Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sexual pleasure & Tzadikim - Vayikra Rab (14:5)

Rav Yaakov Emden (Mor uKetziya O.C. 240) brings this medrash as the reason why a beracha is not said before sexual intercourse - since even tzadikim are focused on pleasure and not on doing a mitzva.

Vayikra(14:5): Another understanding of Vayikra (12:2), If a woman conceives and bears a male child...Dovid alluded to this understanding in Tehilim (51:7), Behold I was formed in sin and in sin my mother conceived me. Rav Acha explained, Even if a person is the most pious of the pious – it is impossible that he doesn’t have an aspect of sin in him. Dovid said to G‑d, “Master of the Universe, did my father Yishai have the intention to bring me into the world – when he had intercourse with my mother. The fact is that he was only thinking about his own sexual enjoyment.The proof for my assertion is that after they both had satisfied their desires he turned his face in one direction and she turned her face in the opposite direction. And it was only You who caused every single drop of semen to enter.” This assertion is alluded to by Dovid in (Tehilim 27:10), For though my father and my mother deserted me, G‑d did gather me in.


  1. >Even if a person is the most pious of the pious – it is impossible that he doesn’t have an aspect of sin in him.<

    I never understand this. If we believe that sexual desires/activity in the proper time and place are commanded and even holy, why is often referred to as sinful (as the Christians and other religions believe)? I'd love to get an explanation...

    1. How do you understand the verse Tehilim (51:7), Behold I was formed in sin and in sin my mother conceived me?

    2. Dovy,
      Sin in Hebrew has two meanings, one a violation of the Torah, acting against Hashem's will, and the other is a mood or environment of pleasure so intense that a person is focused on this world. The gemora in Shabbos says that the Torah of children is without sin and the Torah of the rabbis is with sin. Meaning rabbis are married and children are not. This sin is not evil, it is desire.

      The second kind is a mitsvah, but it has a threat that it can bring a person into the desires that lead away from Torah. Tosfose in Taanis tells us that sometimes we have to fast on Shabbos, and then we fast because we did a sin of fasting on Shabbos. That is, sometimes we do something right, a mitsvah, but that mitsvah has inherent in it something bad, such as a fast on Shabbos, or the arousal of utterly primitive desires in intimacy. We do the mitsvah, but with the understanding that after we do it, we must not stay there, because it is the environment that leads to sin, and we must return to our quest for holiness.

    3. "sin" is a mistranslation of the hebrew word, the correct translation is "lack".

    4. Fila,
      You mean that in the second kind of "sin" we "lack" the proper environment of holiness?

    5. ז הֵן-בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי; וּבְחֵטְא, יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי. 7 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

      Two words are used, Avon, and Chet, which are both terms referring to sins.

      Which sin is David referring to? It is not clear. I wonder if Xtians use this as support for their views of original sin etc...

    6. The Sforno in Vayikra 18:6 seems to imply that sexuality is sinful only when it is purely a physical act. We consider a one-night stand sinful; we do not consider the marital union sinful.

  2. Rabbi Dovid EidensohnApril 25, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Reb Yehuda HaChosid in Sefer Chassidim tells us that better children result from parents who achieve arousal in intimacy. See 509 and 363. This refers to Chasidim, or specially pious people. Other people must seek arousal in their marriage to save themselves from desires that can lead to sin. Also, the wife has an obligation of SHER from the husband and he owes her has an obligation to arouse her. See Shabbos 13A. Also there is a mitsvah "and he should make his wife rejoice" that means two things, one the obligation of intimacy from the husband to the wife, and also, as taught by the Zohar and Rashi, it means that the husband should not try to seek selfish pleasure, but he should have in mind and intent to make his wife happy. Of course, if she is aroused, he will also be aroused. The Holy Shelo in Mas Shavuoth page 97:Biyalkut says that a rabbi must teach the community in shull publicly the laws of Bioh. Today this is very important. I have a website that has saved a lot of people from confusion. I also have CDs and DVDs on this subject, and have had discussions about this with rabbonim and gedolim.

  3. Thanks to all, especially Rabbi Dovid E, for answering. But to be honest, I still don't get it really. Hashem commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and -- until cloning becomes more popular -- there's only one way to do so. And there are many teachings of how holy and proper it is -- if done the right way. So I just don't understand why it (again, I'm talking of the proper variety) is considered something negative. I believe it is this confusion that might be the underlying cause of at least some of the pathological behavior out there. [???]

