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I am an Italian Noahide.

Here in Italy I participate online in a Biblical forum that sees the presence of some Israeli Jews.

Well, in the context of a discussion about the prohibition of sexual promiscuity by Deuteronomy 23:18 and Leviticus 19:29, these Israeli Jews have argued that, on the basis of the "Talmudic Halakhah" (their expression) this prohibition it does not apply to an infertile woman (for example to a woman in menopause), as she lacks reproductive capacity.

They also said that “If we start from the written Torah, even the definition of adultery requires the faculty of reproduction; in the biblical conception, only the adulterer who wants to appropriate another's woman by making her fertilize is punishable ".

I replied to them by pointing out that from the consultation of the great halachic codes such as Tur, Mishneh Torah and Shulchan Arukh it does not at all emerge that the aforementioned prohibitions concern only fertile women, lacking a limitation in this sense; they told me that:

“the rabbis added their own and made sex one of the main prohibitions following non-Jewish models; they also "did not want to strike the modesty of the country that hosted them and wrote so, but it is clear that these are religious drifts because the Talmudic Halakhah does not have all this taboo for sex".

I ask you: but are the claims of these Israeli Jews really founded on the halachic plane? I confess that they leave me very perplexed.

It is true, in Gemara-Yevamot 37b Rav Eliezer ben Yaacov develops an exegesis of Leviticus 19:29,if I remember correctly also used by Rambam in Hilchot Naarah Betulah 2:17, based on the reason on prohibiting sexual promiscuity to prevent the risk of unconscious incest, since if an individual does not know who his father is he could for example one day marry his brother / sister without knowing it; however, at what point of the two Talmudim it would be stated that the punishment of the adulterer or promiscuous individual ex Deuteronomy 23:18 requires the natural fertility of forbidden sexual intercourse?

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  • What do you think, @Amos? May 26 at 11:21
  • @יהושעק I quote from memory, but if I remember correctly we read in the Gemara an exegesis on Leviticus 19:29 by Rav Eliezer ben Yaacov, taken from Rambam in Hilchot Naarah Betulah 2:17, according to which the prohibition of promiscuity is connected to the risk of incest, since the paternity of a child remains unknown, and therefore one day, for example, two brothers may unknowingly marry each other
    – Amos74
    May 26 at 12:02
  • But in the Guide to the Perplexed, Rambam explains the prohibition of kedesha in a broader way, and in any case I do not see Halachic rulings on the matter in the terms cited by these Israeli Jews.
    – Amos74
    May 26 at 12:02
  • Your memory is accurate, @Amos. We can debate how exactly this applies to Bnei Noach, but for Jews it is extremely clear-cut. May 26 at 12:32
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    @יהושעק Thanks very much. Sexual intercourse forbidden to non-Jews are punctually reported by Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 9: 5, and within the same there is no distinction between sex with a fertile or infertile woman.
    – Amos74
    May 26 at 12:58

1 Answer 1

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Non-marital sex (and even prostitution) is permitted for Noahides, by the way. Adultery is not.

It is true that in Maimonides' list of commandments, his brief comment justifying the prohibition on non-marital sex (for Jews) is "it can lead to all sorts of unintentional incest."

But from a legal perspective, neither of these prohibitions make exceptions based on either partner's fertility.

Maimonides did not have the power to say that there was ONE reason for a Torah prohibition, and if you avoid that reason you are therefore allowed to do it. He was giving (on his own) one point to help understand why this was a useful law. (Though ultimately we do it because God said so.)

Even if we accept "unintentional incest" as the "main" reason, laws often don't make distinctions. A professional race car driver will still get a speeding ticket for driving double the speed limit, even if they can prove they are perfectly safe at that speed. So it's not "well THIS particular non-marital liaison will cause a problem", but "once we allow any, things will quickly get out of hand."

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  • גמרא קידושין כב או כג
    – kouty
    May 27 at 14:08

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