Monday, September 22, 2008

Non-Jewish prostitutes - how serious a sin?

shoshi asked:

Someone who spent more than 10 years learning in a kollel told me that "there is no issur mideoraita to have sexual intercourse with a non-jewish woman, as long as no one sees it"

He says that only Rambam says that there is an issur mideoraita, but if you do not accept rambam, you can go with non-jewish prostitutes as a religious jew and you do not infringe halacha, except perhaps miderabbanan.

Can you confirm this opinion?
If not: what are the sources?
This question can be understood in a number of different ways. 1) Is there an explicit Torah prohibition against relations with a non-Jewish prostitute. 2) Does G-d care if a Jew has sexual relations with a non-Jewish prostitute 3) Which is worse sexual relations with a unmarried Jewish woman who is a nidah or with a non-Jewish woman. 4) Since there is an explicit rabbinic prohibition about relations with a non-Jewish woman doesn't that imply that there is no Torah prohibition? 5)Is the severity of G-d's disapproval proportional to the punishment for a particular act? 6) If a person has an overwhelming sexual lust which is the way he can minimize the spiritual damage? 7) Is Judaism amenable to a bean counting approach or are there metarules that are more important? 8) Does someone have to be concerned with a prohibition which is only rabbinic i.e., man made or is enough to be meticulous in observing the word of G-d i.e., Torah. [TO BE CONTINUED]


  1. What about the whole Pinchas/Cozby episode? That's an explicit mishnah, isn't it?

    Besides, chicken cheeseburgers aren't forbidden d'oraisa either but who eats them and says "Well, God doesn't care"?

  2. I know of more than a few intermarriages that have happened as a result of young men using non Jewish women in this way.

    Of course the young women involved were "converted" to permit the intermarriage.

    I can provide names and the Rabbis who did the conversions upon Rabbi Eidensohn's request.

  3. Just a brief comment.

    It bothers me when I hear people say that something is "only" d'rabanan.

    We are obligated d'Oraisa to obey the mitzvos d'rabanan.

  4. I share Lazera's feelings and Jersey Girl's observation.

    I'd love to know the answers to those 8 questions. I have seen Jewish men justify every possible outlet for their urges.

    If this is a democratic process, then my own votes are:
    1) The commandment against a Jewish man or woman being promiscuous would cover this in my view, as well as the prohibition against intermarriage, since there can be no doubt that sexual relations can lead to feelings of love
    2) Yes
    3) Relations with a nonJew is worse. To say otherwise would be to say that it's preferable for nonreligious Jews to intermarry.
    4) Rabbinic law often clarifies Torah law. A specific prohibition does not indicate the absence of the item from Torah law.
    5) Who can peer into the mind of G-d?
    6) Going on the assumption that something bad is going to be done, having relations with a Jewish woman who might be nidah would be the least problematic, because it can still lead to making a Jewish home that is Mitzvah observant. I'd rank masturbation second.
    7) Metarules are more important. Otherwise there we would lack the Halacha that the performance of one Mitzvah absolves the need to do another (if you have two obligations to meet at once, you can fulfill one and not be considered a "sinner" for not fulfilling the other.)
    8) No such concept as "only Rabbinic." Otherwise, we'd all be Xtians or Karites etc..

    Interesting blog!

  5. Well all of this leads me to an interesting question that I have many times asked myself but never researched it. What do we view worse. Having a non Jewish girlfriend/spouse or a Jewish one who does not keep niddah. For having relations with the Jewish woman there is this problem of koret. This does not exist for sleeping with a non-Jewish woman even if you would say that it is an issur d'oraita.

    Which leads to my next question. In cases where one cannot effectively do kiruv on a non-religious person, should we be trying to keep them away from mixing and matching with non-Jews? There are ostensibly more serious halachik problems with to non frum Jews pairing off because of the nida issue. How do we view this from a strictly halachik point of view? No al pi kabbala please. Also I am aware that there are many non shomer shobbos Israeli women who keep nidda. I am not talking about them.

