Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rav Sadiya Gaon: Mistaken imperative to surrender to love for personal growth and to serve G-d

We have discussed the issue of marriages breaking up because the husband or wife has fallen in love with someone else or has fallen out of love with one's spouse. We have discussed the issue of extramarital affairs, pedophila, pedastry, bestiality and homosexual relations. In modern times all these are justified by the imperative to follow one's heart as the supreme value.

There is a mistaken notion that the idea that love conquers all and that it justifies all - originated with Hollywood. Some think it originated in the Middle Ages. In fact it goes back to the Greeks. In the following essay from Rav Sadiya Gaon, he attacks those who feel that submitting to  love is the royal road to spiritual refinement as well as a necessity in learning to serve G-d. It also seems to be an attack on marriage based on a predestined - beshert or knowing it's the right person because you are in love.

Rav Saadia Gaon (Emuna v’De’os 10:7.4 –Cheshech/romantic love):Even though it is repulsive to discuss sexual desire [outside of marriage] - the topic of this chapter - but it is not more repulsive than discussing the views of kofrim (those who deny Judaism). So just as we discussed the views of kofrim in order to refute them and protect people from having doubts – therefore we will discuss extramarital sexual desire in order to refute improper views and to protect people from error. 

There are people who view sexual desire and love – without regard to its object - as the most important activity that man can be involved in. They mistakenly believe that any strong love refines the spirit and improves the personality until it becomes exquisitely sensitive and responsive from this great refinement.

They claim that this refinement process of love is extremely delicate as a result of the natural processes. It involves a substance which is created by the look of the eyes which is poured into the heart which arouses desire which becomes strengthened with the addition of other elements until it becomes firmly established.

They reinforce their view of the power of love by claiming that it involves the influence of the stars. Thus they claim that if two people were born under certain astrological events it is inevitable that there should be love and affection between them. 

They further reinforce this theory of love by claiming that the love is ultimately caused by G d. They claim that when G-d created the souls, He made them as spheres which He divided into two. He then placed the 2 halves into two people. Because of this division of the soul into two parts, when the soul of one person finds its missing half in another person, the first person becomes strongly attracted to the second person. 

They further reinforce the power of this theory of absolute love by claiming that it is an obligation to surrender to passion and its consequences. They claim that surrendering to the attraction of love to all others is a test to teach submission to G d and serving Him.

[Prof Rosenblatt translation]

Now the advocates of all that has been mentioned above are really thoughtless and without intelligence. I, therefore, deem it proper in this chapter, first of all, effectively to refute the spurious doctrines propounded by them. After that, I shall demonstrate the very opposite  of the theories to which they cling to be true. 

I say then, that so far as the thing they ascribe to our Lord, magnified and exalted be He, is concerned, it is inconceivable that He should use as a means of trial something that has been prohibited by Him. Indeed, it is as Scripture has said: God imputeth not 31 unseemliness (Job 24: 12), and also: For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; evil shall not sojourn with Thee (Ps. 5: 5). As for the doctrine of the division of the spheres to which they cling so tenaciously, since we have already refuted that in our refutation of the theory of uncreated spiritual <296> beings,32 making it clear that the soul of every human being is created simultaneously with the perfection of his form33 this theory has become completely null and void. 

As for their allegation in regard to the influence of the stars and the tallying of the two parts of the love-match, as well as of the constellations, if it were really as they say, it could never happen that Zeid should love Arnr without Arnr's reciprocation, seeing that they are both equal. We do not, however, find the matter to be so. 

As for their assertion, again, that this emotion originates from a look, after which desire is generated in the heart, I say that it was precisely on that account that our Lord, exalted and magnified be He, commanded us to devote both our eyes and our hearts to His service, as Scripture says: My son, give me thy heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Prov. 23: 26). He also forbade us to employ them in rebellion against him, when He said: And go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray (Num. I5: 39). 

