Sunday, August 30, 2020

"Wasting Seed" - Differing Rabbinic Perspectives

What do rabbis have to say about the sin of wasting seed? Well, if you're searching the internet to find the answer, you're likely to come across the self-proclaimed leading expert on this topic, Rabbi Yaron Reuven. (As you may recall, we last saw him insisting that Hitler was justified in blaming the Jews for ruining Germany, and declaring that numerous widely-respected rabbis are heretics who deserve to be executed.) He is certainly obsessed with the topic of wasting seed, and has over thirty hours of lectures about it!

In a lecture that you can watch on YouTube, Reuven notes that the Talmud compares wasting seed to murder, and he takes this very literally. Incorporating the modern scientific revelation that ejaculate contains around 300 million spermatozoa, he rails against teenagers who masturbate, claiming that they are mass-murderers who are killing as many people as the entire population of the United States! He also stresses the Zohar's claim that wasting seed is worse than any other sin.

Reuven's mentor/colleague Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi also has a lecture about this topic on YouTube. He presents the "kabbalistic secret" that all the souls in the spermatazoa were supposed to enter this world, but instead are doomed to remain in the netherworld, waiting to confront the teenager after his death and seek revenge. "You have millions of sons now," he says, "and they all hate you!"

It's not clear to me how Reuven and Mizrachi reconcile all this with the fact that even with intercourse resulting in pregnancy, 299,999,999 spermatozoa do not result in life (not to mention that intercourse with one's already-pregnant wife is permitted). But what is clear is that such presentations cause immense psychological harm to countless teenagers. In fact, in a FaceBook group of people giving their stories about why they left Orthodoxy, more than one mentioned the severe psychological harm caused by the belief that masturbating meant that they were irredeemably damned; there is also a powerful personal story at this link

As discussed in an earlier post, "Sexual Intimacy, Spilling Seed, and the Rationalist-Mystical Divide," there are much more prestigious rabbinic authorities who take a very different approach. Rav Eliezer Melamed says that the fire-and-brimstone expressed by the Zohar against spilling seed in vain is simply an exaggeration (and of course there are others who simply dispute the authority of the Zohar altogether). Rav Melamed further points out that the Talmud's severe-sounding comparison of spilling seed to bloodshed is a rhetorical flourish, noting that the Talmud says the same about someone who embarrasses others in public or who does not escort his guests out. As Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro notes in his excellent book Halachic Positions, the same interpretation of such condemnations in the Talmud is given by Rivash, as well as by an early Acharon, Rav Yehoshua Heschel of Krakow, specifically in this context. There is also much fascinating discussion of this topic at http://rationalistmedicalhalacha.blogspot.com, and there's a podcast by Rabbi Scott Kahn and Talli Rosenbaum at https://www.intimatejudaism.com/masturbation-sexual-health-halacha-is-there-a-conflict-episode-1/.

I would like to also counter the Reuven/ Mizrachi approach with two other presentations. One is an article in Hebrew by Rabbi Yitzchak Rones, available online at this link. The other is a controversial article by Rabbi Avraham Stav which appeared online in Hebrew. A friend of mine translated it, and I present it here:

What I would like to say to a maturing young man:

1. The human body produces sperm cells at a fixed rate of around 1500 new cells per second, and it tends to dispose of the old cells in various ways, during sleep (nocturnal emissions) or ejaculation (masturbation), generally (though not solely) in response to sexual stimulus.

2. According to what we know today, masturbation is an activity that is not harmful to one’s health; from a psychological perspective too it is considered (within reason) to be a natural and normal part of sexual development. This should remove the fears and unwarranted concerns regarding the issue that have been refuted over hundreds of years.

3. The Torah and Prophets do not discuss masturbation explicitly, and the first time it appears as a sin is in the words of Chazal. There is a substantial dispute as to whether the Sages believed that it is biblically forbidden or whether they only forbade it rabbinically.

4. The verses to which Chazal attached the prohibition (such as the actions of Onen who “destroyed on the ground” his seed) hint to this relating, at root, to masturbation by a married man (mainly at times when fruitful marital relations are possible), which substitutes for relations between the couple and directs his sex drive away from the couple relationship and from the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply” towards self-gratification.

5. In many sources, wasting seed is treated extremely seriously, and we do not know why. It is possible that this stems from a restrictive approach to the entire realm of sexuality, which exists in some of the sources. Alternatively, it may relate to the deep trend of egoism and “waste” that is expressed in masturbation when it becomes an integral and central part of life and comes at the expense of constructive activity. Nevertheless, there are sources indicating that a specific act of masturbation is a relatively light sin.

6. In practice, the vast majority of males, at one stage or other of their lives (mainly, but certainly not exclusively, during the youthful period), masturbate. Included in this are Jews who observe mitzvot and fear heaven. This increases when there is a large gap between the stage of reaching sexual maturity and marriage.

7. In front of every person, and in front of every young man, stand many spiritual challenges, and reducing masturbation is one of the less important ones.

8. The constant struggle against masturbation only strengthens, incorrectly, its place in life. One should be concerned that it not turn into an obsessive addiction, but should also not relate to each instance as a “fall”, and not dedicate one’s religious and spiritual energies to hopeless battles. On this point, there are likely to be differences between different people, who are found in variant places spiritually, and personal guidance on this matter is beneficial.

9. Masturbation in most cases accompanies sexual stimulus, and specifically visual stimulus or fantasies. Enjoyment from the sight of the naked body (real, virtual or imagined), is a natural and healthy inclination, which exists among most humans, and there is no reason to be ashamed of it. At the same time, this is a superficial stimulus which is supposed to serve the more elevated and meaningful goals of connection between a couple and having children.

10. Due to the power of superficial, external, sexuality, and because of its ability to occupy a large proportion of one’s life and to lead to a variety of negative phenomena, one should desist, as much as possible, from gazing at sights which bring about sexual arousal. It is important to distinguish between masturbation in itself, which is a natural inclination which comes from the body and its desires, to external sights which frequently represent other worlds of culture and values.

11. There are also various levels within the realm of the forbidden. Masturbation without forbidden gazing is far preferable to masturbation that is accompanied by such gazing, and there is a meaningful distinction between gazing at a generic immodest picture to surfing the world of pornographic content, which brings with it a long list of severe consequences in terms of the conception of the body and of sexuality and is also bound up with many moral problems. Within the realm of fantasizing too, there are thoughts of sin that are more severe than others, whether from a halachic or a moral perspective.

12. Judaism seeks to sanctify the sex drive, to refine it, to lead it to constructive and positive places. Not to fight it. Spiritual work in the sexual realm is positive and beneficial as long as it makes a person more exacting and elevates him; and it misses its goal when it causes him to be more imprisoned within himself.

This was written following extensive discussions with senior rabbis and professionals.

