[Avodah] De-Chokifying Arayos (including MZ)

H Lampel via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Wed Jul 22 10:36:27 PDT 2015

On 7/21/2015 8:48 PM, Meir Shinnar wrote:
> Remember, the SP tries to reconcile two positions
>    I) in hazal - that continued desire for some forbidden actions is 
> compatible with a high spiritual state - issue is control of the 
> desire - NOT its presence
>   I) Aristotelian ethics - a high spiritual state does not desire for 
> forbidden - the desire is a sign of a flaw.
> SP resolves by differentiating between mefursamot - whose desire is 
> problematic and a flaw - and religious law - where desire is not a 
> flaw - and applies this specifically to arayot - as examples in Talmud 
> of Rabbanit with desire are of arayot,

> It is difficult for me to reconcile this position with the MN - if our 
> proper relationship to even permitted sexuality  is " to instil 
> disgust" - how can desire still remaining not be a flaw????

> In the MN, there is a conceptual framework to distinguish 
> homosexuality and bestiality from regular sexuality - but they are ALL 
> viewed as things that should repulse us - just some more than others. 
>    It is by no means clear that this framework and distinction can be 
> read into the SP, and would think that One would need good evidence 
> that it does not include ALL arayot...

The Moreh Nevuchim III:35 explicitly states that his view about this
matter is the same as his view in Shemoneh Perakim:

The fourteenth class comprises the commandments concerned with the
prohibition of certain sexual unions. They are those that we have
enumerated in the Book of Women [/Sepher Nashim/] and in Laws concerning
Prohibited Sexual Relations [/Hilkhoth Issurei Bi'ah/. The interbreeding
of beasts belongs to this class. The purpose of this ... is to bring
about a decrease of sexual intercourse and to diminish the desire for
mating as far as possible, so that it should not be taken as an end,
as is done by the ignorant, *according to what we have explained in the
Commentary on the Tractate Aboth.* (All commentators agree this is a
reference to the introduction to the commentary, the Shemoneh Perakim,
just as the Moreh stated regarding the thirteenth class.)

Your kushya is good: if [as per MN] our proper relationship to even
permitted sexualityis "to instill disgust" - how can desire still
remaining not be a flaw [as per ShP]???? But I think the solution I
offered is reasonable. To wit:

What do you do with the elephant in the room I mentioned? The Torah
commands /t'shaktsu/ concerning the eating of non-kosher creatures
(which is certainly as much in the category of non-mefursomos as bassar 
b'chalav and arayos); yet Chazal (and naturally, then, Rambam) say that 
when it comes to basar b'chalav, etc., one should have the attitude of 
"I have the desire to do it, but Hashem prohibited me.''

I offered one answer to both questions: When Rambam says that Hashem 
wants to instill in us disgust for the act, and the Torah (as per 
Chazal) says "t'shakstu,'' they mean that despite the fact that we 
should not deny or seek to eradicate the physical inclination for such 
pleasures, we must maintain an aversion to succumbing to it except for 
limited situations. (And the purpose of that is to keep us from doing it 
in excess, which is the real flaw.)

*So although as per MN,] our proper relationship to even permitted 
sexuality is to instill a reluctance except for limited occasions (such 
as in a marriage setting), the desire still remaining is not a flaw [as 
per ShP] to be eradicated.*

"I have the desire to do it [even outside of marriage, and I will not 
eradicate the sexual desire from myself,] but [live with it and 
constrain it outside of marriage,] because Hashem commanded me so [and 
this will bring me to perfection].

So, a word about the Moreh's wording. Pines translates: "As for the 
prohibitions against illicit unions, all of them are directed to making 
sexual intercourse rarer and to instilling disgust for it, so that it 
should be sought only very seldom. ... the thing that is natural should 
be abhorred except for necessity."

Friedlander translates: " we ought to limit sexual intercourse 
altogether, hold it in *contempt,* and only desire it very rarely."

Ibn Tibbon translates "ha-arayos, ha-inyan b'kulam shahv l'ma-eit 
ha-mishgal *v'lim'os* bo, v'shello yirtseh mimennu ki im m'aht 
mi-za-ir...sheh-inyan ha-tiv'i *nim-ahs* l'hay-a-sos rak l'tsorech."

I suspect from the context (lim'os/disgust/contempt, *except for limited 
occasions*) that the Rambam's original Arabic, not to mention his 
intention, is closer on the scale to the idea of avoidance for the sake 
of gaining perfection, than to disgust and contempt.

Basically, it translates to what I believe is in fact our common 
attitude regarding these things.

To put things in perspective, note that immediately before this section, 
the Rambam, following the same attitude of engaging in unrestrained 
physical pleasures being an obstacle to personal perfection, writes 
similarly about the activity of eating, again equating what he writes in 
the Moreh to what he wrote in Shemoneh Perakim:

The thirteenth class comprises the commandments concerned with the 
prohibition of certain foods and what is connected therewith. These are 
the commandments that we have enumerated in the Laws concerning 
Forbidden Foods [/Hilkhoth Ma-akholoth Asuroth/]. The [commandments 
concerning] vows and the state of the Nazarites belong to this class. 
The purpose of all this is, *as we have explained in the Commentary on 
the Mishnah in the introduction to Aboth,* to put an end to the lusts 
and licentiousness manifested in seeking what is most pleasurable and to 
taking the desire for food and drink as an end.

[Email #2. -micha]

On 7/22/2015 1:25 PM, Micha Berger wrote:
> But the most famous Ramban does speak of perushim tihyu and how perishus
> is the key to holiness. ...And his first example is yema'eit
> bemishgal...
> I presume, in an unXian sense, the Rambam refers to onah, not "only"
> piryah verivyah.

> Perishus and neqi'us come up a lot in lower-case-m mussar literature, even
> among anti-Maimonidians like Rabbeinu Yonah. To quote Mesilas Yesharim ch 13
> ..." And they said about
>      R. Eleazar (Nedarim 20b) that even in the proper hour and the correct
>      time he would expose a handbreadth and conceal two hand-breadths and
>      imagine that a demon was compelling him, in order to cancel out the
>      feeling of pleasure.

> And ch. 14:
>      Separation in relation to pleasures, which we spoke of in the
>      previous chapter, consists in one's taking from the world only what
>      is essential to him.

> Which also limits marital intimacy to what is necessary to fulfill piryah
> verivyah and onah.

Which, as I was contemplating to write, shows that the Ramban and Rambam
(and as you have pointed out, mainstream Jewish thought) all share the
same basic nuanced attitude--despite the Ramban's opposition to the
Rambam's presentation.

Thanks for the sources.

Zvi Lampel

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