Following my question on "separation of men and women on Hakhel",

in this Drashah (thanks Lee) R' Uri Sherki (Mercaz Harav) explains the lack of separation of men and women on Hakhel by the fact that " there's no Yetzer Harah when a Torah Scroll is opened/read" (starting at 36:00).

What could be the source of this claim?

  • 2
    Doesn't the Talmud (Succah 52a) state that men and women still need to be separated even when there's no yetzer hara? אמרו והלא דברים ק"ו ומה לעתיד לבא שעוסקין בהספד ואין יצר הרע שולט בהם אמרה תורה אנשים לבד ונשים לבד עכשיו שעסוקין בשמחה ויצה"ר שולט בהם על אחת כמה וכמה
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


I believe the basis for the claim stems from the Bavli (Niddah 13a):

רב יהודה ושמואל הוו קיימי אאיגרא דבי כנישתא דשף ויתיב בנהרדעא אמר ליה רב יהודה לשמואל צריך אני להשתין א"ל שיננא אחוז באמתך והשתן לחוץ. היכי עביד הכי והתניא...? אמר אביי עשאו כבולשת... כיון דבעיתי לא אתי להרהורי. והכא מאי ביעתותא איכא... ואב"א ביעתותא דשכינה ואיבעית אימא אימתא דמריה עליה דקרי שמואל עליה אין זה ילוד אשה

Trans. (Sefaria):

Rav Yehuda and Shmuel were standing on the roof of the synagogue that was destroyed and rebuilt in Neharde’a. Rav Yehuda said to Shmuel: What can I do? I need to urinate. Shmuel said to him: Shinnana, hold your penis, so that the water does not fall onto the synagogue roof, and urinate outward, away from the synagogue. ‏The Gemara asks: How could Rav Yehuda do so? But isn’t it taught in a baraita... ‏Abaye says: The Sages rendered the halakhic status of this situation like that of a troop of marauders... Here too, in this incident involving Rav Yehuda, since he is afraid he will not come to have sexual thoughts. The Gemara asks: And what fear is there here, in the case of Rav Yehuda?... And if you wish, say that the awe of the Divine Presence that dwells in the synagogue is upon Rav Yehuda. And if you wish, say that the awe of his Master, God, is upon him...

From here we can infer when the Torah scroll is open/read -and ordinarily in a synagogue which adds to the assumption that the divine presence is present- we are not suspect of hirhurim (AKA yetzer ha’ra).

(While being used to explain the halachic permissibility of a woman’s qualification for being one of the seven ‘olim (since the reading of the Torah is being done in a shul; Meg. 23a), other various halachic applications were made with the above forming the basis, most notable -perhaps- was the Chida (Marit Ayin, op cit.). R. Shlomo Kluger (Tuv Taam Vadaat §189), citing a midrash, writes that the evil inclination is not in control in a synagogue.)

  • An interesting thought, though, I think the two situations (peeing and sex) are too different to learn from one to another.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:05
  • @AlBerko The greater context of the matter in that sugya is the issue of taking hold of the member (even when urinating) which can lead to fondling and possible ejaculation. It is regards to that (essentially: *hirhurim*/illicit thoughts) which the gem. answered “since he is afraid he will not come to have sexual thoughts”. The two are therefore very much related, besides for the common basis: fear (spiritual or bodily harm) vitiates illicit thoughts.
    – Oliver
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:25
  • just for Pilpul - I could say that because urinating is a Mitzvah on its own, combined with the awe of Beis Midrash members that would suffice, but to rub against women on Hakhel is all different.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:29
  • 2
    @AlBerko huh? (15)
    – Oliver
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:31
  • This is better source then mine, I know this Gemara, but it didn't came to my mind when answering. +1. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:08

IMHO Rabbi Sherqi's explanation is a סברא (i.e. conjecture). As he states elsewhere in the shi`ur, when one's intellect is focused (or להבדיל while mourning) one's base desires are diminished. I think this can be attested to by any emotional healthy person. I don't recall Rabbi Sherqi offering a specific source - Rabbinic or otherwise - for his conjecture.

In the shi`ur, Rabbi Sherqi uses the same line of thinking to explain the Sepharadi custom for women to fold back the curtains in the women's section when the Torah is being paraded through the synagogue.

Edit: IMHO The mishnah (Pirqe'i Avot 3:1) hints at this concept:

עקביה בן מהללאל אומר, הסתכל בשלושה דברים, ואין אתה בא לידי עבירה--דע מאיין באת, ולאיין אתה הולך, ולפני מי אתה עתיד ליתן דין וחשבון

`Aqavyah ben Mehallel'el was wont to say: "Consider three things and you will not come to sin: know from whence you came, to where you're headed, and before whom you are to destined to provide a judgement and accounting [of your deeds]."


קידושין ל ב

ואמר ר"ש בן לוי יצרו של אדם מתגבר עליו בכל יום ומבקש המיתו ... תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל בני אם פגע בך מנוול זה משכהו לבית המדרש

Kidushin 30b

R' Shimon Ben Levi said, the Yetzer Harah [tries] to overcome the man every day, and askes to kill him...R' Yishmael was teaching: "My son, if that wicked (Yetzer Harah) encountered you, pull him to Beis Hamidrash"

  • Sorry I don't see where it says that mixed learning is allowed. It says you can hide from it in B"M where there are no women.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 11:22
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    @alberko while we're asking for sources, do you have a source that women aren't allowed in the beis midrash? I've never heard of that rule.
    – Heshy
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 11:32
  • 1
    @AlBerko I didn't say mixing learning exists back then. I was showing that learning Tora is an antidote to Yetzer Harah Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 11:57
  • While plausible it doesn't sound Halachic - where do we find that once we start reading Torah we can mix because there's no Y"H?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 12:36
  • @Heshy Moed Katan 18a assumes אשה בי מדרשא לא שכיחא. On the other hand, there are several Talmudic incidents involving women coming to the Beis Midrash (though not explicit that they actually went inside). E.g. Berachos 33a, Sanhedrin 11a, Menachos 44a,etc. And then there's also the possibility, as in Kiddushin 52b, that a woman can דחקה ונכנסה to a place she's not supposed to be.
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 17:57

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