Becoming the Progenitors of a Holy Nation
Taste of Talmud
The Mishna in Shabbos 11a, says, “A Zav may not eat with a Zava (in private) because of the likelihood for sin”. Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura (1400s) explains that this Mishna is giving an example of a scenario in which it would be very unlikely and even difficult for a sin to take place between a man and a woman. A Zav and Zava are people who have a particular ailment which makes it difficult for them to sin at that time. According to this, it is obvious, that it is forbidden for a healthy man and woman who are forbidden to each other, to eat privately together, “because of the likelihood for sin”. The Talmud (Shabbos 13a) comments on this Mishna “look at how far impurity has spread in the Jewish nation, for the Mishna did not discuss a case of a man who is pure eating with a woman who is impure.” It would seem from here that the Talmud understood that a healthy man and woman are permitted to eat together. It was only to stress how far impurity had spread that the case of Zav and Zava was chosen!? The Tiferes Yisroel explains to the contrary that the Talmud is teaching us that there was a high level of caution in matters of purity and impurity so it was not necessary to give an example of such a scenario. The only scenario which had to be clearly stated was one when both parties were not physically able to sin readily. The Mishna came to add a decree to prohibit even this case and indeed we can derive from here that a healthy man and woman (who are forbidden to each other) are forbidden to eat privately together, “because of the likelihood for sin”. This explanation is corroborated by Rashi’s explanation of the Talmud. Rashi says the Talmud is saying it was not necessary to discuss the case of purity, because all Jews observed those laws scrupulously.
Taste of Halacha
May a Jewish lady who is an accountant go alone to her non-Jewish client’s home or office to discuss his taxes? The “Chavos Yair” (Rabbi Yair Chaim Bacharach, of Worms, 1639-1702) in responsa 66, was asked a similar question. The one posing the question was Rabbi Meir Stern. In Rabbi Stern’s city it was quite prevalent for the wives of the busy Jewish businessmen to go and meet with their gentile clients in the client’s homes. He asked the Chavos Yair if there was any basis in Halacha to permit this practice. The Chavos Yair replied that there is a biblical prohibition for a Jewish man and woman to be in a secluded place for any amount of time. Our Sages added a prohibition for a Jewish man to be in a secluded place with two Jewish women or for a Jewish woman to be in a secluded place with a gentile, even if his wife is also there. Shamai and Hillel added a prohibition for a Jewish man to be in a secluded place with a gentile woman (EH, 21:1-5). It is therefore particularly difficult to allow for a private meeting between a Jewish woman and a gentile due to this prohibition. The Chavos Yair recommends that if she must go, she must go with a shomer (guard). He notes that it is only due to greed and avarice that some people have become lax in these matters. He concludes that our sages in their wisdom designed these laws to protect the sanctity of the Jewish people, “because of the likelihood of sin”. Whoever upholds these laws and stands up for the Jewish standards of morality will be blessed.
Taste of Parasha
“And on the eighth day he should take two birds… one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering and the Kohain will atone for him for being a Zav.” (Leviticus. 15: 14-15) A Zav is a person who has a venereal disease. Why does he require atonement for becoming ill? In explaining this, the Abarbanel (Don Isaac Abarbanel, Spain, 1400s) goes into a lengthy description of the body and the wisdom with which G-d created it. In order to process food and turn it into energy G-d created the human body with various complex and inter-woven systems. After food has been digested and the impurities expeled, the energy is sent to the limbs and muscles of the body. G-d even created the body in such a way in which it is able to create stores of this energy throughout its limbs. In order to procreate, these stores are tapped into and vital enrgy is used in this, most appropriate way. However, when a human abuses these stores and taps into them excsessively, the Abarbanel explains, this causes the ailment called Zav. So in reality the ailment comes form a misuse of the gift of procreation which in turn makes it difficult to procreate. For this over indulgence and abuse of this most precious gift, one indeed needs atonement. The Abarbanel notes that the offering required is an inexpensive one because the Torah allows for the fact that it is possible for this ailment to develop through no fault of his own. This is also why the offering is only brought after a threefold appearance of the ailment.