Whether or not one agrees with Rabbi Stav's approach, it is certainly important for there to be countering perspectives to the dangerous extremism broadcast by Reuven and Mizrachi.

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142 comments:

  1. It is also important to note that men who masturbate regularly can reduce their chances of prostate cancer.
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.healthline.com/health/prostate-cancer/ejaculation-prostate-cancer%23:~:text%3DSex%2520and%2520masturbation%2520are%2520good,re%2520age%252050%2520or%2520older.&ved=2ahUKEwjx7bPlwsPrAhUkhuAKHUnqCwMQFjACegQICxAL&usg=AOvVaw2r1PKue-OAgxu8wFJGl_4C

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    1. How is that relevant to a halachic/hashkafic discussion? Are you saying since it's good for a person's well-being (supposedly) it ought to be allowed? That's not what Stav is saying at all.

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    2. See the talmudology post. The science is mixed.

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    3. Weak evidence to make such a claim.

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    4. http://www.talmudology.com/jeremybrownmdgmailcom/2019/10/31/niddah-13-onanism-masturbation-and-potential-people

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  2. "Nevertheless, there are sources indicating that a specific act of masturbation is a relatively light sin." Nu, what are these sources?

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  3. As many people pointed out on Rav Stav's post in Hebrew, perhaps his words are ok to be said on an individual level, but to post it on a public forum could make it even more difficult for those who are trying to be shomer habrit. Don't think psychological damage is only one way - there certainly is heavy psychological harm to those who engage in pgam habrit. You dont have to make it harder for them.

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    1. I fear you have completely missed the point of this discussion.

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  4. As many people pointed out on Rav Stav's post in Hebrew, perhaps his words are ok to be said on an individual level, but to post it on a public forum could make it even more difficult for those who are trying to be shomer habrit. Don't think psychological damage is only one way - there certainly is heavy psychological harm to those who engage in pgam habrit. You dont have to make it harder for them.

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  5. " the severe psychological harm caused by the belief that masturbating meant that they were irredeemably damned. "

    Please. This is so mistaken. All the sourses from the last few hundred years that most people are exposed to (that includes Tania,Likutei Moharan, and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) clearly state that there certainly is repair for this sin. I guess all those people that got severe psychological damage read the Zohar straight without consulting with their mentors.

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    1. Most teenagers don't study the issue in a scholarly manner. They study in Yeshiva where vague references are made about "hotzoas zera l'vatala. A large number do not have anyone with whom they feel comfortable discussing these issues. As a result, they are left with an understanding that something that they feel compelled to do is dirty and shameful. They wallow in shame, anxiety, and often depression. "The sources of the last few hundred years" are not accessible and they are left with the cultural message and deal with its implications in solitude.
      (I speak from experience as a mechanech and psychotherapist.)

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    2. While not a Rabbi, it seems to me that many of the sources of the past few hundred years which discuss "repairs" for this sin (and interesting that no concept of such "repairs" was raised in earlier sources), are, at the very least, used and abused by various group, sect and cult leaders to keep their followers in line. It certainly seems to be a central tenet of "Breslavism" as R. Ouri Cherqui calls it, and as I have seen with the youth I come into contact with. That, in itself, creates potential for much damage, besides generating a literally unholy obsession with the subject.

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    3. Tanya (Iggeres HaTeshuva) mentions that the Zohar says that "there is no תשובה for this sin". How can that be? Is there any sin for which a person cannot do teshuvah?

      The Ba'al HaTanya reconciles it by quoting the sefer ראשית חכמה says that תשובה תתאה is not enough, but תשובה עילאה can atone for it.

      After a long discussion of the difference between תשובה עילאה and תשובה תתאה, he gives the simple prescription of just redoubling your efforts in learning Torah: if you usually learn 1 chapter of mishnah a day, read 2 chapters. If you usually learn 1 daf of Gemara a day, learn 2 daf.

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  6. I always understood Onan's sin to be coitus interruptus, not masturbation.

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    1. Yes, but, you know, the Church, and mistranslation etc, led to the word onanism meaning the wrong thing...

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    2. It wasn't even that. Onan was ordered to give Tamar a child after Er's death (presumably as a part of Yibum - levitate marriage). Onan's "spilling seed" was explicitly mentioned in this context.

      It would seem to me that Onan's real crime here is that he married Tamar (via Yibum) but then refused to fulfill his obligation thereof (to produce a child to inherit from his brother).

      He should have either given her a child or performed Chalitza (a formal refusal of levitate marriage). But he apparently chose neither - he chose to marry Tamar and then refuse her a child, which is far more serious than simply "spilling seed".

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    3. Yes, while we do not know explicitly why Onan died, the most likely candidate is coitus interruptus. It is not as commonly thought, of as the Monty Python sketch put it "Every Sperm Is Sacred." In other words, Onan did not die because he wasted it. It is much deeper. In broader terms, Onan sinned because he wanted all the sex without the responsibilities (he refused to accept the levirate marriage). Thus, Onan's behavior was problematic: Onanism means excess sex. A violation of the Golden Mean (שביל הזהב, דרך האמצע). Similarly, tradition says that Er didn't want to mix Tamar's beauty with her pregnancy. This construed as an act of idolatry. Since Onan took G-d "out of the picture." He made it about them, not G-d and procreation. In essence, he was taking G-d's name in vain, a violation of the Third Commandment of "don't take G-d's name in vain." This is the BIG sin.

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    4. Agreed, Shamino, that's the story in the Torah. But the word onanism as it means "spilling seed" probably comes from Christian doctrine. The technical sin - aside from the intention you describe of not wanting to have his kid be considered his brother's kid - was as Anonymous said.

      Although actually, according to Google, the meaning of onanism is both.

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    5. @Yosef R, I read that Onanism means excess sex. The interpretation that Onan wanted all the sex without the responsibilities seems the most reasonable to me. I did not know it was Christian.

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  7. Sounds very apologist to me.

    The battle against the yetzer is a worthy and important one. Like anything else in life it must be accompanied by an attitude of "Sheva yipol." Simply shrugging it off as unimportant is a recipe for disaster, as continued masturbation does develop into a compulsion and even addiction. Let's also acknowledge that the Shulchan Aruch devotes an entire siman (NO PUN INTENDED!) to the issur (E"H 23).

    As Monty Python say, "Every sperm is sacred."

    Also, please stop utilizing "Why-I-Went-Off-The-Derech" anecdotes as "proof" why this or that behavior among Torah Jews must be stopped in its tracks.

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    1. Ye-e-e-s on the apologetic tone here, but:

      The battle against the Yetzer Hara is varied and each sin should be appropriately scaled - within our understanding - obviously we are instructed to be careful with a kala kachamurah. There are many many simanim of Shulchan Aruch and some are indeed devoted to individual issurim. Yes, this is still assur, and the point of the post is that those who raise to the level of yehareg v'al yaavor are doing Klal Yisrael a disservice.

