Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Marriage - even for a few days?

Ben Yohoyada(Yoma 18b): When Rav visited the town of Darshis he would announce: Who wants to be my wife for a day? G‑d forbid to have doubts about these great scholars of Israel to say that they have such tremendous lust for intercourse. G‑d forbid to think that they are not able to live without a woman for a few days – something that even the crudest person is able to tolerate – and surely such holy people as these who sanctify themselves from excesses. Furthermore if it were true that these men had such uncontrollable desires – G‑d forbid – why weren’t they concerned about their own reputations and especially since they even announced it? Who would do such a public announcement? Furthermore what is the reason that this was written in the Talmud? It can’t be to debase these scholars G‑d forbid! If it were to learn the halacha – there was no need to mention their names. Please pay careful attention to the explanation that justifies their actions. That is there are times when there is a bad practice in various places that the men do no get married until after they are 30 or 40 years old. This practice is found today in Kurdistan and also in places in Europe. In the time of Rav and R’ Nachman this was the practice of Darshis and Shekuntziv. Therefore when these rabbis went to these places they would rebuke the people not to wait later than 20 to get married. But since this problem was well established in these places and many of the ignorant masses erred in these matters – the rabbis made announcements concerning themselves in order to draw attention to this in the most dramatic way. When the masses saw that the rabbis viewed marriage so important even for a few days it became apparent that this was surely true of themselves. They said that if these rabbis who are involved in Torah study day and night and they are holy people and they are also married – nevertheless they are concerned with seminal emissions and thus don’t want to remain without a woman even a short time then surely we who are unmarried with much stronger lusts – it is best we got married and not delay anymore to remain without a wife because of the issur of wasted seed….


  1. Do you think that the Ben Yehoyada had this as a mesorah?
    Joel Rich

  2. Joel Rich said

    Do you think that the Ben Yehoyada had this as a mesorah?
    This is clearly is his own understanding. It is not reflected in the Rambam or Shulchan Aruch.

  3. That makes the story a bit more understandable. I also noticed that in Yoma 18b, Rav only annouces that he's *looking* for a one-day wife. It doesn't say that he actually went through with it. Also, the story is limited to this one city (or Shekuntziv in the case of Rav Nachman), and one need not assume that Rav made such an annoucement in every city he traveled to.

    Still, how does Ben Yohoyada explain the rest of the gemara. A kasha on Rav's action is brought in the gemara right away. Why wasn't this answer brought? Instead, the gemara discusses why it would have been assur for most people, but not for Rav or other well-known individuals.

    Also, if the purpose of Rav's announcement was purely pedagogical, then even though he might be teaching the importance of marriage one one hand, he's also in danger of being misunderstood and having the inhabitants of Darshis think that the one-day-wife arrangement is muter for everyone.

  4. The Ben Ish Hai's(the author of Ben Yehoyda) primary source for this is the Ari.

    From a quick scan of the actual text it does seem that he deals with rest of the Gemorrah, this is only a small piece of the overall text which is quite lengthy really. In the printing that I own, his treatment of this covers the better part of two Amudim...

  5. "there are times when there is a bad practice in various places that the men do no get married until after they are 30 or 40 years old. This practice is found today in Kurdistan and also in places in Europe."

    In a way, it's somewhat comforting that this isn't just a 21st century problem.

  6. It's a nice counter-explanation to the one in the Y.U. paper "Kol Hamevaser" (March issue titled "Kedoshim Tiyhu"--apparently a euphemism) which was extremely anti-Orthodox (and did not invoke any mesorah either.)

    That issue can be downloaded here:

  7. Only on the surface does the Ben Ish Hai appear to not invoke a mesorah. The truth is his mesorah is implied. Ben Yehoida is only part of the overall work Beniyahu Ben Yehoida. Which he states in his introduction that the work was to be a commentary based on sources found in sifrei Kabbalah.

    The portion entitled Beniyahu, primarily, deals with explaining the Sod aspects of the Gemarrah, though at time it strays into the Pshat. Ben Yehoyda's primary focus is on the pshat aspect.

    Typical wrting style for the Ben Ish Hai was to, for whatever reason, not specifically cite his sources unless he was quoting himself. In reference to his halachic works one can usually turn to R' Ovadiah Yosef's works to find the "back story" of who the Ben Ish Hai was quoting. With these works I do not know of anything like that. One simply needs a mastery of Kabbalistic texts.

    The only time that I know of the Ben Ish Hai breaking with this practice was in his Da'at U'Tevunot. Even then it was only in the first sections of the book where he is trying to explain in great detail how one is to understand certain Kabbalistic concepts and not stray into Kefirah of Avodah Zara. He specifically was demonstrating how Kabbalah has only ever recognized one ruling force in the universe, HaShem, despite its discussions of sephirot and other things. There his quotations are as much to show that this is not his chidush, but the way things were understood from the time of the Rashbi until now.


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