Avodah Mailing List

Volume 01 : Number 021

Sunday, August 16 1998

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 21:39:03 -0400
From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel)
A Suggested Approach to Gematria in Midrash

The immediate purpose of this posting is to state FULLY the true derivation
of ToTaFoTH--that I gave in only 2 lines a few postings ago. However
I also give a complete elaboration of our attitude towards GEMATRIAH in
Midrash as inferred from teachings of the Rav (Soloveitchick). I start
with a famous explanation of the Rav(My apologies for those who've seen this)

THE VERSE:      I have >>inned<<(Garti) with Laban (Gn 32:4)

THE MIDRASH:  I observed the TARYAG mitzvoth (Taryag=Garti in GEMATRIA)

THE RAVS COMMENTS: >>Vhat is this? Is Rashi becoming a Chasideshe Rebbe<<
>>For any other rishon I would not defend. But Rashi does not use Gematriah<<

-------------------- If Yaakov used GARTI=INNED in a situation where he
lived for 20 years had married two women and had 20 children then he must
have felt uncomfortable. Presumably because he was Shomer Mitzvoth while
Lavan was not.

SUMMARY:(Taken from my Article, Peshat & Derash: Tradition Win 80)
-------- The REASON for the derash is the CONTRAST between YASHAV & GAR.
A MNEMONIC/CUTE way of remembering the DERASH is the GEMATRIA. HOwever
the GEMATRIA is not the CAUSE of the DERASH.

        * The Rav thought it >appropriate< to make fun/ridicule the
        idea that Rashi derived the Derash from a Gematria.

        * The Rav insists that this DERASH is LOGICALLY derived. It
        is the FORM of the DERASH that is a GEMATRIA

        * It seems at least an admissable approach to try and generalize
        and regard ALL derash as logical and all GEMATRIAs as but FORMS
        of midrashic expression.  This is not just a belief...it requires
        our finding LOGICAL reasons for Midrash with GEMATRIA FORM.

        Someone in BaisTefila a while back mentioned the 32 methods of
        derivation from Biblical texts (We recite the 13 of Rabbi Ishmael
        every day...other authorities gave different lists...and at least
        one of these lists gives GEMATRIA as a derivation)

        But certainly you cannot DERIVE LAWS from equating WORDS with
        the same numerical value. I would therefore suggest that when
        it says that >>GEMATRIA IS A MEANS OF DARSHANING<< that what
        is intended is that >>GEMATRIA IS A MEANS OF MEMORIZING DERASHS
        Rabbi Ishmael only gives methods of derivation but other
        authorities give methods of Teaching as well as derivation)

>>PrinciPAL is the person who is your PAL (vs principle which is an idea)

Note how the suggested reason--the last 3 letters of >PRINCIPAL< is
only a MNEMONIC for remembering the rule. The REAL REASON for the
rule is usage (or its etymology). Also note that it would be permissable
to REDICULE the idea that the meaning of PRINCIPAL is derived from its
last 3 letters (E.g. obviouSLY has nothing to do with SLYness)

THE REAL REASON: Many radicals with TF refer to "smallest amount"
TF=Child= a droplet of a person; NTF=droplet=droplet of perfume;
NTF=Pearls=droplet of ornament; TFCh=INCH = droplet of measurment.

Thus TTF would be a droplet of ornament and would denote a small ornament.
This is in fact consistent with the Biblical reference in KI TISAH
that the Jews removed their ORNAMENTS (EDYAM) which most commentators
think are their tefillin. The plural of TTF = TTFoTH would denote
a >multi (plural) ornament< (Since tefilin have many chambers)

THE FORM OF THE DERASH: This uses the fact that TT and PT in foreign
-----------------------languages mean 2 and 2. So that TToPhoT = the
4 chambered tefillin.

The approach advocated here is that
        * all midrash has a logical derivation (e.g. Gar=inn; TTF=Drop)
        * Midrash are often expressed in GEMATRIA form
        * It is >>absurd<< to think that anyone really believed that this
        gematria was the true reason for the midrash
        * It is ones obligation to >>Seek<< the true logical reason
        * One has the right to call the true reason the TRUE REASON even
        if it is not explicitly mentioned.
        * Such an approach adds lustre and dignity (not contempt) to
        Midrash and adds appreciation of Chazal and methods.

