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My rebbe mentioned to us that just as Elazar ben Durdayah was at about to have cohabitation with harlot, she passed gas. The harlot said to Elazar ben Durdayah, "Just as this current of air cannot return to its place of origin, so to, they will not receive Elazar ben durdayah in repentance."

  1. Where is the source for this?

  2. Why would she use her 'passing of gas' to tell Elazar ben Durdayah that they will not receive his repentance?

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    You have a verbatim quote, but you don't know where it came from? – Isaac Moses Jan 7 '15 at 3:03
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    (re: 2) maybe it was a joke, meant to make light of what would otherwise have been a somewhat embarrassing situation for herself – הנער הזה Jan 7 '15 at 3:10
  • @Matt: Two toots for the p'shat :) However, if a harlot is getting paid to sex with someone, why would she be embarrassed? In hollywood, female actors aren't embarrassed about flirting or having sex with another man, other than their husband. – Chiddushei Torah Jan 7 '15 at 3:16
  • My rav used this story as the basis for his minchah drashah over this past Yom Kippur. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 7 '15 at 4:26
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    CT, I didn't mean that she was embarrassed about harlotry, I meant that she was embarrassed about passing gas – הנער הזה Jan 7 '15 at 17:45
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You're looking for Avoda Zarah 17a:

אמרו עליו על ר''א בן דורדיא שלא הניח זונה אחת בעולם שלא בא עליה פעם אחת שמע שיש זונה אחת בכרכי הים והיתה נוטלת כיס דינרין בשכרה נטל כיס דינרין והלך ועבר עליה שבעה נהרות בשעת הרגל דבר הפיחה אמרה כשם שהפיחה זו אינה חוזרת למקומה כך אלעזר בן דורדיא אין מקבלין אותו בתשובה

They said about R. Elazar ben Dordaya that he did not leave any harlot in the world that he wasn't with. One time, he heard that there was one harlot in a town by the shore, and she would take a pouch of dinarim as her payment. He traveled to her, crossing seven rivers. When they were together, she passed gas, and said "Just like this gas will not return to its place, so too is Elazar ben Dordaya, who they will never accept him in teshuva.

(translation mine)

I've chosen to translate "הפיחה" here as "pass gas," based on my understanding of the word's usage in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 37:2. This contradicts the Soncino translation ("she blew forth breath") and, apparently, the Artscroll translation as well (or so I'm told). It's possible that they translated the word in this way so as to maintain "לשון נקי," but I don't know for sure why they translated the word in that way. The word clearly means "pass gas" in the context of הלכות תפילין, linked above.

The gemara continues with the extreme lengths that Elazar ben Dordaya went to do teshuva, which he eventually achieved, at the price of his life. A bas kol rang out, proclaiming that he is destined for the World to Come. Rebbi (Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi) was very impressed by this, noting that not only did he achieve life in the World to Come, he also achieved the title "Rabbi."

The lesson is that teshuva is powerful stuff.

  • Thank you very much! However, are you sure דבר הפיחה means 'passing gas'? I just looked in an Artscroll Avodah Zarah Gemara and it translates דבר הפיחה as 'blew with her mouth.' – Chiddushei Torah Jan 7 '15 at 4:04
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    @ChiddusheiTorah That's how Soncino translated it also. However, in the halachos about tefillin, you have to make sure שלא יפיח בהם ושלא יסיח דעתו מהם (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 37:2), which clearly can't mean "breathing out." – MTL Jan 7 '15 at 4:07
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    So it's a machlokes between translation of Rabbeinu Artscroll v.s. S.A. O.C. So are you saying that the harlot 'passed gas' to make herself smell repulsive to Elazar ben Dordaya so that he wouldn't cohabit with her? Bear in mind that the Torah likes talking in a refined language. So if we say she 'passed gas' that's not polite. It would be more appropriate to say, "She blew with her mouth." Don't you agree? – Chiddushei Torah Jan 7 '15 at 4:20
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    I'm not quite sure what you're saying, @ChiddusheiTorah. I agree that it's more polite to say "She blew with her mouth," but I don't know if I agree to your interpretation of the story. I think Matt's right; she did something embarrassing, and this was a "line" she used to make it less embarrassing. – MTL Jan 7 '15 at 4:23

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