This latter warning was issued against the consolidation of this state in the heart to the point where it would hold the subject in its grip and have such dominance over him that he would cut down on his eating and drinking and all other functions basic to his well-being. The consequence [of such a course] would be that his flesh would waste away and his body fall off and maladies would make their inroads on him in all their severity. And what about the inflammation and the fainting and the heart throbs and the worry and the excitement and the agitation, of which Scripture says: For they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait? (Hos. 7: 6.) 

These effects are sometimes carried to the brain, weakening the faculties of imagination, reflection, and memory, and sometimes even destroying the powers of sensation and motion. It m:Iy also happen that, upon catching sight of his beloved, the lover should swoon away and fall into a dead faint, his spirit leaving his body for twenty-four hours,34 so that he would be thought dead and be carried out and buried.f" Again it is possible that upon seeing his beloved or hearing him mentioned, the lover might emit a rattle and really die, thus proving the truth of the parable coined by the proverbist: For she hath cast down many wounded; yea, a mighty host are all her slain (Prov. 7: 26). 

How now can a person allow himself and his reason to be taken prisoner [by his passion] to the point where he will not know that he has a Master, nor any strength, nor <297> this world nor the next, outside of that passion, as Scripture has put it: But they that are godless in heart lay up anger; they cry not for help when He bin detli them? (Job 36: I3.) And what about the slavish submissiveness to the object of one's passion and to his retinue, and the sitting at the gates and waiting upon him everywhere, as Scripture expresses it: Lift up thine eyes unto the high hills, and see: Where hast thou not been lain with? By the ways hast thou sat for them? (Ier .. 1: 2.) And what about the vigils at night and the rising at dawn and the secrecy practiced so as not to be surprised in the act, and the deaths one dies whenever one is discovered in one's shame?

It is just as Scripture has expressed it: The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying: "No eye shall see me"; and he putteth a covering on his face (Job 24: 15)' And what about the murder of the lover or the beloved or of one of their retinue or of both them and those attached to them and of a great many human beings together with them that often results from being madly in love, as Scripture says: Because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands? (Ezek. 23: 45.) 

Again, if he should one day be successful in attaining the object of his quest and realize in adequate measure that for which his soul has made such strenuous efforts, he might be filled with remorse and hate what he had loved to an even greater degree than he had loved it, as Scripture remarks: And Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred; for the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved /W' (II Sam. 13: 15)

It should, therefore, be clear to a person that he has sold his soul and his religion and all his senses, as well as his reason, once this arrow has been released that cannot be taken back by him any more, as has also been expressed by Scripture in its remark: Till an arrow strike through his liver; as II bird hasteneth to the snare (Prov. 7: 23). This emotional state, therefore, has its appropriate place only in the relationship between husband and wife. They should be affectionate to each other for the sake of the maintenance of the world, as Scripture says: A lovely hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; with her love be thou ravished always (Prov. 5: J9). A husband should give vent to his desire for his wife in accordance with the dictates of reason and religion and to the extent required in order to bind them closely together but restrain it vigorously and forcefully beyond that point. 


  1. so where does the jewish concept of Beshert come from? And the idea that one's destined zivug is created 40 days before conception or birth?

  2. It is a gemora in Sotah (2a) and Mo'ed Katan

     R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: When Resh Lakish began to expound [the subject of] Sotah, he spoke thus: They only pair a woman with a man according to his deeds;17 as it is said: For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous.18 Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: It is as difficult to pair them as was the division of the Red Sea; as it is said: God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity!19 But it is not so; for Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: Forty days before the creation of a child, a Bath Kol20 issues forth and proclaims, The daughter of A is for B;21 the house of C is for D; the field of E is for F! — There is no contradiction, the latter dictum referring to a first marriage and the former to a second marriage.

    Someone I know was deeply infatuated with a young man she was going out with - but he had a lot of problems which made it obvious to everyone including her that he would be a poor husband.

    She was sent to Rav Aharon Schechter who advised her to stop seein the young man. She said but I feel that he my bershert - to which he responded "there is no such thing as beshert".

