Monday, November 19, 2012

Maharal - BM (84a): discussing marital relations

Maharal (Be’er HaGolah 5:4): Opponents of the Talmud claim that there are issues in the Talmud – that even though they describe real matters – nevertheless are improper for people to speak about them and surely to write about them – because they are disgusting. For example Bava Metzia (84a) describes a Roman noblewoman who told Rav Eliezer Ben Rav Shimon and Rabbi Yosse that they could not have fathered their children because they were so fat that it would have been impossible for them to have had sexual relations with their wives. They replied that, Each man according to his strength (Shoftim 8:21) or others say that they replied that “love compresses the flesh.” The gemora ends this discussion with a description of the large size of their genitals – either 3 or 5 kabbim or as big as wicker workbaskets. Obviously it seems bizarre to write these matters in the Talmud. Even though Tosfos offers an explanation for this gemora [that it was needed to silence rumors that their children were mamzerim], however that explanation was only for the masses who don’t understand deep ideas. However in truth these matters are profound esoteric matters… You should realize that these matters were said to honor G‑d and to glorify Him. Unfortunately there are many scholars [e.g., Rambam More Nevuchim 3:49] - i.e., those who investigate the world with the power of their intellect – who claim that sexual relations are inherently disgraceful, shameful and an embarrassment to man. In fact these scholars unequivocally believe that the sense of touch is inherently shameful to us. The purpose of this gemora is to reject their claim. In fact it is totally incomprehensible that the foundation of all, the basis for sustaining the world i.e., propagating mankind – is built on something which is inherently disgusting and shameful. Even more problematic is that it is not respectful for G‑d that the foundation of the world is a shameful and degrading matter. As is well known if the foundation is rotten then the structure built on it will collapse. Therefore it is important to reject this view because there is nothing in the sexual relations of a man with his wife that is the slightest degrading. This positive view of sexuality is in fact Daas Torah – the view of the Torah. Bereishis (2; 25) says, And both were naked… and but they weren’t ashamed. Thus we see that there is nothing degrading about this at all because if it were degrading why shouldn’t they be ashamed? If you want to answer that they weren’t intelligent at that time –such an assertion is simply incomprehensible. We know that Adam was incredibly intelligent because he was able to profoundly understand the nature of each creature and give each creature its correct name (Bereishis 2:20) – so how can it be claimed that he was lacking in intelligence? This assertion about Adam was refuted by the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchimn 1:2)… One cannot say that before Adam sinned he lacked intelligence and after he sinned he acquired intelligence and wisdom! So obviously the matters is as we have said – there is inherently absolutely no degradation is this matter at all. Whatever is degrading is the result of man focusing on his lusts and animals desires – from that aspect it is shameful. Therefore before the sin of Adam, man merely had some inclination toward lust and desire - and there was no absolutely nothing shameful. It was only shameful when desire was no longer external but fully entered him and lust became part of his physical nature. But even then it was only shameful because of the aspect of his lust.


  1. As a former Rambamist, I am in agreement with the Maharal here. A lot of the claims of rambam are far fetched, eg that Abraham did not get any physical enjoyment from his his riches, and that it was only to propagate the species... etc.

  2. I think the idea that physical senses are disgraceful originates with the Greeks which would explain where the Rambam got it from. Anyone care to clarify?

    1. Rambam did not get it from the Greeks. Rambam got it from the Torah.

  3. these issues can waitNovember 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    What does the Maharal say about Gaza? or Bomb shelters?


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.