I hope the above clarifies my many attitudes and statements on midrash.
I also hope it inspires others to seek TRUE REASONS for Midrash.

I would be happy to be >>challenged<< on the above...I would then give
LOGICAL and TRUE reasons to MIDRASHIM that do not appear to have logical

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA RHendel @ mcs drexel edu

[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

Go to top.

Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 21:18:58 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Analysis of Pagination in tablets (With corrections of former errors)

I deleted much of the post, and am coming in late here, but there is a
serious problem here: We, I believe, as normative Orthodox Jews, are
committed to Chazal's mesorah as to things. We can use derush (or, in
Russell's lexicon, peshat) to derive all sorts of nice ideas and
commentaries - but we cannot come and argue historically on the mesorah of
Chazal without evidence within Chazal to the contrary. All attempts, thus,
to rationalize a perspective that Chazal seem to have rejected out of
hand, are not to the point.


On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Russell Hendel wrote:

> I thank the many posters--[Miller, Ominsky, Ginsparg]--for their
> comments on the Lucoth. As per request I am giving the entire
> derivation again with assumptions (and answers to questions).
> I will try and show the naturalness of this idea. It appears that
> some posters are correct...that it isn't necessary to assume any
> particular division (5 &5 vs 2 & 8). Thus this analysis will
> defend many views. Again I thank the posters for encouraging me
> to more fully review my ideas.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 04:32:59 -0400
From: gershon.dubin@juno.com
Re: Avodah V1 #19

>Rav Hirsch derives the content of the 18 blessings from the Korbanoth.
>This is a wonderful introduction to his symbolic methods on korbanoth.
>I can also email the text file to anyone who is interested

Thank you.

You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail.
Get completely free e-mail from Juno at http://www.juno.com
Or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]
[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 04:49:27 -0400
From: gershon.dubin@juno.com
Re: Avodah V1 #20

>Second, and I'm ashamed to bring this up as I'm among the offenders, 
>please trim your quotes! We needn't waste bandwidth resending text
unless it 
>helps clarify your point.
	Speaking of which,  can this

>[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             
>[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 
>[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org 

 be relegated only to the end of the digest?

You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail.
Get completely free e-mail from Juno at http://www.juno.com
Or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]
[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

Go to top.

Date: Sun, 16 Aug 1998 15:02:48 -0400
From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel)
The Biblical Roots of the Masturbation Prohibition--Complete Summary

The recent thread on masturbation has received some excellent posts.
However no one has really yet dealt with the Biblical commandment under
which this rabbinic commandment is classified. Such a perspective
would help clarify the answers to the questions. To make things very clear
I am presenting my findings in the golden style of the Rambam. 
All prohibitions are (eventually) covered.

I heard several times from the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchick that 
the proper procedure when discussing ANY rabbinic commandment is to
realize that EVERY rabbinic commandment is classified under SOME Biblical
commandment. For example, the prohibition of eating milk and meat is 
a fence lest one cook meat and milk, and the prohibition of wiping 
with a sponge on Shabbath is a fence lest one squeeze it. This AWARENESS
of the Biblical root can often clarify details in the rabbinic regulation.
How so?  According to one opinion the reading of the megillah 
is classified under the Biblical commandment of prayer and 
praise of God. From this  we infer that we needn't 
recite the Hallel on Purim since the Megillah is
already a Praise of God. (This last example comes from the Rav)

Coitus interruptus---a withdrawal from the women BEFORE ejaculation but
AFTER the onset of PELVIC THRUSTS (or possibly earlier)--is a form of
masturbation termed onanism, named after ONAN, the Biblical character
who practiced it (Gen 38). Onanism is a form of masturbation that is
Biblically prohibited. 

And why do I say that Onanism is Biblically prohibited? Because it 
causes pain to the women and any causation of pain to any person is
prohibited (Rambam, Wounding and Damaging, 5:1).

And how do I know that the >>withdrawal during<< causes pain(vs anguish)to the 
woman? We may infer this from the laws of rape. For it is an established
principle that a rape victims protestations >>I want it; don't stop him<<
are involuntary responses due to the nature of the female (Murder 1:12,
Sanhedrin 20:3, Forbidden intercourse 1:9--this last citation is the
main proof).