      You know that Monty Python song was a satire, right!? The scene includes a family and their several thousand children (living in poverty because all those mouths to feed).

      And Why-I-Went-Off-The-Derech stories are acceptable when there is more than one. Multiple anecdotes = data! Joking aside, should it not raise our awareness to an issue if many claim that it pushed them away? Like Chazal withdrew various takanos because the community couldn't tolerate them (by analogy, not a direct parallel).

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    2. Yosef,

      Yes, I am well aware (nudge, nudge; hint, hint; say no more) that I was quoting "The Python" out of context!

      I think you and I probably agree more than we disagree on this subject (can't say "issue"). I feel that RNS was a little too meikil (can't say "soft") in his piece. And my feelings seem confirmed by the general direction (can't say "thrust") of the other comments.

      Rav Eliezer Melamed's "Simhat HaBayit U-Virkhato" is an excellent resource for all matters sexual. Rav Melamed, in his inimitable fashion, brings all the Halachic sources in a measured and balanced way.

      As for OTD "data," this is a much longer conversation. But I am reminded of all the stories I kept hearing about people who went off the derech because they were not aware that God loved them. They thought God was always angry and upset with them for their sins. So the Kiruv know-it-alls came up with a "God loves you" approach that they said would help a lot of OTD youth. Then I read a survey of why people go OTD. One of the top five reasons: God loves me no matter what, so I can do what I want.

      The lesson is this: We have our laws. They can be difficult. That's no excuse. God does love us. But He will also punish us, R"l. You work hard. You fail. You get up. You try again. You do your best, fast on Yom Kippur, and after 120 it will all work out.

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    3. Heh, CJ, I figured that anyone who quoted it knew what they were saying. But I felt I needed to argue for those not in the know.

      Anyway, I admit to not being an expert on statistics for people who go OTD. Your story suggests that those who want to go will find a reason/justification. But there ARE those who indeed are pushed away, and we have to balance strength and permissiveness. Like the famous psychology about parenting: not to be too authoritarian OR too permissive. The latter leads to entitlement and then paradoxically seeking out limits in places like radical Islam, and the former can lead to its own sort of rebellion or simply crumbling in despair. Sure, hotza'as zera l'vatala is a sin, but perhaps it should not be raised to the level of yehareig v'al yaavor.

      (You mentioned Yom Kippur - I have long been intrigued that in Tefillas Zaka, said on Erev YK, someone inserted hotzaas zera l'vatala a whole bunch of times, at least in the Artscroll version. Some would take this as a sign of how important it is while others would see it as a sign of how people have bizarrely taken this.)

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  8. I don't agree with Avraham stav's opinion as it is very dangerous to minimize the severity of a clear transgression, most poskim hold it is a biblical transgression and even according to the Ezer Mikodesh that it is sometimes rabbinical it is still a transgression which one must avoid (unless he is a Oines).
    I also dont agree with reuven and Mizrachi.
    I would point out they are wrong with regards to the Zohar the Beis Shmuel in SHulcon Oruch Even Haezer 23/1 says that the Zohar which says it is the worst averoh is לאו דווקא.

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  9. Great. And you know what'll happen next? YCT will publish a position, citing R' Stav and you, completely permitting this.

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  10. Maimonides writes that excessive sexual immorality is not healthy (Mishneh Torah, De'ot 4:19). I think this is a better approach than Rabbi Yaron Reuven and Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi who are fanatically obsessed with "wasting seed," and the Zohar.

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  11. The antidote to extremism one way is not extremism the other way.
    The Shulchan Aruch codifies the halacha, and calls mastubration the strictest sin in the Torah. Although this seems to be hyperbole, see Beis Shmuel, it is consideerd quite a strict sin. It is a great struggle, and any success is to be considered a win against the yetzer hora. The deal is not ‘all or nothing’. But minimizing the sin will not help anyone, and it is contra-factual. Emphasizing the ability to repent is the methods of doing so, is more productive.

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  12. Imagine calling yourself "a leading educator on the topic of wasting seed"
    LOL

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  13. "[T]here are sources indicating that a specific act of masturbation is a relatively light sin."
    It would be very helpful to have sources to counter the fire and brimstone perspective.

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  14. "This was written following extensive discussions with senior rabbis and professionals."

    Who said this? More importantly, what is a 'senior rabbi's? I was unaware that we had a ranking system in use.

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  15. Natan you obviously have personal issues with sex. This in no way means that everyone in the world suffers from this. Why someone would be so motivated to downplay the sin of zera levatalah and attempt to influence others in this regard? What brazenness! Sin, but why try to bring others to sin, this is downright evil and wicked. May you repent or die young so as not to continue to cause others to fall into sin.

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    1. This is one of the most offensive comments I have ever read here, and I wish Rabbi Slifkin didn't allow this to be posted because it pained me to read it. The fact he did allow it shows how thick of a skin he has.

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    2. @Aryeh, what is so offensive about the truth?

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    3. That's disgusting. RNS doesn't need to "repent" writing an essay, no less "die young." Shame on you!

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    4. Kudos to Natan for allowing your this post to go up, but it's clearly obvious that it is you the op that has issues with sex, and it's almost as clear what those issues are. But the rest of your comment shows that this is far from the worst of your issues. I have the perfect Rav for you to speak with. He's an expert in dealing with these issues. May you be zoicheh to a refuah shelaimah bkarov.

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    5. I agree that Dvir obviously has issues with sex.

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    6. Natan, I guess you'd rather die young then repent for the evil of attempting to persuade others of the permissibility of spilling seed. This is not a threat but rather a choice of yours. The Torah prescribes dying young to those who spill seed. As we know from the Torah, convincing others to sin is worse than sinning by oneself. To those who find this offensive, you should be reminded that issue of spilling seed falls under normative halacha. Those who suggest that spilling seed is permitted are beyond the pale of normative Judaism and halacha.

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    7. Dvir,

      Leaving aside the repugnant nature/tone of your comments, how do you account for the easily observable fact that those who "spill seed" (i.e., almost everybody at some time in their lives, accordingly to most studies, irrespective of religious persuasion) most assuredly do not "die young" at rate any higher than anyone else?

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    8. Maybe we should all hold off on passing judgment as to who may or may not have "obvious" issues with sex based upon isolated internet comments.

      I think it is clear that Orthodox Judaism has "issues" with sex, which is, after all, the whole point of this discussion.

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    9. "Natan, I guess you'd rather die young then repent for the evil."

      That's disgusting! You should repent for writing such nonsense. I am beginning to think you are a professional troll.

      If you were referring to Onan, he did not die because of his waste but of coitus interruptus. Besides, if people were dropping like flies this sin would be more dangerous than the current pandemic! Not to mention that when you fertilize an egg the process wastes 99.999999% of all cells. To say nothing of how much Judaism values the mitzvah of kosher sex, this does not even account for nocturnal emissions, which are involuntary. If G-d was so concerned with this waste, why did He make the process so imprecise?