    If you read Rashi and other commentaries you will see that it is not easy to define what this predestination refers to - and it is very unclear what it means on a practical level as clearly people marry those who are not their true zivug and have good marriages while others can in fact marry their true zivug but end up getting divorced.

    So while it is nice to talk about for sheva brachos drashos - it is not clear that it has signficance beyond that.

  3. a reader commented

    Am also curious to know how this differs from the aggadata on
    Chava's creation cited by the Ramban & thereafter by the Sifsei
    Chaim in his kuntres to chassanim. That also explains the union of
    marriage via a past cleaving in two that we forever after seek to
    un-sunder. Is that not also such a romantic notion as this one Rav
    Saadia cites (originally from Plato's Symposium - cf. Aristophanes'
    (fictional) speech there).

    PS- Notion of love as life's end later than Greek; the
    Greeks themselves recognized but were wary of the erotic and celebrated
    much more the ideal of friendship as the love that transcends earthly
    The glamorous ideal of the erotic rather seems to have its seeds in Roman literature -- Virgil's Eclogues,
    e.g., from which the phrase "Love conquers all" originates and partly
    from Ovid, who wrote several words devoted to the subject even while
    being quited nuanced & ironic about it. Romantic love proper as an
    ideal of life for which one might die, never-ending courtship, the sight
    of the beloved as mystic union, etc. etc., all goes back only to the
    Troubadours in the Western Middle Ages -- also very much an Italian
    tradition mixed with Southern France: Capellanus, Dante, & such.

  4. See Rashi Breishis 22: 20, Vayugad leAvraham... shenoldo Rivka bat zugo...

  5. "Someone I know was deeply infatuated with a young man she was going out with - but he had a lot of problems which made it obvious to everyone including her that he would be a poor husband.

    She was sent to Rav Aharon Schechter who advised her to stop seein the young man. She said but I feel that he my bershert - to which he responded "there is no such thing as beshert".


    And she is still single!!!

    So let me ask you, who was "right" and who was "wrong"?

    Meaning was she "right" to listen to RAS and break off the Shidduch, altho she was not only listening to, she was under pressure from her parents to break it off and THEY sent her to RAS to do what they could not do, that he should throw his considerable charismatic weight behind their own failed pleas for her to break it off -- OR maybe, as I suspect she was right in the first place and should have listened to her own inner voice, it was not mere "infatuation" as you describe it because the Shidduch was "red" by her mentors and seminary teachers who felt it WAS a good Shidduch for her, and she would have then at least married a Bochur who may not have been perfect, but he would have made a good husband.

    After all, you have not detailed who the Bochur was or what his alleged problems really were and if it was just a Meshugas on the part of the parents who themselves are not 100% either!!!

    So, yet again, we have a scenario where RAS interfered in a case where he should just have said, this is beyond me, go for pre-marital therapy with a good Frum therapist and see what comes of it, which would have been the right thing to do.

    Instead this poor girl went to a non-sentimental Rosh Yeshiva like Rav Aron Schechter who does not abide by "frum speak" as he speaks his own "language" that one needs to know how to understand and interpret and quite often he will take a commonly used phrase or notion and turn it upside down or knock it down, NOT because he is is totally negating it necessarily but because he wants his listener's to re-think and re-evaluate their words or actions.

    So, repeat, NEBECH, this girl walked into the lion's den, and hey guess what? She was bitten by the lion and walked away with MORE of a problem in her life. And now sits all alone, without the Bochur she loved and could have married and tried to make a go of it, and all she has to hold on to are some now reckless and better-forgotten SHTUSIM and HAVOLIM that are not connected to anything, that she had no way of putting into any framework as she remains single and a casualty of a great man's callousness and disregard for human FEELINGS and and sensitivities.


  6. RaP - you do have this thing about Rav Schecter.

    I personally involved with the case and it was clear that the boy had some serious problems and that it would not work out - unless she would be come his mommy, therapist, rebbe etc etc. It was a very unhealthy relationship. But despite fully agreeing intellectually - she could not let go of the relationship. Rav Aharon succeeded in getting her to let go.