And how do I know that >>pain alone<< without any wound is Biblically
considered a tort? This is the whole point of Rambam Wounds and Damages
Chapter 2, 1-7---the status of damage is achieved if ANY of the five
components of torts is present--ALL components are not required. Furthermore,
it is an explicit law (2:3) that >>torturing by applying hot nails against the 
fingernails without wounding or work loss is classified as a tort and
the damager pays for the pain inflicted<<. Furthermore even if one wanted 
to say that the woman is experiencing anguish, not pain, it nevertheless
explicitly says (Wounds 2:7) >>One is liable for frightening a person 
provided there is physical contact<<.

Perhaps you will say that the husband can do as he pleases with his wife
and therefore he is not liable for any torts that happen? This too however
is an explicit law: Wounds and Damages 4:17-->>Whoever causes torts
to his wife during intimacy is liable for damages<<. Furthermore 
do not be misled by the language of the jewish marriage ceremony--
that the husband performs an act of ACQUISITION.  
For the matter can be compared to buying land.
For their are four types of BUYING: You can buy land and have the right 
to build/destroy on it; or you can buy land for its fruit; 
or you can rent land; or you can buy the fruit of land. (Sales Chap 23,5-8) 
And these are very deep matters in the laws of sales. But suffice it to
say that the husband has >bought< from his wife the rights of entry on
to her body and rights of usage of her body but not the rights of
>building/destruction<--that is, he has not bought the right to cause pain.

Hence we have learned that whoever performs coitus interruptus has
caused physical pain to his wife and has violated the Biblical prohibition
of causing torts. It immediately follows that ordinary masturbation--
physical excitation till semen is released--is a rabbinic fence lest
a person get into the habit of releasing semen outside the womens body
which in the case of coitus interruptus is a Biblical prohibition

The idea of rabbinic fences to prevent habituation and familiarity
is common. How so? Stealing in a teasing manner or with intent to
return is rabbincally prohibited as a fence to Biblical stealing
(Theft 1:2). Similarly, returning loans to family members with additional
gifts is rabbinically prohibited as a fence to the Biblical prohibition
of loaning on interest (Loans 4:8).

We have explained that one-person-masturbation is prohibited because
it might lead to the Biblically prohibited Coitus Interruptus. It 
immediately follows that women are not prohibited since they are not
capable of withdrawing during intimacy since they have surrendered to
the man. Furthermore it would cause them pain and they would have no
interest in so doing. Although some authorities have articulated this
permissability in terms of >>spilling of semen<< it seems reasonable
to suggest that this is a phrasing delicacy since it does not relate it
to the Biblical roots of the prohibition.

It follows that all intercourse that involves discharge into the womens
body is permitted independent of whether it can lead to pregnancy.
It is accepted throughout Jewish law that intercourse 
includes two types of intercourses: vaginal and anal. It is 
conceivable that the >>intercourse by way of organs<< mentioned in
Forbidden intercourses, 21:1 which is a violation of Lev 18:6--things
which >lead to intercouse<-refers to >oral sex< which can be thought of
as >intercourse by organs< and an activity that >leads to nakedness<.
If so this would also be permissable. The semen discharged into the
womens body during these acts is not classified as masturbation since
it does not resemble coitus interruptus.

Furthermore, there need NOT be concern about semen ACCIDENTALLY spilled
during intimacy. Although this is not explicitly stated we can infer
it from two sources: First although it is Biblically prohibited to
remove Tzarath signs nevertheless if for example you carried a pole on
your shoulders with full cognition that the weight would erase the signs
then it is nevertheless permissable since it was not your primary intention
(Leprosy 10:1). If this is true--doing something with lack of primary 
intention--for a Biblical prohibition how much more so is it permissable
for a rabbinic prohibition. Thus although it is prohibited for a couple
to intentionally spill semen nevertheless if during the act their rubbing
accidentally causes such spilling there need not be concern. And hence
they need not abstain from such rubbing if it is done to satisfy 
their urge to rub. Secondly, it is inconceivable that any 
rabbinic injunction was meant to abrogate the Biblical requirement 
of making the wife happy during intimacy. Therefore
a couple should feel free to perform without concern or guilt all acts
of needed playfullness during intimacy.

It follows that when a source says >>The following is permissable..
provided one does not spill seed<< it should be interpreted to mean:
>>The following is permissable AND it is permissable to spill seed INTO
the womans body BUT it is prohibited to deliberately do acts with the
intention of spilling seed outside.