      In short, RNS isn't persuading people to do anything. He only wants to show how silly you, and others like you, (ie Reuven/Mizrachi) look. Have a nice day.

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    10. Turk, learn Rashi. He says clearly that both Air and Onan died young from spilling seed.

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    11. @Just Curious, may your mouth be to the dirt for saying such blasphemous slander on chazal. Chazal authored the statement that Air and Onan died young for spilling seed. You don't see it happening? There are many answers to that. One being that our generation isn't fit to see miraculous punishment for sins. When the shcheenah resided in klal Yisrael people got Tzoras and other Divine punishments.

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    12. @Dvir, Nope. Rashi says that Er and Onan performed coitus interruptus. Yes, the Talmud compares the transgression to murder, but these statements are not meant to be taken literally. As for Chazal and science, you would check Rabbi Avraham Stav's essay (above) where he explained in point 2 that modern science disagrees. Can we say that Chazal was mistaken in regards to science? Absolutely!

      Maimonides had this to say about Chazal and science:

      "Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said regarding astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time, mathematics was imperfect." (Guide, 3:14)

      The Rambam felt that the talmudic rabbis were not experts in science, working only with the primitive science of their day, and as a result, were frequently wrong. Thus, it is no surprise that they were in error in matters of science but not in halachic matters.

      As for your baseless explanation that we are not "fit" to see "miraculous" retribution, that is a cop-out.

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    13. "Blasphemous slander on chazal"? I didn't say anything about chazal...

      But let me see if I understand you: back in the day, when k'lal yisrael was on a higher spiritual level, we were worthy to see miraculous divine punishments (like tzara'as), but nowadays, we are are worthy of such miraculous punishments (like tzara'as). So, by that logic, are you suggesting that those who "spill seed" davka will not die young nowadays? Doesn't that kind of undermine your whole argument?

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    14. In any case, there is nothing particularly miraculous about premature death, but I can assure you that if the world's teenage boys started dropping dead in their bathrooms with their pants around their ankles and a wad of Kleenex in one hand, people might start to take notice.

      Actually, I think I have figured it out: we are all dying young as a result of masturbation (as the data shows, effectively everybody does/has done it)! If not for masturbation, we would all live as long as Metushelach!

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    15. [my comment of 3:59 PM should, of course, have read "but nowadays, we are NOT worthy of such miraculous punishments (like tzara'as)." Typo.]

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    16. @Just Curious - if someone doesn't die young but is fit to die young because of miraculous punishment, isn't it good enough reason not to sin, no?
      Yes, dropping dead young for no apparent reason is miraculous.

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    17. I am not entirely sure what "fit to die young because of miraculous punishment" means, but it is apparently not a "good enough reason not to sin" since it seems to stop effectively no one from engaging in this normal biological behavior.

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  16. My Comments may AROUSE a HEATED response. The yeshiva bocher upon being told masturbation leads to blindness retorted can I not do it until I need glasses ? This is why so many yeshiva students wear glasses (LOL). Anyway is RNS WHITE WASHING ORAL laws ? For example Shulchan Aruch and many old traditional sources frown upon masturbation with many calling it a sin. Lets COME CLEAN on this ISSUE.

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    1. Lots of things are sins. It is the FOCUS on this particular deed and singling it out as the "worst possible thing" you can do, that is in dispute here. Nowhere does Rabbi Slifkin claim it is encouraged.

      I liked the joke, but the rest of your comment reflected misinterpretation.

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    2. I thought the blindness thing was a Christian teaching.

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  17. "the severe psychological harm caused by..."

    Gimme a break. You sound like every loser who blames his lost religion on his rabbis and priests, rather than taking responsibility for himself. As if teenagers everywhere are all "scarred" [the shrink industry's favorite word] by learning that שפכת זרע לבטלה is prohibited. Such nonsense. There's a thousand other chazal's that speak in strong terms about everything under the sun. How many people are "scarred" upon hearing that someone who forgets or interrupts his learning is subject to the death penalty? I understand how secular Jews can believe, in their ignorance and naiveté, that religious Jews just believe everything literally, but you ought to know better.

    Pretty amazing that a whole generation of Jews went through the Holocaust and came out of it to become millionaires and raise families, yet acc to liberals [of whom RNS now is one], teenagers are "scarred" for life by learning a single din in Shulchan Aruch.

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    1. https://malimaalah.wixsite.com/offthederechthoughts/post/masturbation-an-otd-ben-torah-s-perspective

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    2. Halevai a whole generation came out millionaires.

      You mean a few survivors made it big, but those people are likely the sort who would have done well without losing all of their family. Many did OK and did not lose faith. And many many indeed did turn away.

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    3. Yosef R - we're speaking here of survivors who were observant before the war. Your claim that "many many" turned away has no basis, and there's no way to prove that.

      In any event, main point is that RNS is just adopting talking points of the irreligious to explain away their failures. Guys don't sit wracked in paralyzing guilt because of sin. The better among us regret it and resolve to do better - as we all should. That some are not strong or committed enough to overcome their demons is a problem in them, not thousands of years of Halachic tradition.

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    4. DF - Your point about survivors is not in place. A large amount of holocaust survivors did not make it out psychologically intact. They did not become millionaires. Ask people from the 50s and 60s. Some ended up homeless, others in homes for the mentally ill and more. You only know the successful ones, because the rest were not in your surroundings.

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    5. לומד תורה - No, I don't think that's the case. Obviously some people will always leave places "not psychologically intact", but the overwhelming majority of war refugees who were observant before the war - the only group I'm discussing - came out fine. Undoubtedly their faith helped them. Likewise, the fact that there was no shrink and grievance industry at the time to encourage them to wallow in misery and self-pity.

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    6. DF, this is really disgusting on so many levels.

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    7. Nachum, its exactly the opposite. We have to learn from the survivors. They had the strength to pick themselves up and move forward. If they were able to do so after what they experienced, we should be able to do so also. (I don't think I need to wearily write disclaimers every time pointing out the obvious, that there are always exceptions.)

      I do agree that it's not the main point, as I already said, and so wont address it further here.

      Delete
    8. You are defaming all the survivors who aren't huge success stories- which, by your perverse standards, seems to be determined by money.

      Delete
    9. I am tempted to respond to that calumny, especially coming from so worthy an opponent. How long have we been at this, Nachum? Fifteen years? However, I feel us grizzled vets need to set an example of discourse, and so, given that I said above that I wont address this point any further, I wont.

      (But I want to. Grin.)

      Delete
    10. DF, if you honestly believe "the overwhelming majority of war refugees who were observant before the war - the only group I'm discussing - came out fine", you really are a full time resident of Cloud Cuckoo Land.

