To support my previous question ("biblical-genetics-understanding-childs-resemblance-to-his-parents" here's a Talmudic passage (Berakhot.20a):

רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן הֲוָה רְגִיל דַּהֲוָה קָא אָזֵיל וְיָתֵיב אַשַּׁעֲרֵי דִטְבִילָה. אֲמַר: כִּי סָלְקָן בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָתְיָין מִטְּבִילָה, מִסְתַּכְּלָן בִּי, וְנֶהֱוֵי לְהוּ זַרְעָא דְּשַׁפִּירֵי כְּווֹתִי.

Rabbi Yoḥanan was accustomed to go and sit at the gates of the women’s immersion sites. He explained this and said: When the daughters of Israel emerge from their immersion, they will look at me, and will have children as beautiful as I.

So by looking at R'Yohanan women would:

  1. Think of him at the time of relations and thus probably overriding the prohibition of thinking about another person (or maybe that only applies to men?).

  2. Bear kids dissimilar to their fathers and thus causing them to suspect their wives.

  3. put himself into a suspicious position - why would a sage instead of studying Torah sit next to a place where naked women bath.

His intention, on the other hand, was to increase the proportion of nice-looking Jews, which I don't recall being a Mitzvah or a good deed or merit in our tradition.

How is R' Yochanan's behavior explained Halachicly?

  • He was doing chesed, by letting people have beautiful children. He himself didn't have yetzer hara as the gemara explained.
    – Shlomy
    Nov 21, 2020 at 23:22
  • it wasn't his resemblance, it was just good looking like he was.
    – Bayla G
    Nov 22, 2020 at 6:50
  • @Shlomy I didn't suspect him I said it is forbidden to put oneself in a suspicious situation - מראית עין.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:12
  • Everyone knows hes a big gadol.
    – Shlomy
    Nov 22, 2020 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


As far as question number three it writes in the Haghos HaBach on the Gemara:

עפעפיו מכסין את עיניו

His eyebrows/eyelashes covered his eyes

So aside from the fact that he asserts דְּלָא שָׁלְטָא בֵּיהּ עֵינָא בִּישָׁא - the evil eye has no dominion over him, he was somewhat biologically protected in that his eyelashes guarded him from seeing anything bad.

The Bach backs this up by cross referencing this with the Gemara in Bava Kamma 117a which writes about him as an old man:

רבי יוחנן גברא סבא הוה ומסרחי גביניה אמר להו דלו לי עיני ואחזייה דלו ליה במכחלתא דכספא

Rabbi Yocḥanan was an old man and his eyebrows drooped over his eyes. He said to his students: Uncover my eyes for me and I will see Rav Kahana, so they uncovered his eyes for him with a silver eye brush. (sefaria translation)

  • Aren't the עפעפיים eyelids? Or is that only in modern Hebrew?
    – Harel13
    Nov 22, 2020 at 0:11
  • It could be?! It is something either way that meant his eyes didn't have a clear line of vision
    – Dov
    Nov 22, 2020 at 0:47
  • I think it is written in R Zadok that the gemoro you mention in BK says he was 'quick' to kill. If someone is 'easy' on loi sinaf then not on loi sirtshok.
    – interested
    Nov 22, 2020 at 9:54
  • I think you missed the question. I didn't ask if he looked at naked women, I provided three different Halachic reasons for not doing what he did. And you answered what I didn't suspect him in. מראית עין is forbidden irrespectively of your merits.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:15

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