Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sotah (3:4): An ascetic (angelic) woman destroys the world

The Tiferes Yisroel that Rav Kasher quotes below says that asceticism is inherently inappropriate for woman and is therefore destructive - is consistent with my thesis that kedusha i.e., perishus - is not the path for women's spiritual development. This is also the explanation of the Maharal. And that is why women don't wear a kittel on Yom Kippur because they can't be like angels who are removed from gashmiyus.

Maharal (Sotah 22a): Mishna: ... an ascetic woman (isha perusha) and ascetic wounds ... destroy the world. Women are materialistic and therefore asceticism is not relevant for her i.e., to abstain from that which is permitted to her. That is because abstaining from that which is permitted is abstaining from materialism entirely and this is simply not characteristic of women since they are materialistic therefore it is not normal for her to be ascetic. If you do find a woman who is ascetic it is because she wants to be viewed as a righteous woman and thus it is for her benefit – rather than for spiritual purposes. This is similar to “ascetic wounds” It happens to a person who is excessive with his asceticism and he does things which are inappropriate. This is only done is to make an impression on others rather than for spirituality and thus it is not normal. So not only do these two categories fail to build the world they actually are destructive to the well being of the world. That is because all things which are excessive - remove a person from the world. Similarly foolish piety which is also mentioned in this Mishna and a cunning wicked person – because they all act inappropriately. It is very necessary to understand these matters in order that a person knows to do acts of piety with wisdom and common sense.

Torah Shleima (Bereishis 30:16.58):The Yerushalmi Sotah (3:4) states that the “isha perusha” referred to in the mishna is one who sits and insults the words of the Torah which says that Leah said “come to me.” In other words she is proclaiming herself more modest than Leah who directly asked for sexual relations from Yaakov. In fact however she is only doing that in order to insult the words of Torah. This is similar to the explanation of the Pnei Moshe. (In the sefer “Ahl HaYerushalmi” it brings from the Roman Manuscript that the text is not ma’aleves (insults) but ma’aleges (ridicules)... Sotah (22a) explains it means a woman such Yochni bas Retuvi ( who was a witch but she presented herself as a righteous woman). ... However the Tiferes Yisroel (Sotah 3:4) says that an isha perusha is one who truly conducts herself with extreme asceticism. The reason that Chazal say such behavior is destructive is that it is not appropriate for a woman to be ascetic. We see this from another statement of Chazal here that a woman prefers one measure of food (minimal) with sexual excess than 9 measures of food (maximal) with sexual abstinence. Thus condemnation of isha perusha (the ascetic woman) is to understood in the context that asceticism is inherently not appropriate for women. Furthermore the Redal in his comments notes that the Yerushalmi’s comment is to explain the statement here of Rabbi Eliezar that one who teaches his daughter Torah is as if he is teaching her immorality. That is because by means of studying Torah she will become cunning which will enable her to bring support for her immoral behavior from Leah who said to her husband, “come have sex with me.” She will also come to ask directly for sexual intercourse.< [I saw in the Otzer HaChaim that it expresses surprise at the words of this Yerushalmi because at first glance it would seem that there is no connection between the isha perusha (ascetic woman) and the woman arrogantly asking for sexual relations. To answer this problem he answers that he heard that in the library of Paris that there is an edition of the Rambam which has the text “isha perutza” (the wanton woman) instead of our text “isha perusha” (the ascetic woman). That variant text seems to fit the Yerushalmi well. However according to our explanation the text which says “ascetic woman” does in fact make sense. In fact if the variant text is the correct one – there would be no need for any explanations since it would be self-evident that a wanton woman would behave that way.]

10 comments :

  1. Who is this Rabbi Menachem M. Kasher? Any synopsis of who he is and what he (philosophy, etc.) represents?

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    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Mendel_Kasher

      The Torah Shleima is available free on Hebrew Books

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  2. The Kav Hayashar has sime amazing stuff on AL Tihyeh Tzaddik Harbeh in This topic

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  3. "And that is why women don't wear a kittel on Yom Kippur because they can't be like angels who are removed from gashmiyus."
    According to the M. A. wearing a kittel has nothing to do with becoming angelic, rather to inspire fear of death which he says is appropriate too for a woman. It is wearing white which is angelic and thereby inappropriate for a woman.

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  4. for a different approach:

    http://lib.cet.ac.il/pages/item.asp?item=17392

    i will be the first to admit that in the orthodox world this professor's (yikes!) conclusion wouldn't be accepted because, as he admits, one has to disregard a rashi on the sugiya. but it is interesting none the less.

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  5. well, I suppose that there really is NO path for female religious development, a woman can just benefit from the z'chuiot her husband (perhaps also sons) gained by learning Torah or becoming holy.

    women are intrinsically of a different spiritual nature, one that has no access to holiness by themselves. They are made to bread children, not to be spiritual or to attain intellectual heights.

    I suppose this is the true reason why we say the bracha "she lo assani isha" every day: We are thankful that we have access to heigher realms, that we can accomplish holyness through torah and mitzwoth, while women can't. this is also the reason why women could not play any active role in the service of g-d in the temple: they are not fit for it, it would be an abomination if a woman took a kohens place in sacrifices.

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    1. Why do you insist on understanding the fact that men and women are different and have different paths to spiritual development men - that "there really is NO path for female religious development" The rest of your post is also a major distortion of what I was saying.

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  6. Rav Kasher was considered a Gaon in certain circles. He had a prodigious memory and knowledge of texts and manuscripts.
    He was from Gur Hassidut, was both Zinoist and Moderniish, hence not fully accepted in the Haredi world, although his works are greatly respected.

    Indeed, he wrote a book called HaTekufa Hagedolah, in which he published the Kol HaTor, which was attributed to the Gra, altho this is under some dispute (eg R' Shternbuch - DT please confirm).

    The book was very religious -zionist, and was published after the 6 day war. It was also a rebuttal of the Satmar view,

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  7. Haha nice picture, I see what you did there :)

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  8. Consider the reason why Chazal instituted the bracha of Shelo Asani Isha.

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