      Besides, what does any of this have to do with the discussion at hand? There was no element of guilt that the survivors needed to overcome, which is the focus of this discussion.

      Delete
    11. Baal Haboss, see comments above.

      Delete
  18. From a purely rational perspective, I'm against habitual masturbation because it's addictive

    I believe there needs to be a cultural shift on the orthodox world across the spectrum

    It is unrealistic and unfair to forbid premarital sex and masturbation and at the same time systematically delay marriage past age 20 for totally arbitrary reasons

    We have got to stop brainwashing our teens that they are across the board not ready for marriage until they jump through artificial societal hoops (school, career, yeshiva, age 22)

    It's very damaging to the male psyche to not have a kosher outlet for sexual expression in ones 20s

    I am speaking from experience

    I'm not advocating becoming hasidic but they do have it right in one area: age 18 get married, age 20 have a source of steady income

    I don't hold that "just getting married" will solve every problem but I do believe it's a step in the right direction

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    1. "age 20 have a source of steady income." What!?

      Charedi men are the last to have a "steady income." You mean the women. Its the women who, as RNS put it, "are indoctrinated and forced to work as hard as possible, while raising as many children as possible, to support husbands that are going against their traditional, Torah-prescribed duty to support their families, and they are still treated like second-class citizens.”

      Delete
  19. Chomping at the bitAugust 31, 2020 at 12:30 PM

    How is waiting to get married until one has finished school, or has a career, considered arbitrary, artificial societal hoops? Doesn't getting married entail the responsibility to support a family?

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  20. Hyperbolie. We all went thru it and we all know what it entails. RNS, while trying to negate Mizrachi and Co's craziness, you go to the opposite end of the spectrum. This is sob story liberal crap you'd hear from the NYT to bash conservative purity culture. Masturbating can be a great sin AND we don't need to tank on our youth for it, they can both be true.

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  21. It's amazing to me that everyone's solution to a sin is to make it less of a sin rather than adopt Chazal's very sensible advice: Get married at 18! I know all the arguments against marrying young. In our society it's not possible... Okay, so change society. Chassidim do it. We can too. There's nothing wrong with working at an earlier age or finishing school at an earlier age. The amount of time wasted in elementary and high school is staggering. (It's also not clear why everyone has to go to high school, let alone college.)

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    1. @Yehudah, let me ask you a question. Were you marred at 18!? At 18 you're not an adult at all. It takes until 30 when you become an adult. I think everyone should wait to marry until their 30s', and have a IQ at least of 111.

      Delete
    2. Adolescence is a post war societal construct

      It's a paradox that we've never had it so good but we keep telling our youth that one is still a "child" at age 20

      Delete
    3. Who decided you need to be an adult to get married? Why can't a pre-adult also get married?

      Delete
    4. "Why can't a pre-adult also get married?"
      Because your not matured yet to handle children. Your not responsible at all. At 18 most people can hardly take care of themselves, much less children!

      Delete
    5. "and have a IQ at least of 111"

      Um, if you don't have an IQ of 111 by the age of 15 or so, you're never going to have it.

      I take it you've never seen the opening scene of the movie "Idiocracy."

      Delete
  22. This is a perfect example of "modern Orthodox" vs Orthodox. If the Torah doesn't say it explicitly it's probably ok. It's "only" from the Rabbis they were just using hyperbole. Ignorance is one thing, deliberate distortion of halacha and Torah are quite another. Hope you have the maturity and guts it takes to walk back on this one....

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  23. Thanks for this post. The subject of masturbation is either not discussed at all or is mentioned in quick hushed tones with a Zohar quote as a great sin. Even here some folks are quick to exclaim that this shouldn't be publicly discussed. Hiding from these kinds of topics is why so many of our Orthodox compatriots have such a skewed outlook on human sexuality.

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  24. In the link of the unfortunate young man who suffered so much because of his inner conflict over this matter, he writes:

    Next to my bed, I kept a tiny paper with a list of numbers. Each number represented the number of days that I had managed to control myself. Each time I sinned, I would cry, resolving to do better. Inevitably I failed, forced to add a new number to my little paper of guilt. Sometimes, after enough failures, I would stop crying, too broken to conjure tears. Yet when I put my paper away, I had to go out and face the world. I had to plaster on a mask, stepping into the role I did not deserve. To the world, I was a sincere and dedicated masmid, the star of the yeshiva. Only I knew the truth.


    It seems that almost every night that he'd go to sleep, he would be wracked with the feeling, "I hope I don't have a nocturnal emission tonight".

    My rabbi at Boston University, Rabbi Joseph Polak שליט"א, said to me that many times a nocturnal emission occurs out of projection--because the person is thinking so much about how terrible an issur it is.

    I believe I have written this here before, but maybe it should be repeated: The Gemara at the end of Yoma says that if a person has a nocturnal emission on Yom Kippur, he should worry the entire year, that perhaps it's a sign that he won't survive until next Yom Kippur. If a person manages to live to next Yom Kippur, it's a sign that he has a lot of merits.

    The 3rd Rebbe of Chabad, the Tzemach Tzedek, addresses this Gemara in a teshuva. He says that, more often than not, a person experiences a nocturnal emission because he's thinking about how terrible it would be if it happens--especially on such a holy day as Yom Kippur. His recommendation was that a person should try to focus his attention on other things, that will divert his attention from being preoccupied with the issur--and certainly not dwell on branding himself to be a "sinner".

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    1. Regarding Yom Kippur if someone can bring the Teshva of the Alter Rebbe how it was "looked silly" someone who belived they were on that level that having a emmision was a signal from heaven.

      Delete
    2. Sharing male wisdomSeptember 1, 2020 at 5:48 PM

      You seem to be conflating a nocturnal emission with actual masturbation. They aren't the same. This letter refers to days he had "managed to control [him]self." That refers to masturbation.
      Nocturnal emissions are involuntary. A man is asleep when it happens. How would he possibly have control over it? (Your psychological speculation aside, and perhaps it could be true, but ultimately what happens during sleep is not in our control).

      Nocturnal emissions are actually a sign of being a tzadik.
      Because they happen when a person stops masturbating!

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    3. A man naturally has an erection during REM sleep. (That's actually a test for whether impotence is due to stress or psychological factors, or whether it's physiological--does a person experience erections during REM sleep.)

      I asked a psychiatrist: If so, why doesn't a person have a nocturnal emission more frequently?

      He answered: That depends on the content of the person's dream. And what the person dreams about will very often be linked to what he thought about before going to sleep, or during the day.

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    4. Not all thoughts are voluntary.
      In addition, your psychiatrist/friend is not the "Daas Torah" of nocturnal emission science. Everyone has an opinion, but that cannot sum up this issue. Daytime thoughts CAN (sometimes) influence the content of dreams, and they also can NOT do so.

