Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women don't ask for marital relations directly - Refined character or curse?

In a recent post of the explanation of the Maharal - that the merit of being redeemed from Egypt was because of the lust of the women for their husbands - the question was raised why he omitted part of the gemora in Nedarim (20b)? The gemora presented a contradiction between the undesirability of relations with a brazen woman who asks directly for intercourse and the praise of women who are active in getting their husbands to have intercourse with them. This is what the gemora says:
Nedarim (20b): And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me. R. Levi said: This refers to children belonging to the following nine categories: children of fear, of outrage, of a hated wife, one under a ban, of a woman mistaken for another, of strife, of intoxication [during intercourse], of a mentally divorced wife, of promiscuity, and of a brazen woman.
But that is not so: for did not R. Samuel b. Nahmani say in the name of R. Jonathan: One who is summoned to his marital duty by his wife will beget children such as were not to be found even in the generation of Moses? For it is said, Take you wise men, and understanding [and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you]; and it is written, So I took the chiefs of your tribes, wise men and known but ‘understanding’ is not mentioned. But it is also written, Issachar is a large-boned ass; whilst elsewhere it is written, And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the titles?
— [It is virtuous] only when the wife ingratiates herself [with her husband].
The Maharal omits that it is praiseworthy for women to persuade their husband to have intercourse  only if they hint or ingratiate themselves with their husbands - but not if they ask directly.

One obvious possibility is that perhaps the Maharal doesn't think that women have to indicate indirectly. However that is clearly not true as can be seen from the following statement in his commentary to Bereishis.
Maharal (Bereishis 3:16): And your desire will be to your husbandto have sexual relations even though you are not so arrogant as to directly ask for it (Rashi). Because if you were allowed to directly ask for sexual relations then “to your husband will be your desire” is not a curse but rather a beracha and desirable. Furthermore what is the significance here of saying “And he will rule over you”? Because even before Eve was cursed the Torah (Bereishis 1:28) said, “And will have control” is written without a “vov” to teach you that the man is to have control over the woman that she should not be constantly leaving the house (Rashi). [So what is added by this verse?] It is to add additional subservience - that even though the woman’s desire is for her husband and he controls her but she is not to be so brazen as to ask directly for sexual intercourse. In other words, everything has to come from him and nothing comes from you. That is the curse. Because she is not to be so brazen as to ask for intercourse but everything is from him and not from you.
The Maharal clearly says that the requirement to ask indirectly is a curse that was given to Eve - and thus to all women.

Further research seems to indicate that there is a dispute amongst authorities whether this requirement for women is 1) simply a desirable behavior for all women not to be brazen or 2) it is a punishment and curse for the Sin of Eve.

Desirable personality trait for all women not to be brazen
Ramban (Bereishis 3:16): And to you husband will be your desire - for sexual intercourse. Even so she should not have the arrogance to ask for it directly. Rather he should rule over you that everything is from him and not from the wife. This is Rashi’s explanation. But it is not correct. This verse is in fact a praise of the wife as it says in Eiruvin (100b) that this is a beautiful characteristic of women. Ibn Ezra says that the expression “your desire will be to your husband” means that she will obey all that he says, because the woman is in the domain of the husband to do all that he wishes. However I have found no instance where this language of “desire” means obedience – it always means passion or lust. It appears correct to me that she was punished that she would have very strong desire for her husband and she would not be concerned with the associated suffering of pregnancy and birth and the fact that the husband treats her as a slave. It is not normal that a slave should desire to have a master but rather the slave wants to escape to freedom. However this is measure for measure because Eve gave the fruit to Adam and commanded him to eat it. Therefore she was punished that she would no longer be his boss but that he would boss her according to his wishes. 
 Eiruvin (100b): And you shall have desire for your husband – this teaches that she has a strong desire for her husband when he set out on a journey. And he shall rule over you - this teaches that a woman asks with her heart while her husband asks directly for intercourse. But this is a good attribute for all women [not to be brazen and it is definitely not a curse]? [The curse is] that she must act seductively and ingratiates herself with him but can not directly say what she wants.
Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Bi'ah 21:13): And similarly our Sages have said that any brazen woman who directly asks for intercourse…. will give birth to children who are rebellious and sinful who will be purified by the affliction of Exile 
Rashi (Nedarim 20b): [She is acting virtuously in getting her husband to have intercourse] Only by ingratiating herself with her husband – But she does not directly ask her husband to have sexual intercourse but rather ingratiates herself with him. That means that she shows from her words that she is interested as Leah did and as a consequence she will have good children,. 
Curse as the result of the Sin of Eve to be seductive to obtain it
Eiruvin (100b): Rav Yitzchok bar Avdimi said, Eve was cursed with 10 curses as it says Bereishis (3:16), “To the woman, He said, and I will greatly mulitply.” That is referring to two drops of blood – one being that of nida and the other that of virginity.”your pain”, refers to the pain of raising children. “And your travail”, refers to the pain of pregnancy. “and in your pain you shall give birth to children” is literally birth pains. “And your desire shall before for your husband” teaches that a woman has a desire for her hsuband when he is about to go on a journey.”And he shall rule over you” teaches that while the wife expreses her desire for her husband with her heart, the husband does exresses his desire for her with his mouth. But this is a fine character trait of women? What it meant is that she needs to ingratiate herself with him. But these are only seven? When Rav Dimi came to Bavel he explained, She is wrapped up like a mourner, she is banished from the company of all men and she is confined within a prison.(Mishlei 44:14).
 Eiruvin (100b): And you shall have desire for your husband – this teaches that she has a strong desire for her husband when he set out on a journey. And he shall rule over you - this teaches that a woman asks with her heart while her husband asks directly for intercourse. But this is a good attribute for all women [not to be brazen and it is definitely not a curse]? [The curse is] that she must act seductively and ingratiates herself with him but can not directly say what she wants.
So why did the Maharal omit the requirement? I think it was because it is well known that the women in Egypt were righteous and therefore they obviously had a refined character and would clearly not ask directly but provide hints  - so there was no need to mention it.
Pischei Teshuvos (O.C. 240:13): Rambam(Hilchos Ishus 15:18) said, And the Sages commanded the woman that she should be modest within her house and not to talk a lot or display levity before her husband and she should not directly ask him for intercourse nor should she talk about intercourse. However the intent of our Sages was that she shouldn’t ask and speak about intercourse in a manner of brazenness and arrogance as the Sages said, “children of brazenness”. However if she speaks in a clean manner such as saying “Come to me” [as Leah said to Yaakov] or she makes him interested with words of enticement and she beautifies herself with cosmetics in order that he think about her [then that is appropriate] – then they will have proper children.

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