Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why Amram married his aunt if the Torah prohibits it?

Me'or V'Shemesh (Shemos 6:20): And Amram took his aunt Yocheved for a wife and she gave birth to Aharon and to Moshe. It is an old question as to why Amram married his aunt when that would be a prohibited relationship with the Giving of the Torah. This is especially problematic when the offspring of this marriage would be none other than Moshe and Aaron through whom the Torah would be given. A possible answer is based on what I heard from one of the senior tzadikim of our times. He asked why it was permitted for a man to marry his niece – the daughter of his brother or sister – but it was prohibited to marry his aunt. He answered there are two major forces in the world – Male and Female [or Giver and Receiver]. The Receiver of influence is on a lower level than the Giver.  This is true of all such pairings that the one who influences has to be greater than the one who receives the influence. Therefore it is permitted to marry the daughter of his brother or sister because he is the Giver and she receives from him. That is because he is on a higher level than she in the development of the generation.  Similarly he is prohibited to marry his aunt so that the Receiver is not on a higher level than the Giver. In truth this is the way it is in the world when there is a relationship of a Giver and Receiver – the Giver is on a higher level than the Receiver. However in the realm of Torah learning, it is not necessarily so. That is because there are times when the student is much greater than the teacher. Furthermore it is the purpose of learning Torah that one should humble oneself and be able to learn from everyone – even if they are inferior to him as it says in Tehilim (119:99), From all my students I have learned. Therefore Amram alluded this to us through his marriage to his aunt who was on a higher level than him - so that there would come from them the source of the Torah through Moshe. This is the nature of Torah learning – that a great person should not be embarrassed to receive from someone who is inferior to him.


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  2. Before Matan Torah it was allowed.After Matan Torah there were people who wanted to kill Moshe Rabbenu because they did not want to divorce their wives.(aka-Aunts).

  3. They did not have too because Hashem told them after matan Torah to return to there tents. ( also a convert is like a new born ). Hamevin yavin

  4. P. Davidovici: why be so circumspect? I assume you're referring to the idea that the Israelites who left Egypt had the status of Bnei Noach and that they (along with all non-Israelites accompanying them) essentially underwent mass conversion at the time of Matan Torah. This is the reasoning given by Rashi in his comment in Sanhedrin 82a (dealing with the Zimri/Cozbi affair) as to why Moshe's marriage to Tzipporah, a Midianite, was not ever problematic:

    :בת יתרו מי התירה לך
    משה קודם מתן תורה נשא וכשנתנה תורה כולן בני נח היו ונכנסו לכלל מצות והיא עמהם וגרים רבים של ערב רב

    Gemara: "(Zimri to Moshe:) Who allowed you [to marry] the daughter of Yisro??"
    Rashi: "Moshe married [Tzipporah] before Matan Torah. And at the time that the Torah was given, all of them were B'nei Noach, and they entered into the Principle of Commandments [at that time] - and she [Tzipporah] with them, and the many gerim of the Erev Rav."

  5. The issue of Jews being converts at Sinai is really not clear. Here are some relevant sources. Everyone would agree that a convert is like a new born baby. But if they were newly born there there would be no relations to be prohibited.

    Yevamos (22a): Someone who converts is considered like a newborn baby.

    This is a dispute in the following gemora.

    Yoma (75a):[[ We remember the fish which we were wont to eat in Egypt for nought.10 Rab and Samuel [were disputing its meaning], one said: [Fish here means] real fish; the other said: Illicit intercourse.11 One who said it means real fish [explains it so because of] ‘which we were wont to eat’; the other who interprets it as ‘illicit intercourse’, does so because the term ‘for nought’ is used.12 But according to him who said it means ‘intercourse’, does not Scripture read: ‘Which we were wont to eat’? — Scripture uses an euphemism, as it is written: She eateth and wipeth her mouth and saith: I have done no wickedness.13 What does ‘for nought’ mean according to him who says they were real fish? — They were brought to them from public property, for a Master taught: When the Israelites were drawing water, the Holy One, blessed be He, prepared for them in the water little fish for their pitchers. According to him who said ‘real fish’, but with regard to illicit intercourse [he holds] they were not dissolute, it will be quite right that Scripture said: A garden shut up is my sister, etc.14 but according to the view that fishes mean ‘illicit intercourse’, what ‘fountain sealed’ is here? — They were not dissolute with regard to forbidden relations.15 It will be right according to him who interprets it as ‘illicit intercourse’, hence Scripture said: And Moses heard the people weeping for their families,16 i.e., because of the families [relations] with whom they were forbidden to have intercourse; but according to him who interprets it as ‘fish’, what does ‘weeping for their families’ mean? — Both17 are implied.