      In addition, nocturnal emissions can also happen during dreams that are of completely non-sexual nature. Which is further evidence it is an involuntary reaction (and occurring during an involuntary state of mind). It is so involuntary that one who stops masturbating will likely see an increase in the frequency of such emissions.

      Sorry, but I don't agree with your Chabad rebbes about everything or believe they had the knowledge to answer every possible question correctly and exhaustively.

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    5. The text of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (151:5) quite clearly states that even a nocturnal emission is not to be taken lightly, as something involuntary. Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was not a Chabad Rebbe.

      If, G-d forbid, you had a seminal emission at night, upon waking up from your sleep you should wash your hands and say with a contrite heart, "Master of the Universe I have done this unwittingly but it was due to sinful thoughts and sinful reflections; therefore, may it be Your will, L-rd, my G-d, and the G-d of my fathers, to erase this iniquity through your great mercy, and save me from sinful thoughts, and from similar occurrences forever and ever. Amein, so may it be Your will."

      In the previous halachah, he also lists the things that a person should avoid eating before sleep--much like the list of what not to eat in the סעודה המפסקת before Yom Kippur. So--to these opinions--it's not only willful masturbation (while awake) that is forbidden.

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  25. PLease see Teshuvot Maharsham, Siman 58 which cites to the Beis Shmeul on Shulchan Oruch Even Haezer 23, and to the Sefer Chassidim that the expression Shfichas Damim is lav davka, and a guzmah. On needs to understand how much of an inferiority complex these Rabbis have they they are willing to push crazy ideas just to prove how frum they are.

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  26. from post earlier this month "I'm hoping that this will be the last of my posts about the dangerous craziness of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven" just pointing out we all get obsessive some times

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  27. This article by R' Stav is a worthy effort, but I would correct 2 points:

    In his first bullet point, R' Stav writes that the body "tends to dispose of the old [sperm] cells in various ways" and proceeds to list 3 different forms of ejaculation. In fact, even if sperm cells are not expelled from the body by any means, they are simply degraded and resorbed, as is continuously taking place during the dynamic process of spermiogenesis.

    In his 5th bullet point, R' Stav mentions that we "we do not know why" certain sources treat this particular prohibition "extremely seriously". I think it has been well-documented that, until modern times, it was commonly believed that sperm actually contained tiny little people ("homunculi"). In view of that patently mistaken understanding, it is easy to understand why Chazal might have viewed their destruction as more egregious than simply the destruction of non-totipotent genetic material.

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    1. Can you site a source that Chazal actually thought the cells were tiny people. If so, this would remind me of the Jains. In Jainism, they said that a single drop of water contained 100 living beings. It seemed to me that they actually believed tiny people were inside a drop of water.

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    2. That belief in homunculi only started with the invention of the microscope.

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    3. Didn't Chazal have the belief that the "red" parts of the person came from one parent while the "white" parts came from the other, and then intangibles come from Hashem? Apologies for lack of source.

      Delete
    4. I am not suggesting that Chazal knew at all about cells (which, as dlz points out above, were obviously not recognized until the advent of microscopy) but, interestingly, the notion of "preformationism" ("that organisms develop from miniature versions of themselves ... the form of living things exist, in real terms, prior to their development") was prevalent since ancient times.

      From the Wikipedia article on the topic (as is the quote above):

      "Pythagoras is one of the earliest thinkers credited with ideas about the origin of form in the biological production of offspring. It is said that he originated 'spermism', the doctrine that fathers contribute the essential characteristics of their offspring while mothers contribute only a material substrate. Aristotle accepted and elaborated this idea, and his writings are the vector that transmitted it to later Europeans ... Later, European physicians such as Galen, Realdo Colombo and Girolamo Fabrici would build upon Aristotle's theories, which were prevalent well into the 17th century."

      We know how influential Aristotelian ideas were in the Rabbinic conception of the natural world.

      Regarding Turk Hill's question re: sources, Google "preformationism judaism". The first result that comes up is a section from "Jewish Law and the New Reproductive Technologies" (ed. by R' Emmanuel Feldman and Joel Wolowelsky) on "Male Seed" (available to read via Google books; the preceding section on "Female Seed" is equally fascinating).

      It points out that the Rabbinic conception was hardly monolithic (as noted above by Yosef R, citing the gemara in Nidah 30a), as is often the case, but concludes that "most Jewish sources accepted the theory of preformationism".

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    5. Ironically, it seems that the scientific discovery of sperm cells under the microscope only reinforced the preformationist theory: "After the discovery of spermatozoa... the [non-preformationist] theory proved more difficult to defend: How could complex organisms such as human beings develop from such simple organisms?" (from the same Wikipedia article above).

      This was certainly true among the rabbis, as reflected by the following quotation from the "Sefer Habrit" of the kabbalist R' Pinchas Eliyahu Hurwitz:

      "...and they have seen with the microscope that within the seed of a man ... exist tiny creatures, whose form resembles that of a man, and that are alive and move within the drop.

      With this we see how all the words of Hazal are to be believed and how all their words are truthful and just ... even regarding those matters which may be far fetched or inconceivable ... Our Talmud treats this sin harshly, equating it to murder ... This statement seemed so far fetched in the eyes of the philosophers among our people... who were unaware of the looking glass mentioned above [microscope]...

      But now, after it has been seen with the aforementioned instrument that living beings in the image of man move to and fro within the seed ... Every intelligent person would judge such a sin as truly equivalent to murder." (from that same chapter in Feldman/Wolowelsky's "Jewish Law and the New Reproductive Technologies"; most of the above ellipses are present there).

      Delete
    6. Just Curious, Very interesting. Of course, the cells are really non-totipotent genetic material and not homunculi. So the philosophers ended up being correct and not the mystics. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    7. Precisely. Of course, one can make the argument (as does chaim, in a comment below) that "why" something is prohibited is not necessarily relevant in halachah.

      However, one would hope that an improved understanding of science/nature might result in a revision of halachos that were formulated based upon mistaken principles (cf. the classic case of killing lice on shabbos) but, in practice, somehow this only seems to happen l'chumra.

      Delete
  28. Any time I hear about "holy men" like this who are so unduly preoccupied with railing against sexual immorality/impropriety, I can't help but think "kol haposel, b'mumo posel".

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  29. Rabbi Stav's approach was already anticipated by the New Testament (1 Corinthians 15:56): "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." The collaterally: No law, no sin.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I've never been a fan of New Testament gobbledygook.

      I think Paul's approach is way more extreme, wouldn't you say? Saying that the issur is Still Bad But Not The World's Biggest Deal is a far cry from "Commandments? Pshaw!"

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  30. If you’re a male beyond the age of puberty, you’ve all experienced a nocturnal emission. It’s just an innocuous inborn dreamy arousal. Same for masturbation except, you’re awake.
    What an utter waste of time and effort grappling with such useless considerations as part of coming of age. Aren’t there more important things to dwell upon?

