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I apologise if this question is a non-starter but I noticed the following scenario in a couple of sources I came across, and I was intrigued if there was anything more to it.

The two sources which I will delineate shortly, speak of an altercation in which the offended party sought retribution through spitting into the eye of another individual / perpetrator. Interestingly, there is a thread that links them both, and that is they centre around marital strife. Nowadays we would judge such an act with disdain viewing it as being quite a vulgar gesture. Is this something that was simply more widespread in the days of yore and thus more acceptable, or was there a deeper meaning behind the deed that perhaps related to matrimonial discord?

  1. Aharon the peacemaker - Pirkei Avos 1:12 tell us that Aharon was the quintessential peacemaker - He loved peace and pursued it. Rashi there lists some examples of the lengths he went to, one of which was restoring marital harmony. He writes there:

אמר אחד לאשתו: קונם שאין נהנית לי עד שתרק בעינו של כהן גדול. היה אהרן שומע, היה הולך אצל אותה אשה והיה אומר: פלוניתא, חשתי בעיני, ורק שלך רפואה יש בו. תרק לי בעין. והיתה רוקקת.

One would say to his wife: "You won't benefit from me until you spit in the eye of a high priest." Aharon would hear and he would go by the woman and say: "Plonisa - I am worried about my eye and only you have the cure/medicine for it - spit in my eye." And she would spit.

  1. The case of Rabbi Meir - The Yerushalmi Sotah 1:4 relates a story about a woman who regularly attended a shiur by Rabbi Meir. One time on an erev Shabbos, the shiur overran and she returned home to find that the lamps had burned out. The disgruntled husband wouldn't let her in unless she spit in the eye of Rabbi Meir. In a similar scenario to the one above, Rabbi Meir learnt about the situation through ruach hakodesh and made out that he had an eye ailment. To cut a long story short, when the wife approached he asked her if she knew a cure, and advised her to spit seven times in his eye so that she could go back to the husband and say whilst you only asked for me to spit once I spat in fact seven times thereby restoring a sense of peace to the marriage. This story is also brought in Vayikra Rabbah 9:9
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Applying saliva to an eye was considered a form of healing in the Talmud. In Bava Batra 126b we find:

ההוא דאתא לקמיה דרבי חנינא אמר ליה מוחזקני בזה שהוא בכור אמר ליה מנא ידעת אמר ליה דכי הוו אתו לגבי אבוה אמר להו זילו לגבי שכחת ברי דבוכרא הוא ומסי רוקיה ודלמא בוכרא דאמא הוא גמירי בוכרא דאבא מסי רוקיה בוכרא דאמא לא מסי רוקיה

A certain [person once] came before R. Hanina [and] said to him, 'I am certain that this [man] is firstborn'. He said to him, 'Whence do you know [this]?' — [The other] replied to him: 'Because when [people] came to his father, he used to say to them: Go to my son Shikhath, Who is firstborn and his spittle heals'. — Might he not have been the firstborn of his mother [only]? — There is a tradition that the spittle of the firstborn of a father is healing, but that of the firstborn of a mother is not healing.

(Soncino translation)

Commenting on the words "when [people] came to his father" Rashbam writes:

החוששין בעיניהן

Those who had eye ailments.

Commenting on the words "and his spittle heals" Rashbam writes:

לעין

To the eye.

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  • +1 Fascinating thank you. Whilst this would account for the act of spitting in the eye as a cure for an eye ailment, I do wonder why the aggrieved party sought solace through their other half spitting in the eye of the perceived antagonist? – Dov Dec 11 '20 at 8:37

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