Know that all the above is written with regard to religious sages whose
manners with their wives are one of pleasantness. However the Rambam
explicitly describes the ways of intimacy in the masses as involving
>>hitting and no shame<<. Thus a person or couple who engages in masturbation
or even intimacy with acts of hitting, biting or pinching has WITHOUT
CONSIDERATIONS OF COITUS INTERRUPTUS already violated the laws of torts
which is a >>great prohibition<<(Forbidden intercourse: 21:18).
The masturbation in this case--with biting, hitting, pinching--would be
a Biblical prohibition. This is true EVEN if the intent is to fulfill
the Biblical obligation of making ones wife happy and even if she
participates since indeed the causation of torts is prohibited even 
against oneself (Wounds and Damages, 5:1).

14. The Book Of Radiance
It is public knowledge that a very great scholar, Rabbi Simeon the Son
of Yochai--the Holy Lamp--was subjected to live burial in a cave for
over a decade because of fear of the roman government and during that
period he and his son composed Radiance, the central book of mysticism.
Because they were isolated from all human companionship their main
physical temptation was masturbation and to avoid it they studied all
day and coined various terms denoting the seriousness of masturbation
for them. In particular they coined the witty pun-->>(temple) desecration
of the holy convenant<< by which they sought to compare masturbation 
which involves the organ of circumcision with which we have a >treaty<
with God with the very severe Biblical prohibition of desecrating
the temple objects and offereings which are also a >treaty<. 

The severity with which they regarded masturbation has filtered down
to various law books and tends to color masturbation discussion with
a severity that a rabbinic prohibition does not deserve. The proper 
procedure in discussions of law is to use the Biblical rabbinic 
categories mentioned above.

Perhaps a person will read the above and make light of it and say <<This
is speculation..who says that coitus interruptus causes pain vs anguish;
why should I rely on some obscure permissability from the laws of leprosy
which is nowhere applied in the masturbation domain; rather I will play
it safe and either teach or practice that the best way to have intimacy
is to limit playfullness and come to ejaculation as soon after insertion
as possible>>

Know therefore how serious it is to intefer in any way with a couples
marital happiness. Indeed although God is described as Just and dealing
with a persons actions and not his ancestry--------nevertheless
in one place--by the punishment of the sons of Eli--we find that He
gave a punishment based on genealogy and cursed all descendants of Eli--
and all this punishment was for the sole sin of rattling women on 
preintimacy nights with demands for personal gifts. Thus we see how
serious it is to intefer with a couples happiness. Therefore every person
and Rabbi should be careful to encourage couples to devote as much time
as possible to the important mitzvah of preintimacy playfullness and should
emphasize that accidental spilling need not be a matter for concern or
inhibition (Provided it is not deliberately done with that intention)

To further clarify the seriousness of this matter observe that when
the prophet Amos wished to describe the awesomeness of the day of 
judgement he listed five things God does on that era. And these
five include >>And recounts to men their (bedroom) chatter<<(Amos 5:13)
How so?
The talmud elaborates that EVEN though a man has acquired visitation
and usage rights on his wifes body nevertheless if he knowingly asserts
his masculinity during intimacy by uttering a vulgar word that he knows
his wife dislikes then he will be (publicly) reprimanded on this on
the day of judgement. See how serious this sin must be that of all sins
that God could seek retribution on the era of Judgement, the sin of
violating marital happiness was picked.

Therefore let every person be aware that while there 
are severe Biblical prohibitions that must be avoided 
nevertheless there are severe Biblical requirements
that must be fulfilled and let especially Rabbis be careful in what they
teach and tell people.

[Attestation: Although some of my postings are written from memory of sources
and off the cuff nevertheless I personally reviewed all arguments and 
citations in the above at least twice and am certain of the logic and
citations quoted. I have also seen to it that while some of the logic 
may not be found explicitly in standard sources nevertheless all 
prohibitions are carefully dealt with and defended without compromise
(and with added stringency in certain cases). I have further written
the above in the Rambam's golden style so that everything should be clear]

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA RHendel @ mcs drexel edu
[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list.                             ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

Go to top.


[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version.           ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                 ]
[ For control requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]

< Previous Next >