[Avodah] De-Chokifying Arayos (including MZ)

Kenneth Miller via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Thu Jul 30 20:39:12 PDT 2015

I tried to make the point that although many try to show similarites
between food and sex, if we look at the Torah's view, there are far more
differences. I suggested a rule of thumb:

> Eating is proper as long as you don't overdo it.
> Sex is proper as long as you minimize it.

Chazal see food as an entirely proper way of enjoying olam hazeh,
to the point that it is actively encouraged as a form of all sorts
of celebrations. (And not only happy celebrations, but eating is also
involved in various mourning practices.) Under normal circumstances,
one can and should eat as much as he needs, subject to the limitations
of kashrus and brachos. One is never allowed to eat in a quantity or
manner that he becomes a menuval, but that is not a major concern.

Sex is also an enjoyment of olam hazeh, but I've seen this expressed
in only two areas: Oneg Shabbos and Chiyuv Onah. And even there, the
restrictions are many. Food has tremendous room for creativity even within
the restrictions of hilchos kashrus and brachos. Sex could be similar,
even within the bounds of hilchos nidda and arayos, but the restrictions
set out in OC 240 go much farther than merely to insure that one does
not become a menuval.

R' Micha Berger responded:

> I think the difference is just about that, but because of the
> biological differences. Sex differs in two ways:

> 1- It involves a second party. There is no threat of
> objectifying [food].

> 2- You can survive without it. A few days without food though...

> Therefore, the attitude toward perishus for each comes from
> opposite directions. For food, which is necessary for survival,
> we talk about how much is too much. For sex, we talk about the
> right balance between keeping the other happy (chiyuv onah)
> and turning them into a tool for your own happiness.

I think that he is agreeing with me that food and sex are very different,
but I disagree with his explanation of *why* they are so different.

In his first point, intended to be "food"), he seems to feel that the
restrictions on sex are to prevent people from taking advantage of
each other: If I have even a small desire for a snack, the Torah has no
problem at all if I go to the kitchen and take an apple (provided that I
say the bracha to acknowledge Hashem's involvement) because the apple is
nothing more than an apple. But while casual eating is fine, casual sex is
not. Casual sex involves people, and they must not be taken advantage of.

My problem with this is on several levels. First, Chazal are pretty
explicit that the purpose of Hilchos Nida is to restore a honeymoon-style
atmosphere on a regular basis, and that alone might suffice to insure
that spouses aren't objectified. Also, we have the many parts of OC 240
which insure that husband and wife are in the same "place" emotionally:
no one is drunk, words of "ritzui", and so on. But isn't that sufficient
protection against objectifying? What is gained from the additional
restrictions (such as various positions, or finishing quickly) which
have no parallel in food?

In RMB's second point, he contrasts survival without sex and survival
without food. While it is true that sex is not required for physical life,
psychologically it's a whole different story, and that's the approach
the Torah uses for Onah.

While men and women are pretty much identical in the halachos of food,
Onah places the husband and wife in opposite situations. Any discussion of
Onah that uses the word "spouse" will be flawed, because Onah treats the
husband and wife so differently. For example, whenever the wife desires
relations, then the husband has a clear and present chiyuv d'Oraisa. But
if the husband desires, she has no corresponding obligation; in fact
(if I'm not mistaken) she's not even labeled as a "moredet" until after
prolonged and repeated refusals.

It seems to me that Onah may have the effect of objectifying males. Those
parts of Orach Chaim 240 which forbid unwilling relations ought to
suffice to insure that the women are not objectified. But Onah seems to
push the pendulum too far.

In response to RTK, RMB wrote:

> I'm not sure it's "hashkafah" as much as Hilkhos Dei'os / Chovos
> haLvavos. After all "Qedoshim tihyu" is a chiyuv, not a nicety,
> and that's a source for "perushim tihyu".

> What a mitzvah to be or to become something (such as "qadosh")
> is in practice, though, is inherently situational and subjective.
> If we were talking about something reducible to black-letter
> halakhah and objective rules, it would have been.

And yet, Orach Chayim 240 *IS* "black-letter halakhah and objective
rules", is it not?

Akiva Miller

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