  6. I once heard from my rosh yeshiva (this is about twenty years ago, so my memory is hazy) that R' Yakov Kamenetsky used this specific case, relations with a non-Jewish woman vs. relations with one's wife when she is a niddah, to demonstrate that the conventional understanding that a more severe penalty equals a more severe sin is not necessarily true.

    He mentioned a medrash that if a Jewish man has relations with a non-Jewish woman, then when he gets to the next world Avraham Avinu takes away his bris milah. (I also remember seeing this medrash somewhere.) R' Yakov said that this shows that relations with a non-Jewish woman was a kind of fundamental violation of our covenant with Hashem.

    Again, I don't remember the details.

  7. "Someone who spent more than 10 years learning in a kollel told me that ... you can go with non-jewish prostitutes as a religious jew and you do not infringe halacha, except perhaps miderabbanan."

    Someone has just wasted more than 10 years of his life.

  8. What do we view worse. Having a non Jewish girlfriend/spouse or a Jewish one who does not keep niddah.

    Men with non-Jewish girlfriends are often profoundly separated from the Jewish community. Most Jews with some form of attachment to a Jewish community practise many mitzvos, even if they don't always do them in the manner we would prefer. For instance, they might go to a seder or listen to kiddush on shabbos, or abstain from some treif items like pork. So it's not just a matter of niddah vs non-niddah. There's the totality of their lives, as well as the barriers to them becoming full participants in an orthodox Jewish community. Far be it from me to say that I "agree" with a godol like R' Kamenetsky, but his position seems self-evidently correct.

  9. Now we know one importnat reason that there are so many more Jewish single women and one of the big factors behind the so-called "shidduch crisis" -- it's because Jewish men of all stripes have access to easy-to-have gentile women in the open societies.

    I have always been intrigued by an article I read based on an interview with Meir Abehsera, I believe he is a French Sephardic Lubavitcher, but I don't know what happned to him and he's been up to lately, maybe Jersey girl can help me out here. Doing a Google search I see that he is still active but lives in Jerusalem, according to The Jewish Journal "January 10, 2008, The possible Jew" ("Abehsera, it seems, has always loved a good story. Eventually, he developed an urge to write these stories down. So in the mid-1990s, while living in Los Angeles with his wife and seven children, he began writing a personal meditation on his life and ideas inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, which became a book called "The Possible Man." Now, out of Jerusalem, he is putting the finishing touches on his longtime labor of love: a film version of "The Possible Man," as his lasting tribute to the Rebbe. Talk about a possible man: A Sephardic Jew from a famous rabbinic family journeys with the French literary crowd, immerses himself in the curative world of a Japanese mystic and ends up as the cherished prince of a Chasidic movement.") And The Jewish Homemaker Shavous 5757 / June 1997 has this from him: "Abehsera, 63, was born in Morocco to the Abuhatzeira family, a clan known for their tzadikim and mystics, the most famous of whom was Yisrael Abuhatzeira zt"l, the "Baba Sali," leader of the Moroccan Jewish community who died in Israel in 1984. The family moved to France when Meir/Michel was a teenager.")

    Anyhow, he gave a brilliant interview in 1995 about the whole mystique of Jews being attracted to non-Jews that I thought I would repost it here. Wishing everyone a Kesiva VeChasima Tova!:


    An Interview with Meir Abehsera

    Nefesh Magazine (Nefesh - The Jewish Soul Vol 111, No. 1, 1995 / 5755: pages 21 - 23)

    (Meir Abehsera, author of Cooking for Life and The Possible Man
    was born in Morocco and educated in France.)

    (Full article at )

    Assimilation, intermarriage and a plummeting birthrate cause demographers and statisticians to produce gloomy forecasts for the Jewish people. Nefesh interviews macrobiotic figure Meir Abehsera on the spiritual causes of intermarriage.

    Nefesh: For quite a while the trend has been for Jews to intermarry. What are the reasons for this?

    Meir Abehsera: It's not enough to find a reason, and even if you tell it to a person who wants to intermarry, he won't accept it. Even if he has some guilt and feels some shame, you have to realize he's presently living with this nice non-Jewish woman and doesn't want to hurt her feelings. His is a very human act. Anyone who's going to tell him to separate himself from her is going to seem like a barbarian.

    Why is all this intermarriage occurring?

