Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rav Moshe Feinstein: Issues that people have a lust for leniences such as birth control are not to be presented to the masses

The issue is whether people will incorrectly think that there are leniencies because they are not paying proper attention to the matter or whether it means that since the average person has an inherently lust that blinds them to a proper understanding of the material - they should just be told what to do concerning these matters without explanation or texts. The former view seems to be that of Chazal and the Rishonim while the latter is the understanding of Rav Moshe Feinstein. 

An alternative explanation is that everyone else is discussing a normal yeshiva student who is assumed to have the proper attitude to halacha but might be distracted in a group . In contrast Rav Moshe is referring to giving information to those who don't have proper attitudes and therefore even if they paid full attention to the material they would distort its conclusions. The Maharsha views that the prohibition only applies to esoteric matters

Chagiga (11b): Mishna: Forbidden sexual relations should not be taught in the presence of three people…Gemora:…Therefore R’ Ashi said that the prohibition of teaching forbidden sexual relations must mean that the secrets of forbidden sexual relations must not be taught to three. What is the reason for this prohibition? It is a commonsense that when two students sit before their teacher, one student discusses the subject matter with the teacher while the other student listens to them. However when there are three students, one engages the teacher in discussion while the other two discuss it the matter between themselves and consequently what their teacher is saying. This lack of attention of the two students might lead to errors in permitting that which is prohibited in the matter of prohibited sexual relations. But if this is the concern, than why should this restriction of only teaching two students at a time apply to the rest of the Torah – why is it only concerning sexual relations? The fact is that prohibited sexual relations are different, as the master said: Robbery and prohibited sexual relations are both things that man’s soul covets and lusts for them. Then logically this rule of two students should also apply when teaching about robbery also? The answer is that concerning prohibited sexual relations – whether the opportunity is before him or not his desire from them is very strong. In contrast concerning robbery – if the opportunity is before him his desire is very strong while if it not before him he doesn’t have a strong lust for it.

Raviya (Chagiga 3:805): One should not teach about prohibited sexual relations before three students – Rav Ashi says that is referring to the secrets of prohibited sexual relations such as the daughter of the women he raped and other prohibited relations which are not explicit in the Torah but are learned from derashos. Since two of the students are involved in a side discussion and are not listening to their teacher they make mistakes and permit those prohibited relations because of their sexual lust. But this was true only in the period of the Amoraim who learned orally. In contrast we learn from texts and therefore there is no basis for this concern.

Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 22:17): The secrets of sexual relations are not to be taught before 3 or more people. That is because one student will be involved in discussion with the teacher while the two others will be talking to each other and will not be paying attention to the teacher. Since a person has an inherent lust to be engaged in sexual activities, if he has any doubts regard the permissibility of a particular relationship based on what he has been taught – he will rationalize that it is permitted. Therefore these issues should not be taught in this manner but rather only to at most 2 students at a time - so that they will both concentrate on the words of the and understand them clearly.

Tosfos haRid (Chagiga 11b): Do not teach secrets of prohibited sexual relations to three students - Rashi explains that this means teaching those prohibited relations which are not stated explicitly in the Torah such as the daughter of the women he raped or the mother of his mother-in-law which are learned in Sanhedrin (75a) from derashos. However this explanation does not seem correct to me. That is because the majority of Torah laws is learned from derashos and therefore it is a positive thing to teach these matters in public. Rather it would seem to me that the term “secrets of prohibited sexual relations” is referring to halachic leniencies which would lead to incorrect generalizations by the ignorant and therefore should not be revealed to them. Furthermore even to one’s own student they should not be taught to three students at a time because they might not all be paying attention and will not have correct understanding of the matter and will end up making mistakes as to the law and permit that which is not truly permitted by their teacher. This concern also applies to secrets of the Torah in general. The teacher will present leniencies which are not appropriate to be revealed to the ignorant – but are reserved for the talmid chachom.

Maharsha (Chagiga 11b): Sexual prohibitions should not be taught to three students…and this is referring to the secrets of sexual prohibitions. Rashi explains, “that the secrets are those prohibited relationships which are not explicitly stated such as his daughter from someone he raped or the mother of his mother-in-law. “ However the term “secrets” is not consistent with this explanation. I learned from an ancient book that the term “secrets” is to be taken literally. It is referring to the esoteric secret of marrying one’s sister and Satan has claims against Jews concerning this prohibition. Because we see that at the beginning of the world, Caine and Abel in fact did marry their sisters and it was not viewed by Adam as prohibited. Similarly it is not commonsense that the sister of one’s wife should be prohibited as we that Yaakov was viewed as having a perfect family and yet he married his wife’s sister. Furthermore those two out of three students who are busy discussing the issues and are not listening to the reasons provided by their teacher will come and permit that which prohibited in sexual relations – such as these secrets which are not obvious from commonsense. With this understanding, the questions are resolved because secrets of prohibited sexual relations are actually similar to “Secrets of Creation” and to “Secrets of the Chariot” – which are clearly secrets and definitely hidden matters.

Igros Moshe (E.H. 1:64): It is not my normal practise to look into rabbinic journals. That is because it should only be that I should have enough time to learn Torah and to examine the words of the Rishonim and Achronim from whom we live. Therefore I wasn't aware of this serious matter and particularly in this country - that concerning many it is possible to say that they are overwhelmed with lust and desire to be lenient. Public discussions of birth control is considered as sexuality (arayos) in which Chagiga (11a) says that it is not to be discussed with three people. In fact a subject which is discussed in a rabbinic journal is equivalent to teaching it to 1000's of people. Furthermore the readership includes those that lack sophistication and are far from being G-d fearing and fearers of sin. They read these articles to find leniences to fool themselves. It is not comparable to the discussion of Achronim in seforim. That is because only talmidei chachomim who want to know the true halacha - study books of responsa. These rabbis only write what appears to them to be true according to their understanding – which is the obligation to teach and pasken. When this is done for the sake of heaven our Sages describe this as Eilu v'Eilu (these and those are the words of the living G d). However to analyze these topics in a rabbinic journal which is accessible to the masses – this far from being considered for the sake of Heaven.

This that you heard from one rav that in Lithuania they permitted all women to use birth control for two years after giving birth – that is false. Because I know many rabbis who are extremely strict about this and I have never heard that there are rabbis who automatically permit birth control to the average woman. That is because the basis of the heter of birth control is only for danger. Therefore it is not relevant to state that such things as birth control are governed by the customs of the locale and city. Rather every rav who is great in Torah and thoroughly familiar with the Talmud and the words of the great rabbis – has full rights to judge according to his understanding in every question that comes before him – based on the facts of that particular case. Consequently it is absolutely not relevant to say that there was a general psak in Lithuania for this matter – and therefore your source testified falsely either on purpose or by mistake.

Igros Moshe (Even HaEzer 3:14):… As to the final halacha – it is clear as I have written in my sefer. All the essays that were written in rabbinic journals are things made up from their authors own reasoning and they are against the words of our sages - both the rishonim and the achronim and even the sources that they themselves have cited. I have already clarified the issues that they have written about but I don’t want to publicize these matters since they are not to be written in journals which are given to every man and woman. That is because these matters are not to be taught to three students as we find concerning the teaching of prohibited sexual relations (Chagiga 11a) and surely they are not to be to be published in journals which are sent to thousands and also to unsophisticated people and those who are far from fear of sin and are always looking for some justification for leniencies in order to fool themselves…

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