    So no I completely disagree with your ruach hakodesh and daas Torah that tells you that anything that Rav Schecter says - the opposite is the true path - especially in this case.

    It would also have been a disaster for the guy - who did not need a control freak filled with pity totally running and supervising all aspects of his life. I didn't mention the unhealthy relationship he had with his mother - who would not have let go of her control - even for a wife.

  7. @RaP - Wow! you are incredibly oversensitive and simply refuse to acknowledge that others can be right - when they disagree with you.

    There are such things as inappropriate or harmful relationships that are not redeemed or made healthy by love or a feeling that this one is beshert.

    You are pitting the emotional attraction towards a nebach young man over the collective and uniformly negative feelings of all those who knew about the two. Now it could be the love conquers all or that this was a true zivug - but when so many different people come to same conclusion - it is a safe bet that they are correct.

    The fact that Rav Aharon agreed and served to end the relationship - should not be a reason to ignore or reject the unanimity of everyone else.

    Do you also tell people that love is more important than everything else? Did you tell that to your daughters?

    Rabbi Freifeld also told some who were in love that it was not a good idea.

    Bottom line - it is a standard, well accepted idea in Yiddishkeit - that love does not conquer all. It is even recognized by therapists - especially when physical and emotional abuse is involved - that love does not conquer all.

    So no it is not yashrus and commonsense that you are promoting - but the opposite.

  8. RaP, you have a serious hangup with Rav Schechter. Your loathing seems to have overtaken your life and ability to be rational.

    Rav Hutner appointed Rav Schechter as Rosh Yeshiva. He also wanted Rav Schechter to be the ultimate authority for the yeshiva in the US. Which is why Rav Hutner discontinued the employment of RSC.

  9. Rap, it is not just Ras. All rabbis of some standing are asked such questions. I know someone who asked a big YU Rav a question about marrying a non frum woman on condition she became frum. Now they are divorced. So my friend blames the advice of the rabbi.
    This story has many permutations. But Ras involvement gives an opening for you tell us the CB maaseh again.

  10. People who ask shailos about matters of the heart deserve the answers they receive.

  11. רמב״ם בשמונה פרקים פרק ח אות ד:

    ...הרבה פעמים יטעו בו בני אדם ויחשבו קצת פעולות האדם הבאות לבחירתו שהוא מוכרח עליהם כזיווג פלוני או היות הממון בידו וזה בלתי אמת כי זאת האישה אשר לקחה... היא מצוה והשם יתברך לא יגזור בעשיית המצוה... (ע״ש האורך)

  12. DT, kishkeyum: In what sense do you say or agree that people who ask shailos about matters of the heart deserve the answers they receive?

  13. A group of gedolim - including the Steipler - signed a letter saying that a person has to decide who they are going to marry and that they should not go ask their rosh yeshiva or rav to decide for them.

    A rabbi or rebbtzin can offer clarification of issues or things that need to be dealt with - but the actual decision of yes or no has to come from the involved parties themselves.

    For those who don't want to take the responsibility for themselves then the deserve the answers from others which sometimes are helpful and sometimes unhelpful.

  14. In this sense: Who you should marry is a matter for you to decide, not your rabbi. If you place decisions of the heart into the hands of others, you have no cause for complaint when the decision is lacking.

  15. Is there an extant copy of this

  16. Is whom to marry more a decision of the heart than a decision of the mind?

  17. there are copies - but I have been unsuccessful in locating one.

    I was told it was written because the yeshiva bachurim were treating their rosh yeshiva as chassidic rebbes and were asking them whether they should marry a particular person or like the Seridei Eish were told that they should marry somebody.

  18. "Matters of the heart" is a colloquialism. Heart or mind, I don't care how you decide. So long as decision is your own, not a stranger's. Shailos to the rav are for halachic matters, not who you choose to spend your life and raise a family with.