    It isn't so easy to marry a Jew. It is seen as a commitment, whereas when you marry a non-Jew you're opting for an easier route. His decision flows with the warmth of his blood, whereas with Judaism you have to tighten your belt and go to work until you are a hundred and twenty years old.

    Why would a non-religious Jew consider marrying another Jew in the first place?

    If it is a man you are referring to, he's Jewish out of habit and it just makes him feel more secure staying Jewish. Or perhaps in spite of himself there lies within him traces of memory. There is no way he'll forget where he comes from. It is also possible that a Jewish woman awakens within him a heroic self - he's Samson, he is King David. He's there to insure the continuity of the tradition. There's also the other possibility that he marries a Jewish woman because of her charm. The charm is only an indication of something deeper, of course. Another possibility is he marries the Jewish woman because she is like a sister to him which is the deepest kind of love. This means no possibility of divorce whatsoever because brother and sister are forever bound to one another. It's a clean love. Deep down he knows all that.

    We see that the majority of Jews are not sensitive to these inner qualities.

    It's because they don't know. A person who is not with G-d has all the chances of being seduced by the stranger. He has all the chances of falling into the Egyptian trap. It's a pleasant suicide. Obviously such a person has lost his memory. He does not care to be redeemed but this doesn't mean that guilt doesn't flare up from time to time. It's an ongoing struggle. They don't admit it but they have regrets. However, if you insist, they will tell you it's too late now. They'll tell you where were you when I needed you and they are right. These people are fragile, they are decent people. Many times they are naturally gifted with better qualities than you have yourself. The women they want to marry are as nice as they are. It looks as if they are made for each other. You get ulcer attacks from facing such a dilemma.

    What about a non-Jew - what motivation could he have to marry a Jewish woman?

    I once read a poem by Pierre Louis that speaks about the love of a Jewish woman. He praised a Jewish woman for her uniqueness, for taking you far by loving you so totally. He sees her as being a perfect lover, but he can't know really why. He can't know that she is in exile, that she has pain and gives of her body and soul to forget. It is this false forgetfulness that makes her such a mystical lover. She loves in order to forget, like an alcoholic drinks to forget he's a drunkard. It is paradise on earth for a non-Jew by having a Jewish woman. He holds onto her physicality and her spirituality. But is it real? How long is it going to last? What is it worth in this world and the other world? It's a time bomb.

    Isn't it ironic that a non-Jew can see all that in a Jewish woman whereas the Jew doesn't see it?

    Yes. Isn't that crazy? He sees things from a different perspective. By contrast the Jew is spoiled. He is given too much. One day he decides he wants a vacation, which means he wants to vacate, make a void, forget his responsibilities. He wants to change diets in contradistinction with the old Eastern Jew who is happy with his kugel, chicken, coleslaw, and noodle soup. He has been eating the same food for centuries and is not tired of it. On the contrary he is surprised by it, he is alive. He finds life in what is already known. His love for his wife is infinite, not measured by the paranoid paradigm of modern society. The modern Jew has a lot to learn from this man.

    Do you have anything to say about those people who have divorced a Jew and later married a non-Jew?

    It is quite probable that the woman he left has very little to offer in terms of Jewishness. She did not take him on a journey, she did not stir his memory She did not have the inner beauty to strike him with a sense of deja vu. She wears no crown. He found no good reason to stay with her. He turns elsewhere to search for a glimmer of that in a non-Jew, and he finds her eventually. He finds her because she happened to be searching for "something real" - he reads that on her face.

    Wouldn't you say that he turns to her because she has more to offer sexually?

    It could be that but I'm not sure. Who's to say that Jewish love takes the pleasure out of love? On the contrary, pleasure is enhanced by the law. If not only for the fact that a woman separates from her husband for 12-14 days and then goes to the ritual bath - the separation makes the coming back together more special, the love more deep and pure and forever renewed. The law wants the Jew to be a mensch, not a regretful animal who goes from rut to a rut and from guilt to guilt. The law gives you permission to be yourself, not someone who is excited by the aphrodisiacs of the day. I tend to believe that if a Jew leaves his Jewish wife it is because the relationship was just flesh to flesh. Because the marriage was not hallowed, physicality decides the bond, and this is what happens when the flesh gets tired and aged. It never happened that two Jews divorced when their level was on the level of the soul - it is unheard of. It would be tantamount to tearing the heavens apart.

