s maternal sister. Additionally, to the list of Maimonides, the Lechem Mishneh adds one’s own daughter (Sanhedrin 58b, second version of Rav Huna’s statement). The Ritva (Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avrohom Alshevili, circa. 1300) seemingly argues (Yevamos 98b) on Maimonides' view and permits a non-Jew to marry his father’s wife. However, such an opinion contradicts the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) which proved otherwise from the fact that had Adam lain carnally with his daughter, she would have been prohibited to Cain under the prohibition of “father’s wife”, and thus the world’s population would never have successfully propagated. Cain himself has a special exemption on the rule against marrying one’s sister due to the verse (written prophetically by Abraham under the pen name “Ethan the Ezrahite,” Bava Basra 14b) which says, “For I said, ‘Forever will kindness be built’” (Psalms 89:2). Adam’s abstinence from relations with his daughter was deemed a gracious act, and upon that act of kindness, the world founded.
[8] Genesis 2:24
[9] See Genesis 20:12, where Abraham implies that had Sarah been his maternal sister, he would have been prohibited to her.
[10] Yoma 28b
[11] Genesis 26:5
[12] See Leviticus 18:18
[13] Midrash Rabba, Genesis Rabbah, 84:19
[14] See Rashi to Genesis 46:10
[15] See Genesis 29:33 where Leah begets Simeon and Genesis 30:21 where she births Dinah
[16] Deuteronomy 25:5-10, whereby the widow of a childless man marries her husband’s brother; levir means brother-in-law in Greek
[17] Leviticus 18:15
[18] see Sotah 12a
[19] Exodus 6:20
[20] Leviticus 18:12 outlaws marrying one’s father’s sister
[21] Genesis 20:12
[22] Genesis 11:29
[23] Megillah 14a
[24] Commentary to Leviticus 18:25
[25] Deuteronomy 11:18
[26] Ibid.
[27] Responsa ReMa, §10
[28] Yoma 2b
[29] Genesis 32:5
[30] The basis for this is because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for “I lived”, garti, equals 613, which is an allusion to the 613 Commandments stated in the Torah.
[31] Divrei Dovid, ad loc.
[32]See responsa Iggress Moshe, Even HaEzer §4:9
[33] Chiddushei HaGriz al HaTorah
[34] Chiddushei HaRamban to Yevamos 91a
[35] Nefesh HaChaim 1:21
[36] See Responsa Rashba Volume 1 §92, Responsa Radbaz §696
[37] Minchas Usher Genesis §42:5
[38] See Ohr HaChaim to Genesis 49:3
[39] See Maimonides' introduction to Commentary on the Mishnah
[40] Pesachim 119b
[41] Sichos Mussar, Shaarei Chaim, Ma’amar 30 based on the Aurch L’Ner to Sukkah 53a
[42] Leviticus 20:17
[43] See Targum Onkelos ibid. and to Genesis 34:4
[44] Ramban to Leviticus 20:17
[45] Sanhedrin 58b
[46] Because she would have been his father's wife
[47] Her name is given in various sources as Kalmana (see Seder HaDoros, and Abrabanel to Genesis 4:1), Lebuda, and Awan (in the Christian New Testament Book of Jubilees)
[48] Psalms 89:3
[49] Kedoshim, 5757
[50] Ra'avad to Avodah Zarah 36b
[51] Gur Aryeh, Bereishit 46:10
[52] See Yevamos 22a
[53] This is contrary to the belief of the Ohr Somayach, (Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk, 1843-1926), who wrote in Meshech Chochmah, Deuteronomy, 5:27 that the marriage of Amram and Jocheved is a proof that the generation of the exodus has the status of converts.
[54] See also the introduction to Shuv Shmaytsa, letter Ches, by Rabbi Aryeh Leib HaKohen Shain Heller (1745—1813), who also authored the Ketzos HaChoshen, and Avnei Milluim.
[55] According to the Ritva (Kiddushin 22a) in the case of an aishes yifas to`ar (“woman of beautiful form” who was taken captive in a war, as described in Deuteronomy 21:10-14) the woman (and her child from the Jewish soldier) are forced to convert even if they choose not to. However, Tosafos (Yevamos 48a) disagree and rule that such a woman cannot be forced to convert. One instance of this situation was the wife of Dovid HaMelech (King David), the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur, Achinoam, and originally begat Tamar (who was later raped by her half-brother Amnon) from their first intercourse (while Achinoam was still a gentile), and later had Absalom (after she converted).
[56] Just like a positive commandment can displace a negative commandment in the Torah in certain instances, see Yevamos 4a-7b
[57] Kiddushin 82a
[58] Yoma 28b
[59] Gilyon HaShas to Kiddushin 82a
[60] Chiddushei Maharsha to Yoma 28b
[61] To Genesis 38:8
[62] Job, Chapter 30
[63] She was the widow of his first cousin, who was the son of Elimelech, brother of Boaz’s father, Salmon.. Elimelech and Salmon were sons of Nahshon son of Amminadab who is famed for having been the first to jump into the Red Sea, and was the brother of the wife of Aaron, Elisheva, who was also the daughter of Aminadav.
[64] See Book of Ruth
[65] Yevamos 6:1
[66] Genesis 38:15
[67] Genesis 38:26
[68] Genesis Rabah 85:5
[69] Sotah 11a
[70] See Ya’avetz ad loc. who elaborates on the understanding of Rashi in light of the Biblical laws of Yibbum as described in Yevamos.
[71] Yoma 75a
[72] Sotah 3b
[73] Numbers 23:15
[74] Ibid.

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