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  31. This sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. The problem here isn't just the fundamentalists, and it's not just in the Zohar, this stuff is repeated in the most mainstream authoritative orthodox texts from The Gemara right down to the Shulchan Aruch. Saying that it's an "exaggeration" & "rhetorical flourish" doesn't help much, the issue is that it's over the top. I don't see much of a case for criticizing Mizrachi et al but not the Gemara et al. What are they saying different from the Gemara?

    Also, is the Gemara really just an "exaggeration" & "rhetorical flourish"? Maybe when it says that it's chayiv misa & like killing, but I don't see how this part can be an "exaggeration" or "rhetorical flourish":

    אלא ה"ק רבי טרפון כל המכניס ידו למטה מטבורו תקצץ אמרו לו לרבי טרפון ישב לו קוץ בכריסו לא יטלנו אמר להן לא והלא כריסו נבקעת אמר להן מוטב תבקע כריסו ואל ירד לבאר שחת
    Niddah 13b - https://www.sefaria.org/Niddah.13b.11

    Also, regarding the comparison to המלבין פני חבירו ברבים, I noticed the Shulchan doesn't mention that; however, when it comes to zera levatula he holds back no bunches quoting both the gemaras stuff about it being like murder & chayiv misa, along with the the Zohar's claim that it is the worst sin in the Torah.

    It's interesting to contrast this concern for sperm with the Gemara in Arichin 7a that says that if a woman if pregnant, we don't push off her execution unless she's already in labor. And the Gemara goes even further saying that it's peshitah, because the fetus is just part of the mother.

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    1. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:49 PM

      See my comments below.

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  32. The Catholic church as funny as it seems now, used to rail against the same concept of wasting seed. But I digress. All of the hoopla and fire and brimstone comes from the Kabbalah/Zohar and it really has no authority and its origins are a mixture of Judaism and Paganism so why pay attention to it? Because people like to be taken care of and scared as well. The whole issue of wasting seed centers around not pro creating. How about women who wait until their 30's plus and then try to have a baby when the amount of eggs they have are decreased radically? Is that not murder as well? Or that there is more women in the world than men and those women are more selective, is that not part of the murder machine? Add to that, in my opinion that wasting seed is murder because it is also the opposite of low tech eugenics that religious Judaism engages in...in my opinion.

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  33. 5. In many sources, wasting seed is treated extremely seriously, and we do not know why.

    Except maybe in the context of counseling a depressed youngster, this is just a distraction. "Why" is basically irrelevant to Halachah. The main thing is "what" (do the sources say). The same is true in Lomdut.

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  34. May we now have a sensible conversation about lesbians, and the obvious need to permit women to have reasonable loving relationships. No seed is spilled and we deal with loneliness and valid enjoyable sexual pleasure. It even helps with the shidduch crises. Who doesn't love a lesbian solution?

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    1. I read in a book by the Ben Ish Chai, that the punishment is less for lesbians as no seed is spilled, but it should be discouraged because it leads to licentious relations. The trouble is that many lesbians are mannish, ugly and angry. And like gay men, one is dominant and the other submissive.

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    2. I will add that children growing up with same sex parents never seem to mature right. Its just not heathy. Drinking excess amounts of alcohol doesn't spill any seed either. Doesn't make it right.

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    3. Multiple wives are a better solution.
      If the husband can afford it.
      Or if the FILs can afford him.

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    4. And masturbation leads to.... something healthy and wholesome and spiritually appropriate. OK, thanks. I get it now.

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    5. "This was written following extensive discussions with senior rabbis and professionals."

      So.... who is a senior rabbi you speak of?

      Better yet - WHAT IN THE WORLD is a "senior" rabbi? We have ranks?

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    6. Malcom XI, Straw man. I said no such thing. Hedrosexuals are obviously more healthy than homosexuality.

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    7. More than one wive produces a pecking order and jealously among the women. The man must have certain physical attributes, material wealth and spiritual strength(like the ones who convince stupid women that he is the messiah, etc). More wives produces more problems and more mothers in laws.

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    8. Turk Hill,

      I am not especially interested in debating homosexuality or same-sex relationships, but your assertions that "children growing up with same sex parents never seem to mature right. Its just not heathy [sic]" is nothing more than your culturally-biased opinion.

      I would wager that you have never personally known any child who was the product of same-sex parents, nor any parent who was raising a child in a same-sex relationship. I further doubt that you can cite any legitimate data to back up your assertion.

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  35. I have three majors concerns about the way this topic is taught:

    1. It valorizes dysfunction. A man with no libido at all is virtuous and good, until he gets married and can't fulfill onah, then suddenly that's not OK. Well, in some circles it's not OK. In others, even better, how much more fulfillment of "have sex like you're being forced by a demon" can you get than to literally not be able to get or maintain an erection. (The man's poor wife isn't part of the picture, as the wives generally aren't in the sub communities obsessed with hz"l above all else - unilaterally forced to give up their deoraisa conjugal rights on one hand, and expected to have painful, foreplayless, bordering on rape sex on the other)
    2. It flattens out the spectrum of evil. When you've been told that mere masturbation is worse than murder and the most severe sin it is possible to commit, then once you've fallen to that it literally makes no difference if you watch violent degrading porn or visit a prostitute (indeed, visiting a prostitute is better than masturbating under this paradigm).
    3. Some people are lucky, and get a normal education, learn to chill out and not take their failures in this impossible mitzvah too hard. Some get depressed, maybe go OTD. And some become nut jobs. Look at the comments on this post! There are people literally wishing R Slifkin dead for posting a meikil opinion on this topic. People obsessed with hz"l are often mentally unwell, and obviously teasing out cause and effect here is a bit hard, but whitewashing the topic and its problems also covers up the associated illnesses and issues.

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    1. I think this is a very insightful comment (particularly the 2nd bullet point; I had never really thought of it that way, but that is a disturbingly incisive point).

      My only significant point of disagreement would be that "People obsessed with hz"l are often mentally unwell". While the highly ritualized nature of Orthodox Judaism might attract people with certain mental health challenges or, alternatively, might drive people "crazy" (as Dina says above, "teasing out cause and effect here is a bit hard"), I think it is fair to say that the enormous majority of mitzvah-adherent frum Jews (i.e., those of us "obsessed with hz"l") are not "mentally unwell". 

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    2. I think Jews avoiding the sin is not "crazy." But at the same time, those who are obsessed with sex, as Reuven and Mizrachi clearly are, is "mentally unwell".

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    3. (indeed, visiting a prostitute is better than masturbating under this paradigm).

      So it might seem. But Beis Shmuel in Shulchon Oruch Even Haezer 23/1 rules the opposite.

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    4. Who said anything about "avoiding the sin" being "crazy"?