    Rashi (Yoma 75a): Prohibited sexual relations – They were now prohibited to them in the Wilderness. The expression “fish” is referring to sexual relations.

    The Maharal clearly holds that they were not full gerim and thus they had prohibited family relationships after Sinai.

    Maharal (Gur Aryeh Bereishis 46 10): concludes that the Jews at Sinai were not full Gerim - who are considered new born and thus have no blood relatioships. Being considered new born applies only to Gerim who are voluntary but the Jews at Sinai were coerced. Thus close relatives were prohibited after the Revelation at Sinai.

    The Meschech Chochma has a different approach:

    Meshech Chochma (Devarim 5 27): says that in fact they were not prohibited any wife they had from prior to Sinai. The Torah says they were told to return to their tents i.e. to their wife that they had from before the giving of the Torah. It was only the next generation which was prohibited to marry based on the Torah laws. Thus this is the source of knowing that a ger is considered newborn.

    1. Maharal (Bereishis 46:10):[[ offers two answers as to how the Avos married relatives who were prohibited according to the Torah and yet kept the whole Torah. He says either that they were considered Gerim who had no relatives or that what they did was according to Ruach HaKodesh. Just as G-d determined what the Torah prohibits He also can permit it and thus it is considered fulfilling the whole Torah.

    2. Maharal (Bereishis 46:10): 5] This was Dina - But the problem remains because the Patriarchs fulfilled the entire Torah and they knew it through ruach hakodesh. So how could they know not to marry a Cananite woman and yet apparently not know that about a relationship which was prohibited by the Torah? One explanation is that there is a difference between the period of time prior to the giving of the Torah and that period afterwards. While the Patriarchs did in fact keep the entire Torah but they had to accept it as people who had just converted to Judaism and were thus now like newborns…But that raises the question of whether those who were redeemed from Egypt were able to marry biological relatives because they accepted the Torah [Shemos 24:7] and were not born obligated to keep the Torah? That is in fact not a question since they were forced to accept the Torah as it says they were coerced to keep the Torah by having Sinai held over their heads (Rashi Shemos 19:17) and therefore they were not considered as newborns… We can also answer that the permission for the children of Yaakov to marry their sisters was from ruach hakodesh because the children of Yaakov were considered a separate people they were permitted to marry each other so that they would not need to intermarry with another people. Similarly we know that Adam was permitted to marry his sister as it says in Sanhedrin (58b) that his son Caine was allowed to marry his sister…All of this was known through ruach hakodesh. Because Yaakov had ruach hakodesh he knew that his sons could marry their sisters. Just as he knew to observe the Torah through ruach hakodesh, he knew what halachos he could ignore through ruach hakodesh and this is not a contradiction to the Torah because the Giver of the Torah prohibits and He permits as we have explained. This is also the reason that Yaakov married two sisters – even though the Patriarchs fulfilled the entire Torah was because Yaakov knew from ruach hakodesh that he should marry two sisters…. Thus his actions based on ruach hakodesh were not a violation of the Torah because the Source that prohibited is the Source that permitted (Kesubos 16a). The One who informed them of the Torah also informed them to do something apparently against the Torah. Thus Yaakov was informed that he should marry two sisters just as Eliyahu was informed that he should offer sacrifices outside the Temple - which is prohibited by the Torah…Don’t be bothered by the fact that Yaakov was embarrassed by the fact that he married two sisters as is stated in Pesachim (119b) that he didn’t want to accept the honor of saying the beracha at the end of the meal because he had married two sisters. This is not a question beause it was in fact an embarrassment because he only married two sisters because the Torah hadn’t been given yet and Yaakov knew that it was only permitted because it hadn’t been officially commanded. So even though he acted on the basis of ruach hakodesh it was still an embarrassment because in actuality the act would be prohibited with the giving of the Torah…And this that the Ramban (Shemos 26:5) answers that the Patriarchs only fulfilled the Torah completely in Israel – makes no sense and it is an unacceptable answer. My explanation is the view of our Sages and there is not doubt about them.

  6. In the Sefer Chassidim it says that the reason the Torah assured marrying an aunt was because usually an aunt is older.The purpose of marriage is to have children.If a mate is one's age or younger she can have many children.An aunt who is usually older can't fulfill that purpose.


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