  19. Hi Rabbi Eidensohn, I submitted a detailed response to your last comment to clarify some things. Hope you can publish i, or feel free to edit out anything you feel may be "too sensitive" but I do think it contained very important clarifications, otherwise why else would you hold it up for so long?

    Thanks again!


  20. RaP your detailed response was highly offensive. While trashing Rav Aharon as usually - and others such as myself as being clueless and destructive- you patted yourself on the back as the only One in a world of nebachs who knows how to handle the situation.

    I have warned you privately about this before - as others have repeatedly objected to these aspects in your comments. But I see that the only way to deal with this either to make a clear public warning or simply stop publishing your comments altogether

    Sorry RaP - I don't accept you as the all wise being - especially when you hold everyone else in various degrees of serious contempt.

    The only consistency in what you have been writing lately is the smirk with which you express your superiority to all others.

    How pathetic.

    In short your obsessive attacks on Rav Aharon, your overconfident pontifications on complex subjects, your insistence on writing detalied theses based on little data and much overgeneralization and finally your incredible narcissism - have become too much.

    If you want your comments to be published - tone them down and work very hard on your humility. I really do believe that you have much valuable insights to contribute - but the junk that comes along with it has become impossible to ignore anymore.

    Contrary to your repeated assertions - you have not been indispensable to the development of this blog or even more valuable than everyone else. You have written some very solid articles and some very not solid articles. You have also caused some serious damage along the way - with your mistaken presumption that Daas Torah is your blog

  21. Is the Rov less qualified to assist in making marital decisions on choosing whom to spend ones life with than parents (who as has been pointed out have historically had a greater influence than their child)?

  22. To extend on your remark, the sridei eish didn't want to marry her, and despite that was nevertheless told by his RY to marry her.

  23. Question about the particular case cited: while the girl never married, did the gentleman ever marry?

    And if you want to answer more, did his wife 'mother' him, or was she 'proper', whatever that means?

  24. a) Yes, a rav is far, far less qualified than parents. Obviously.
    b) Influence does not equal decision.

  25. Dear Rabbi Eidensohn, thanks for responding, and unlike you I am not offended at all since as you well know I have always deferred to your final judgements as to what to publish or not and I have never complained when you have at times removed years worth of work, because I do and always have recognized you as the sole authority and owner of this blog. So from my point of view I do not view your reaction as extreme, but in keeping with your rights.

    I do not think that I have been any more strident or less me in my last post. I never get involved in topics that I know virtually nothing about. But when I do get involved I try my best to share in a very open fashion what i know and my gut reactions. And that is what people like. I think that lately your blog has veered in the direction of a concentric circle of a small group of people who enjoy some sort of abbreviated bloggish way of "talking in learning" and in so doing you restrict a much broader public from learning from you because once you bring in heavy-weights who act like they are "rosh kollelim" rather than just commenters it makes it hard for your average curious Jew to join in.

    I have always viewed myself as a voice for the common person and I try to tailor my style not sound as if a "professor of Talmud" is speaking down to them. I try to write in an open, stimulating and readable fashion, and the fact that I have lasted so long on your blog and helped you from the start with some very difficult situations is well-known.

    I would like to know where you feel I have done "damage" to you or your blog in any way and then I can learn and perhaps offer a defense, but i cannot respond to blanket accusations.

    Honestly, it's up to you. If you feel that your Choshuva brother's style is better, then good luck, but he has so many blogs of his own and all you have is this one, and I have been helpful to you. Of course, you are the one who has always been the expert, but I have provided alternate views.

    I am not sure why now you want to censor your blog, but it is not good and will not get a better audience.

    Just reactions off the top of my head.

    One final thought in this thread, I have always been intrigued by that famous saying from Rav Yisroel Salanter, that "A Rov who they don't want to throw out is not a Rov, but a Rov who lets himself be thrown out is not a Mentsch"!! -- So which is it in this case??

