THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) TALKING TO A WOMAN IN ORDER TO SAVE ONE'S LIFE
QUESTION: Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav relates that there was a man who
became infatuated with a certain woman. He became sick out of his
infatuation for the woman, and the doctors said that unless he could be
together with her, he would die. The Chachamim declared that he should
rather die and not sin with the woman. The doctors then said let if she were
to stand in front of him unclad, the man would live. The Chachamim again
ruled that it is better that he die. The doctors then said that if she
speaks with him from the other side of a fence, the man would live. The
Chachamim still ruled that the man should die and not speak to the woman
from the other side of a fence.
The Gemara then records an argument about the circumstances of the case. One
opinion says that the woman was married, and thus the ruling of the
Chachamim was clear, as the Isur of Eshes Ish is an Isur d'Oraisa of Arayos
and it is fitting to make safeguards. Another opinion maintains that the
woman was not married. The Gemara asks, according to this opinion, why did
the Chachamim not permit the man to see, or talk to, the woman, in order to
save his life? Even if doing so would lead them to sin, the sin would not be
severe as she was not married (see ARUCH LA'NER)! Rav Papa answers that the
Chachamim did not permit it because it would have caused a serious blemish
to the reputation of the woman's family. Rav Acha brei d'Rav Ika says that
the Chachamim wanted to prevent Jewish girls from becoming accustomed to
standing in front of men, making themselves unchaste.
The argument concerning whether the woman was single or married seems to
have Halachic consequences. According to the opinion which maintains that
the woman in the case was married, if such a case were to occur in which the
woman is single, then it would seem that it would be permitted to let her be
seen, or talk to, the dying man in order to save his life. Which opinion do
we follow in practice?
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Yesodei ha'Torah 5:9) rules that even in a case in which
the woman is unmarried, we do not permit a person to see her or talk to her,
in order that Jewish girls not be unchaste.
The BEIS YOSEF (YD 157) asks why the Rambam rules this way. Since there are
two opinions in the Gemara, and the question involves saving the man's life
by letting him see or talk with the woman, we should follow the rule that in
cases of life and death, we rule leniently, and we should let the man see or
talk to the unmarried woman!
(a) The Beis Yosef gives two answers. First, he explains that being
stringent in this case involves *inaction*. That is, we instruct her *not*
to do something (talk to the man). It is only a consequence of that inaction
that the man dies.
(b) Second, the Beis Yosef explains the Gemara continues and discusses the
reasoning of the opinion that says that the case involved an unmarried
woman, implying that this opinion is the accepted one, l'Halachah.
The first answer of the Beis Yosef implies that in any case of life and
death, we do not rule leniently when the stringency would be *not* to act.
RAV SHLOMO EIGER challenges this assertion. We know that on Shabbos one is
allowed to clear away the rubble from a fallen structure if there is any
doubt that a living person might be trapped beneath it. The Beis Yosef
himself rules this way (SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 329:3). According to the Beis
Yosef, being stringent in that case would involve an inaction (not clearing
away the rubble), and thus we should remain inactive and not desecrate
(c) RAV SHLOMO EIGER offers an alternative explanation for the Rambam's
stringency. He prefaces his answer by quoting the TERUMAS HA'DESHEN (#199)
who discusses when one may or may not sacrifice his life in order to avoid
violating a Torah prohibition. The Terumas ha'Deshen asks what is one
supposed to do in a case in which there are some authorities who rule that
he must sacrifice his life, while others rule in that case that he must not
sacrifice his life? Do we apply the rule that one should be lenient with
regard to matters of life and death? The Terumas ha'Deshen says that this
rule is not always applicable. The rule that we are lenient with regard to a
case of life and death applies only in a case in which the Torah clearly
says that it is better to violate a certain prohibition than to lose one's
life. However, in a case where there is a matter of Kidush Hashem involved,
it might be better to die than to transgress the Torah.
Rav Shlomo Eiger explains that the case of our Gemara is also different. We
cannot extrapolate from other cases of life and death in which the rule is
to be lenient, to the case of our Gemara. In the case of our Gemara,
permitting the man to talk to the unmarried woman would be a dangerous
precedent that might cause Jewish girls to become promiscuous, which would
constitute serious harm to the well-being of the Jewish people. The RAN (in
Maseches Shabbos) cites the BA'AL HALACHOS GEDOLOS who equates a damage to
the public well-being of the Jewish people to a life and death situation.
