Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sexual misdeeds of great people


There seems to be a common belief that sexual sins only occur in lustful, unrefined people with little self-control. In fact our Sages tells us that the greater the person the greater is his yezter harah (Sukka 52a). Thus it is really the saintly refined person with great self control - who is in greater danger. The following in an example from the Talmud that led to a suicide attempt and eventual death from penitential fasts.

Kiddushin(81b):
Whenever R’ Chiya bar Ashi said the tachanun prayer he would say, “The Merciful save us from the yetzer harah (evil inclination).” One day his wife overheard him. She said to herself, “It has been many years that we have not been intimate, so why does he have a need to pray for this – [he obviously doesn’t have a strong sex drive]?” One day he was studying in his garden and she dressed up and repeatedly walked past him. He asked who she was. She replied that she was Harusa (a well known prostitute) who had just returned. He desired her. She told him to first bring the pomegranate to her from the top of the tree. He jumped up and brought it to her. He came into his house his wife was firing the oven. He climbed in it [to kill himself – Rashi]. His wife asked him what was the meaning of this? He told her what had happened. She replied that she was the woman involved. However he paid no attention to her until she gave proof with the pomegranate. He said, “Nevertheless my intention was to sin.” That righteous man [R. Hiyya b. Ashi] fasted all his life, until he died thereof.

7 comments:

  1. the Monsey TzadikApril 1, 2009 at 5:25 PM

    That daf in Kiddushin has many stories like this with a difference that just before the act the woman revealed herself as the devil….

    Compare that to out generation when people believe in the gedlolim infallibility.

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  2. Maybe he should have been w/his wife more often.

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  3. A quick question, how could such a great man attempt to kill himself?

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  4. Bartley Kulp said...

    A quick question, how could such a great man attempt to kill himself?
    ===================
    A very good question. There are a number of gemoras which mention that somebody attempted suicide because they had sinned or might sin such as Kiddushin (40a) or Rashi (Avoda Zara 18b)

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  5. Sigmund said...

    Maybe he should have been w/his wife more often.
    ===============
    Actually he seemed to have been able to handle the situation until his wife seduced him.

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  6. "Actually he seemed to have been able to handle the situation until his wife seduced him."

    Well, an aveira never occurs in a vacuum. There's always some kind of trigger. Your point sounds a bit too much like saying, "R' Chiya was doing just fine until his wife came and messed it all up". It could be that it only *seemed* like he was handling the situation, until a situation came up and showed otherwise. Presumably, climbing up to the top of a pomegranate tree at the request of a prostitute is not a typical action of an older married man.

    Further, R' Chiya certainly had a hand in creating the situation which led to his wife trying to seduce him.

    This seems to be a good illustration of what the Rambam discusses in his Shmona Prakim regarding the balancing of middos. He says that Prishus is a noble middah, but taking it too far toward asceticism has negative consequences. In this case, R' Chiya was abstaining from his wife even when he could have been with her completely be'heteira, and that led to a bad result. By being too acsetic, R' Chiya ended up making his yetzer hara stronger than he could handle (and even created his own stumbling block via his wife).

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  7. Tzurah said...

    "Actually he seemed to have been able to handle the situation until his wife seduced him."

    Well, an aveira never occurs in a vacuum. There's always some kind of trigger. Your point sounds a bit too much like saying, "R' Chiya was doing just fine until his wife came and messed it all up". It could be that it only *seemed* like he was handling the situation, until a situation came up and showed otherwise. Presumably, climbing up to the top of a pomegranate tree at the request of a prostitute is not a typical action of an older married man.

    Further, R' Chiya certainly had a hand in creating the situation which led to his wife trying to seduce him.
    ================
    A person is obviously influenced by external factors. For example the prohibition of yichud is an acknowledgment that normal people will sin if given the opportunity.

    A person can be totally well adjusted until he is shown pornography or has unlimited access to internet. Or he/she is seduced.

    A person can be successful maintaining a healthy diet - until he reaches Pesach

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