    Even the Torah seems to view it in a negative light, since we were admonished to separate for 3 days before Matan Torah. So then the question is on those who state/imply that is something infused with great holiness? Sigh...

    1. רש"י תהלים פרק נא פסוק ז

      (ז) הן בעוון חוללתי - ואיך לא אחטא ועיקר יצירתי ע"י תשמיש הוא שכמה עונות באים על ידו, ד"א עיקר יצירתי מזכר ונקבה שכלם מלאים עון, יש מדרשים למקרא זה ואינם מתיישבים לפי ענין המדבר במזמור
      אבן עזרא תהלים פרק נא פסוק ז
      (ז) הן - בעבור התאוה הנטועה בלב אדם כאילו בעון חוללתי והטעם כי בשעת הלידה היצר הרע נטוע בלב ומלת יחמתני זרה כאילו יחמה ממני על דרך ליחמנה וי"א כי זה רמז לחוה שלא ילדה רק אחר שחטאה:

      מלבי"ם תהלים פרק נא פסוק ז

      (ז) הן, מבאר איך מחויב הוא מצד המשפט להעביר עונו, כי האדם בטבעו מוכן בין אל העון שהוא עוות השכל, כי מצד ששכלו כלוא בחומר קל הוא שיטעה בדברים העיונים, ועז"א הן בעון חוללתי היינו שטבע יצירתי מחייב את העון שהוא עוות השכל, וכן הוא מוכן אל החטא שהוא מצד התאוה, כי בחטא יחמתני אמי, בעת החימום שנולד על ידי תאות המשגל נשאר בו טבע התאוה, שעל ידי זה עלול אל החטא שהוא מצד התאוה:

    2. Dovy,
      Very good points. Three things you mention: Why can a sacred thing be negative and two, confusion of this is causing a lot of problems. Also, we have here a discussion about "with sin my mother bore me." What sin?

      The answers to these is from Cabala. Very holy things upset the balance between good and evil and threaten the very existence of evil, therefore, when an extremely good thing is brought into the world there comes a balance of an evil thing, so evil can continue, because the purpose of the world is to test people with evil and reward them for not listening to the Satan.

      Thus Avrohom and Dovid were born with this "balance" that was mamosh sin, because inadvertent mistakes were made that were "evil." The mother was a Nida, for instance. The father was a pagan in Avrohom's case and with Dovid there was a mistake on the father's part that caused great problems. But this is why the creation of a soul, the highest level of humanity, comes with such earthly passion, to balance good and evil. Confusion on this is terrible today. I have a website that has helped a lot of people.

  4. There is perhaps a psychological basis for both Jewish, and L'havdil, Xtian guilt on this idea of original sin.
    There are many Freudian discussions on sexuality, and relationship with parents. What R'Emden attributes to David Hamelech is the idea that one can be born to parents who have engaged in activity that we find difficult to imagine, ie since we see our parents as almost superhuman and not the same as ourselves.
    Interestingly, for Freud, there are 2 types of psychological urges, Eros and Thanatos, which are sexual desire and death wish. Note, how in Judaism, 2 major forms of impurity are related to these 2 categories.
    Perhaps Freud was in need of understanding the Parah Adumah.

  5. Dovy:

    Let me try with a moshol. There is famous story (probably untrue) that when Queen Elizabeth I was once walking, she came across a mud puddle. Being the queen, it was beneath her dignity to walk through it. So Sir Francis Drake, one of her courtiers, supposedly took off his fancy cloak and spready it over the puddle so that Her Majesty could cross without getting dirty.

    Now this was considered a great honor to the Queen and very praiseworthy. Still, he got his cloak full of mud. It was a great act, but one which caused his clothes to be dirty. If he showed up the next week in court with a dirty cloak, then that would have been a disgrace and an insult to the Queen. Of course he jad his cloak cleanedand showed up in court looking his finest.

    Propagating the world is a great mitzvah and a great honor to Hashem. Still, when its time to receive the Torah, that's not the time to be involved in that earthly mitzvah.

  6. I always thought that a bracha was not recited because the other person can refuse.Also there is no bracha when giving tzedaka for the same reason.


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