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The Gemara (Sanhedrin 75a) discusses a case of a man who became so lovesick for a woman that he fell deathly ill. The Chachamim said it would be better to let him die than to be intimate with her, and even to see her (unclothed), and even to speak with her through a wall.

The Gemara asks: why is it that we take the prohibition of immorality even on pain of death to such a degree that even to speak with her through a wall is prohibited? One answer presented (that of R’ Acha b. R’ Ika) is that even though she was single, they forbade this “so that the daughters of Israel not be promiscuous toward immorality.”

How far do we take this principle? Let’s say that a man is lying on the floor, and he has no pulse. May a woman do CPR, since that involves pushing on his chest and breathing into his airways? Similarly, is the Heimlich Maneuver prohibited, since that involves giving him a nice, big squeeze around the abdomen?

For the sake of this question, assume that all people involved are Jewish, and that there is nobody else around, and that by the time help can get there it will be too late. Further, I ask specifically according to this answer of the Gemara, so answering that Posek X doesn’t hold of this opinion isn’t a valid answer.

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    @ezra Read it again. The first two paragraphs are the same because they’re based on the same Gemara. The remainder is different. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 1:29
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    Downvoter, please explain? – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 1:32
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    @ezra If anyone is actually reading it should become clear that they’re not the same question. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 1:50
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    Of course it is allowed, because the man and woman in your new case are not specifically lust crazed over each other. Unless you want to edit that into the question? :) – David Kenner Aug 16 '18 at 3:01
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    @DonielF Yes granted. But the man is lust crazed. In a random hatzalah call, neither one is presumed to be lust crazed to the point of sickness. (unless that's why he called hatzalah :) ) – David Kenner Aug 16 '18 at 3:13
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As far as the Gemara is concerned, acts of looking and touching between a man and a woman are permitted if one is trying to save the other.

R' Yehoshua says: " a crazy pious man destroys the world." (chossid shoteh)

The Gemara asks: "Who is a crazy pious man?" (for example?) It is a man who notices a woman drowning in the river and says "It isn't proper to gaze at a woman and save her."

(Talmud Tractate Sotah 21b)

  • Can you demonstrate that this Gemara and the one in Sanhedrin agree with each other? Yes, Chassid Shoteh is R’ Yehoshua’s teaching, and he’s a Tanna. But it’s the Gemara there that defines it as such - maybe R’ Acha understands it differently. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 13:18
  • Usually, my Yeshivos taught me over the years that we assume two pages of Gemara agree with each other unless there is a good reason to believe they argue. "Maybe R' Acha understands it differently" is not a good enough reason to assume he might. The burden of proof is on the one claiming a machlokes. Also, because the Talmud itself knows this, it tends to not provide statements that verify one sage agrees with another, if it doesn't have to. So, the demonstartion you are asking for usually does not exist in Shas. – David Kenner Aug 16 '18 at 23:03
  • I can think of a number of Gemaros that disprove this assertion, although I do agree that the standard assumption should be that there’s no machlokes. That said, it seems to me that a statement saying that a man must save a drowning woman is irreconcilable with a statement saying that a woman cannot even talk with a man through a solid wall in order to save his life. Unless, of course, you say that there’s a distinction between the man and the woman being saved, in which case this answer belongs on my other question on this Gemara. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 23:30
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    Well the main difference, is that in Sanhedrin the man is lust crazed and marriage won't help. In Sotah its two random people who do not know each other or may not even be attracted to each other. But marriage would still be an option. (So dad, how did you meet mom?? Well son, she fell into a river...) Therefore, there is no reason to believe the two sugyas argue. – David Kenner Aug 16 '18 at 23:42
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  1. You tagged that גילוי עריות - that's one of the three יהרג ואל יעבר. To be intimate with a woman (even to talk to an unmarried woman with that intention) is a branch of that גילוי עריות and therefore one should die and not transgress.

  2. All other examples are not stemming from גילוי עריות intentions, but the opposite - doing a great Mitzvah of saving lives, and therefore clearly permitted.

  3. The first case of גילוי עריות puts the woman that willingly performs an act of גילוי עריות (of any magnitude) in the category of Torah offenders, as she also transgresses that Mitzvah - that's why the sages ruled that if this man dies anyway, why risking the Bnot Israel.

  4. Therefore, based on #3 one does not have to risk his life by saving the other and that's exactly what the sages ruled. If the action was not a יהרג ואל יעבר transgression, as Shabbos, for example, it is permitted.

  • This is a question on the Gemara, not an answer to my question. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 13:46
  • @DonielF I added the conclusion. and #3 was not a question – Al Berko Aug 16 '18 at 13:51
  • But from the woman’s perspective, she’s just saving a life. She has no intention of being intimate. If she goes ahead and does it anyway, it’s permissible according to the Rambam, but we don’t encourage it. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 14:04
  • @DonielF I've got an idea for you. Let's make her drunk and b-g her without her knowledge! It's forbidden as גילוי עריות is יהרג ואל יעבר. Either way (unwillingly, unintentionally, unknowingly) she's a part of ג"ע. Rambam's permission is that if בדיעבד one saved someone's (his own) life by יעבר ואל יהרג we don't kill him. So if she did it and we know it בדיעבד we can't judge her, but לכתחילה we forbid. – Al Berko Aug 16 '18 at 14:10
  • No. The Rambam’s position is that if someone did a יהרג ואל יעבר he should be killed (not that we can kill him, mind you). In this particular case, if a woman were to speak with a man through the wall to save his life, she is not liable. However, since we don’t want women to be perutzos, we won’t encourage her to do so. Of course actually being intimate is forbidden. Take a look through Yesodei HaTorah chapter 5 - specifically Halacha 9 is where he discusses this Gemara, where he doesn’t say אסור or חייב as earlier, but rather אין מורין - we don’t instruct her to do so. – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 14:20

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