    Best wishes,

  26. The issue is not whether the rav or parents are more qualified. I think it is appropriate to talk to people for feedback and advice. The main issue though is that each person needs to make the decision who they are going to marry. When that decision making process is left to another - it can cause manny problems.

    If you really believe that your rebbe has ruach hakodesh and that you will accept his decision and live with it no matter what - that is fine (assuming the rebbe has some basic commonsense).

    On the other hand - as in the case of the Seridei Aish - the rebbe did not understand what he was looking for and did not understand why he was unhappy (the S A said there was no love in the marriage which probably didn't mean anything to the Alter but really bothere the S A). So even though he accepted the decision of his rebbe as to marrying her - he did not accept the fact that they did n't relate to each other or appreciate each other.

  27. @RaP thank you for your reasoned response. At this point I have tried a number of times to explain myself - but you don't seem to understand what I am talking about. You are very quick to interpret what I am saying into something that I did not say or mean to say.

    Bottom line - I appreciate your insights into many things - I will just be more careful about approving comments that I think are inappropriate.

  28. I remember a Rov relating an answer he got from his famous Rosh Yeshiva
    after he had just got engaged to a girl. He asked – how do I know that the girl is the right one for me ? The RY answered that if the choice was based on common sense and straight thinking and added to this he had wonderful feelings for the girl – that was the right girl for him – today we don't have a Navi , so we don't we rely on our feelings.

    Being a divorcee is said to make prospects in the marriage market better
    than a single girl. The divorcee has made progress in life , she is not
    standing in the same place. However , marrying the wrong person depends on what compromise a person is willing to make. But a controlling person, especially a man, can be a sign of an abusive person and the abuse does not necessarily stop when the couple get divorced. If there are kids and the mother stays in the husband's zone of influence – not near the woman's mother – the ex can make life very miserable. So getting an objective
    opinion is valuable

  29. Which Gabbai of Rav Moshe and which teshuvos?
    When I first published the Yad Moshe - I was told by Rav Moshe's gabbai that Rav Moshe was opposed to an index of the Igros Moshe.
    He cited Rav Moshe's teshuva against translating the Igros Moshe. When I pointed out it was not referring to an index - he replied that the intent was anything that made access to the Igros Moshe easier. A number of poskim I spoke with about this said that interpretation was absurd. The point is that the gabbai had no problem of interpreting the Igros Moshe and claiming that his deductions and generationalizations were what Rav Moshe had said. And he was wrong.

    I was told to speak with one of Rav Moshe's close talmidim who told me that in fact Rav Moshe was not against an index and that Rav Moshe had encouraged him to write one.
    In short - what you hear from a gabbai has no impact on what Rav Moshe approved for publication.

    Similarly - citing Rav Miller - is largely irrelevant. He was not viewed as a significant posek - and surely not one to decide which psakim of Rav Moshe should be used. If he claimed that Rav Moshe regretted his rulings - without a written or some public statement from Rav Moshe the retraction has no significance. Besides that fact that Rav Moshe very rarely retracted his psakim.

    As I mentioned before Rav Feinstein disagreed with Rav Henkin - and did not retract his views because Rav Henkin disagreed - e.g., the disagreement about the validity of civil marriage. Rav Moshe - with the support of the major rabbonim and roshei yeshiva superceded Rav Henkin the highest halachic authority in America

  30. So would you suggest men and women marrying for the first time to prefer marrying a divorcee, all other things being equal?

  31. I think you posted this comment in the wrong spot

  32. Imho it is pretty clear from my comment that we are talking about 'older women ' , so often a divorcee is more attractive than a spinster

  33. Is this the letter saying 'bochurim' should get married earlier ( = no 'freezer).

  34. Don't know - That issue was never mentioned to me . someone claimed the letter my be in the 5th volume on the Steipler - if anyone has it please check

  35. Someone forwarded me this link and I'm curious - do you have any other postings related to the "sugya" of romantic love?

  36. To clarify, other commentators, particularly rishonim, on that topic?


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