Therefore, the Rambam did not apply the normal rule that we are lenient in
cases of life and death.
(d) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM quotes a source that states that we do not apply
the rule of Piku'ach Nefesh in this case, because the man brought his
troubles upon himself by constantly letting his evil inclination take hold
of him with thoughts about this woman. Since his trouble is of his own
doing, we tell him that if he wants to get out of the trouble, then it must
also be of his own doing, by fighting against and defeating his Yetzer ha'Ra
(see RASHI to 31b, DH l'd'Ziv Lei, regarding Mar Ukva, who defeated his
Yetzer ha'Ra in a similar situation and merited to receive a spiritual light
over his head). (Y. Montrose)
2) THE PROHIBITION OF MARRYING ONE'S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER
QUESTION: Rav Ashi implies that we are able to learn which female relatives
a man is forbidden to marry from the corresponding relatives of his wife
whom he is forbidden to marry. The Gemara asks that the Mishnah in Yevamos
(21a) teaches that a man's grandmother is prohibited to him as one of the
Sheniyos, the relatives prohibited by the Rabanan. According to Rav Ashi,
just as a man's wife's maternal grandmother is forbidden to him by Torah
law, his own maternal grandmother should also be forbidden to him by Torah
Abaye answers that the verse specifically excludes a man's grandfather from
the prohibition of Arayos when it says, "Imcha Hi" -- "she is your mother"
(Vayikra 18:7), excluding his grandmother.
Why, though, does the Torah include in the Isur of Arayos one's wife's
grandmother, while one's own grandmother is not included?
(a) The ME'IRI explains that the Torah understands the nature of people and
it forbids that which is more common.
What does the Me'iri mean? Certainly a relationship with a mother is not
common and yet the Torah still forbids it! The Me'iri apparently addresses
this question when he continues and says that since a mother is in close
bodily contact with her son all the time, especially when her son is young,
the Torah found it necessary to write that from when her son turns nine, a
mother can be guilty of having relations with her son.
(b) The RADVAZ (1:352) explains that we do not use normal logical methods,
such as a Kal v'Chomer, in order to determine what is forbidden with regard
to the Isurim of Arayos. These prohibitions are decrees from Hashem; certain
people are permitted to a person and certain people are forbidden.
The Radvaz seems to agree with the RAMBAN (Vayikra 18:6) who says that there
is no simple or obvious reason why the Torah forbids these relationships.
The Ramban does say that there is a hidden reason (based on Kabalah) related
to the "Sod ha'Ibur," but he does not reveal its nature.
In contrast, the RAMBAM and IBN EZRA say that these are the women who are
most commonly around a person, and thus the Torah wanted to make sure that
the close relationships do not lead to such immoral behavior.
The Ramban asks many questions on their approach. One question is based on
our Gemara. A man's own grandmother is usually around him much more than his
wife's grandmother, and thus according to the logic of the Rambam and Ibn
Ezra, there is more reason to forbid his grandmother than to forbid his
We can answer this question based on the words of the Me'iri cited above,
and as further elucidated by the Radvaz. The Radvaz gives a logical reason
to explain why the Torah prohibits one's wife's grandmother and not one's
own grandmother, even though, he says, a logical reason is not necessary. He
explains that if a man is fifty years old and marries a woman who is
sixteen, her grandmother easily could be a few years *younger* than her
husband, and her husband could be attracted to her. Therefore, the Torah
prohibits this relationship. However, a man's own maternal grandmother will
always be much older than he is, making it extremely uncommon for such an
attraction to occur. According to this explanation, we can understand the
reasoning of the Rambam and Ibn Ezra. The Torah forbids relationships based
not only on the proximity of these people to him, but based also on how
attractive such a relationship would be to a person. Therefore, the Torah
does not find it necessary to prohibit a man's grandmother, while it does
find it necessary to prohibit a man's wife's grandmother. (See SEFORNO ibid.
for an additional insight into the nature of these prohibitions.) (Y.