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In the Mishneh Torah Hilchos Issurei Biah 21:19 it says:

It is forbidden for a person to intentionally cause himself to have an erection or to bring himself to [sexual] thoughts.

Yet in Niddah 13b it says:

Rab stated: 'A man who wilfully causes erection should be placed under the ban'. But why did he not say, 'This is forbidden'? Because the man merely incites his evil inclination against himself.

So it seems that the Rambam classifies it as forbidden, yet the Talmud seems to say it's not (explicitly) "forbidden."

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    "merely incites..." The translator added "merely." The implication of the gemara appears to be the opposite of what the translator wrote; not only is it forbidden, but there would also be a requirement to put the person in nidui if he is found to do this (see Tosafos, s.v. "המקשה", who maintains that a person is not automatically in nidui for this behavior). The Chasam Sofer (ad loc.) expressly reads the passage this way. – Fred Jan 27 '16 at 7:43
  • there are other gemoras which sound even worse than the rambam such as come-and-hear.com/niddah/niddah_13.html – ray Jan 27 '16 at 12:19
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    @ray that's the same daf as quoted in the question – jj2 Jan 28 '16 at 1:25
  • @Fred I haven't read the Chasam Sofer, but that sounds like a chiddush, i.e i dont think anyone else before holds that as pashat – jj2 Jan 28 '16 at 1:27
  • @jj2 IMHO, the Chasam Sofer (and, apparently, the Rambam) flows with the gemara and fits with the subsequent statement of R' Ami that this person is called a "transgressor." I suppose the gemara could also be read the way you say: R' Ami could be seen as a dissenting opinion, especially since his opinion is introduced with "ורבי אמי אמר". Or perhaps R' Ami doesn't even mean that it is a sin, just that he is called a "transgressor" because that activity tends to lead to actual sin. But do you know of anyone (aside from Rabbi Epstein who translated this) who expressly reads the passage this way? – Fred Jan 28 '16 at 1:57
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Firstly, note that the Maharal and Maharsha (and I would assume others) consider this Gemara to be Agadic and not Halachic, as they put it in their Chiddushei Agados. Thus, it could very likely that this is a plain Issur, and this Gemara just adds "Agadic warning" to this Aveirah.

Secondly, the Poskim (Shulchan Aruch, Aruch Hashulchan EH 23:3) seem to quote the wording of the Rambam that it is Assur, so "it is forbidden".

Thirdly, there are other opinions in the Gemara there that consider such a person an "Avaryan", which clearly indicates that it is an Aveirah, and that could be the source of Rambam. (h/t to Fred)

Fourthly, the major source of discussion is Ran to Rif Shabbos 39b, who says:

אלא ודאי לישנא דיהא בנדוי היינו לומר שראוי לנדותו והיינו דפרכינן הכא ולימא אסור כלומר ובהכי משמע שראוי לנדותו שכך הוא המדה בכל האיסורים שהעובר עליהן ראוי לנדותו ופרקינן דנקט כי האי לישנא לאשמועינן שאיסורו יותר מפני שמגרה יצה"ר בעצמו:‏

The "Chavrusa" Gemara and Shu"t Amudei Eish understands this Ran that it is more Chamur to say Nidui than to say Assur, and that Issur is included in Nidui, nit that it is only a Niddui and No Issur. See also Aruch Laner and Chasam Sofer there who learn similarly (although the Aruch Laner has a bit of a twist), h/t to commenters who pointed them out.

Fifthly, see here for a very strange interpretation of what the phrase "Veleima Assur" means והדבר פלא.

Sixthly, there is a huge discussion of how Rambam understands and applies this Gemara. See Issurei Biah 21:19, Talmud Torah 6:14, and a boatload of Mefarshim in those places, as well as here in Niddah, who discuss his Shitah. Some (see Divrei Chamudos here in Niddah and others) say that he doesn't even consider someone to be in Nidui unless they are actually Motzi Zera Levatalah, although I believe that everyone holds that it is Assur.

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Tomer Devorah ch.8

Now, just as the Supernal Bow is never stretched except it be toward this target, so, too, man should not stretch his bow and allow himself and erection under any circumstances except it be for the proper purpose, namely, for his wife when she is clean, which is the time of union. And not more than this, for it causes a flaw in this quality (of netzach), God forfend. Exceedingly great care must be taken and the main precaution is to guard oneself from sexual imaginings

seems then that it is forbidden. only that we are not angels so it's not a clear cut transgression like eating non-kosher food.

  • The question cited two earlier works that seemed to contradict one another as to whether it's forbidden. You cited a further source supporting one side but I don't see how that answers the question. If one wants a source supporting one side or the other, it's in the question already; what's wanted here is not that but something that resolves or explains away the contradiction. – msh210 Jan 27 '16 at 8:33
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    (continued) This is not entirely your fault, since the question's title sounds like it's asking a plain question of fact (not a contradiction) and the question itself (which mentions the contradiction) has no actual question in it. It's rather poorly written. – msh210 Jan 27 '16 at 8:35
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    @msh210 agreed. tried to make the best of the two – ray Jan 27 '16 at 12:30
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Giluy arayos generally is an aveirah bein adam le'atzmo.

Therefore being makshe atzmo le'daas is more repugnant than assur.

However chazal have the ability to be menadeh people who behave repugnantly personally.

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    So you're saying that it's not forbidden? – jj2 Jan 28 '16 at 1:28
  • You should expand on this and explain what you mean with sources. – sabbahillel May 27 '16 at 10:23

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