    Some people can object - they can say, I didn't leave my Jewish wife because I was seduced by this other woman. I want this other woman for her qualities.

    She's like a geisha to him. She gives him massages. The Jewish woman doesn't give him massages. The non-Jew plays folk songs for him - he's utterly delighted. Love for the other woman, a stranger from a strange land, is called by the French le repos du guerrier, the rest or peace of the warrior. That Jew is tired from going to war. He decides he's not going back to camp. He's going to stay with this woman - no more inner conflicts, that's what she offers him. He has had it fighting his evil inclination. He makes peace with himself by finally marrying this woman. Of course it's only a blanket, not real peace. By contrast the Jewish woman tells him - Get up, there's a war to fight. We have no time for an excess of sentimentalities - no massage, no cake, no tea for today. He's a very sentimental person. He wants attention. The Jewish woman is much too conscious of a war taking place to afford being a geisha. A geisha knows the needs of a man in this world - what brings him psychological and physical pleasure. But the Jewish woman can outdo the geisha. The point is she knows there's a war to fight. The Jewish woman says tomorrow perhaps, but not always today.

    What would you say to someone who wants to marry a non-Jew?

    I wouldn't try to convince him. You would be wasting your energy. He has made up his mind. He's about to reach for his sugar and all you can think of is slapping his fingers to try to take the sugar away from him. He will have a tantrum. The man is in a dream. He is bound by a thought and delights in every word of it - he is nourished by it. The only way I know to liberate such a man from his thought is to replace them with other thoughts. You have to take him on a wondrous journey, his own, the one he missed. You can't come moments before the wedding and shout, stop! They'll throw you out. They'll think the Jew is mad - he is ancient; he's full of dust - get him out of here. You have to know that the man lives off his short breath, he loves with his lungs, he will sneeze you out. He doesn't know how to control his hunger. When he is hungry he eats. You have to take him far. He has to get lost in you, you the Jew, until he finds himself, until he dreams his own true dream. In that sense we are all responsible for one another. When a Jew marries a non-Jew, it's all our fault.

    But imagine we're not even speaking about the fact that such a decision to marry out of the tradition makes us an even smaller and diluted nation, that we are eaten up. Apparently we make the best meal. But the great beast will have to eventually suffer a massive attack of indigestion."

  10. That's some beautiful writing. This man is a poet.

  11. Well the questions that particularly intrigues me would come right before your question 3):

    3.1. Is it worse to have sexual relationships with a jewish woman who is not married and not nida (she went to the mikve) or with a non-jewish woman?

    3.2. In the above case, (if a jewish woman who is not married and not nida and a jewish man have intercourse) who does the worse aveira, the Man or the Woman?

    3.3. So why should the woman be shunned if she gets pregnant?

    And of course the subject that what raised in an answer earlier:
    Is going to see a prostitute really less a sin than masturbating.

  12. The original question was:

    "what is worse: a married jewish woman who does not always cover her head in public or a jewish man who has sexual relationship with a person to whom he is not married?"

    And this ex-kolelnik's answer was:
    A woman who does not cover her hair is worse, since she openly rejects part of the halacha, while the poor guy just is not able to restrain himself momentarily. So he would not trust the woman who does not cover her hair for kashrut (since all her standards are lower), but he would have no problem in trusting a man who occasionally uses the services of prostitues as far as kashrut is concerned.

  13. I didn't want to believe that the religion of my grandfathers and grandmothers would be so racist. My mother's side is Sephardic, which seems to be considered a less caste than the Askenazi. I even don't want to mention that her Hungarian ancestry came through Hungary and Spain. To you all, I am a non jew basically. A prostitute. I'm not blonde, blue eyed, and Askenazi. I was hoping the open liberal arms of the people I so felt a connection with, which I cannot now ever connect with such bigotry, would accept mine. Already have read and seen how so many Sephardi are treated, even in Israel, and it's so disheartening. The irony...


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