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    5. Just to be clear, there is a huge difference between "makes an effort to be careful about hzl" and "obsessed with hzl". One major difference is the first is going about normal life quietly, whereas the second is constantly talking about the evils of this sin. Another difference is eg Wolbe saying its bad but normal to fall vs saying its the most evil thing ever and you're a murderer. So no, it's not keeping halacha that's crazy. It's the wildly exaggerated *obsession* with this specific halacha, among certain people/circles. Total lack of perspective/proportions.

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  36. I definitely see where Stav is coming from. It's not just charedim and Mizrachi types who go on and on about spilling seed, but many of the Breslov cults and the more right-wing parts of the Dati Leumi world who obsess about "shemirat habrit" and so on.

    So yes, a corrective is needed. The only issue I have is that *maybe* he could have put in a mild word about how masturbation (or at least excessive masturbation) is still not exactly smiled upon by God, the Torah, and/or Jewish tradition, and can be harmful psychologically and societally as well, in terms of establishing actual and healthy sexual relationships with real people.

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    1. I definitely see where Stav is coming from.

      But why boomerang to the other extreme (unless he has legitimate sources)? Why not adopt the authorities collected in the Rones article?

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  37. So what will the world look like for Judaism when we encourage boys to jerk off on a regular "healthy" basis? Someone thinks that this is a good thing for society?

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    1. Jerking off is the least of our worries. Judaism is corrupt by money,power, Kabbalah and the Zohar.

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    2. Effectively all reputable medical and mental health professionals recognize the psychosexual benefits of (at least occasional) masturbation. Frankly, the psychological benefits of removing the shame and cultural stigma from masturbation may be even greater than those of the act itself.

      Contrary to the implication of your comment, there is nothing inherently wrong or bad about masturbation (just as there is nothing inherently wrong or bad about, say, treif meat or wool mixed with linen), the only reason it is forbidden is that halachah says so. What do you imagine would be the negative consequences for "society" if the sociocultural stigma surrounding masturbation were dispelled?

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    3. Don't misunderstand me: the fact that halachah prohibits it is no small thing, but the problem is:

      1. Data show that, in spite of halachah's prohibition, effectively everyone still does it (although I don't have precise numbers at my fingertips, I recall that legitimate studies have have shown that, regardless of religion or level of religiosity, something like 90% of men and 70% of women masturbate).

      2. Few other prohibitions in halachah seem to arouse the same degree of psychological distress in the breach, probably because of the hyperbolic terms in which it is condemned (in some classical sources) coupled with the fact that (unlike kashrus or sha'atnez) it is a normal biological behavior that is, as we have seen, effectively unavoidable.

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    4. This idea (of "Maharil") is a straw argument. There is a spectrum between yehareig v'al ya'avor and mitzvah chiyuvis l'chol hadei'os! Saying that it is still an issur, just not one to agonize over is not giving carte blanche to do it.

      And to those who say "But that's EXACTLY how teenagers/men in general will understand it! Once the hyperbole is lowered, they will relax and say Oh It's Not So Bad and therefore be totally comfortable with it!" I don't necessarily have a cure for human psychology. Perhaps we need to better educate people about nuance and gradation.

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  38. There's something missing from this discussion, and often from the notice of struggling young men. Namely, that the times when there is no problem are part of the statistics. If someone fails a number of times they might chalk up that number as how much of a failure they are. They forget to take it in context of their uneventful successes.

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  39. I mentioned earlier that the amount of available women is out numbering the the amount of available men and these women are getting more selective as to who they will mate and marry with. So what do the men do? Become more competitive(including some calling themselves a Messiach and have multiple wives of stupid Jewish women wanting to get a piece of the action). The remaining men without women need an outlet and that is porn. There being no commitment, no possibility of disease and no possibility of legal action from women seeking to sue men for misplaced comments, actions, divorce etc. The metoo movement did not produce more supportive, sensitive men, it produced men afraid of women supported by hungry lawyers. Porn and wasting of seed avoids all of that.

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  40. I really wish I would have seen this article and commented earlier. I am always very critical about the approach to zera levatala and mesechet nida 13 really is cause for concern. So here are my two thoughts on the topic:
    1. If masturbation is really the worst sin ever then suicide might seem as the only way to prevent further engaging in this horrible sin for people who are addicted. Obviously to suggest suicide to prevent the 'worst sin ever' is outrageous. So this would mean its not really the worst sin. Furthermore, do these 'great' scholars truly believe masturbation is worse than murder. Surely not. Its just a ridiculous exaggeration.

    2. Deracheha Darcai Noam. The Torah is supposed to be pleasant. We learn that one is permitted to kill any snake on shabbat without having to identify if its poisonous. This because we dont want people to hesitate when it comes to saving lives. Deracheha Darcai noam. I believe the same holds true with regards to masturbation. The Torah intentionally didnt assur it because it would be too difficult for people not do it. The Torah could have simply assured it but it didnt. Deracheha Darcei Noam.

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  41. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:30 PM

    the same interpretation of such condemnations in the Talmud is given by Rivash

    True but why, according to the Rivash, does the Talmud do so—for simplicity? For style? No, “אלא שדרך החכמים להפליג בהגדלת העונות כדי שישמר אדם מהכשל בהן”. This is cited by De Rossi, and he adds Rambam Peirush Hamishna Sanhedrin 7:4 who says “והאריכו לשון לאיים ולהפחיד”. (Other Achronim also understand the Rambam this way.) Which means that it was premeditated hyperbole, aimed towards יראת חטא. Which means that it is a necessary truth. Which means that Rivash & Rambam are letting the cat out of the bag, that the ends justify the means.

    Hence, to argue that a given extreme position is inconsistent with the sources is irrelevant until it can be shown that ends don't justify the means. The easiest scenario where the ends don't justify the means is where the ends violate the Halachah, i.e. where they go beyond the acceptable Kulah allowance. Then there's the other extreme, where Halachah isn't violated but there are negative side effects—such that over focusing on one thing leading to neglect of something more important or that it brings people to scoff at observance. (About ninety years ago, a head of the 'Malachim' was thrown out of Torah Vodaath for campaigning boys to wear beards and long jackets. This would have driven parents not to send their sons there. Think also of burquas.)

    Thus, if it can be shown for example that people with beards (or without beards, it doesn't make a difference) are significantly more likely to have observant grandchildren than others without (or with) beards, then it's within your moral rights to fabricate a source out of thin air promoting (or discouraging) beards. (I understand that beards is a ridiculous example but I'm trying to bring out the point.)

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  42. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:32 PM

    Many posts on this excellent blog show that Hareidi policy is baseless. That's terrific with regard to knowing what the sources say & how Hareidi policy differs from it. But according to Rivash & Rambam that's irrelevant until it is shown that there's a net loss compared to the alternative. How would we study that? By gathering Lashon Hara from both sides and seeing who is worse off. But first of all, how can you correctly evaluate how bad the problems are and secondly, who wants to wallow in dirt.

    (Thirdly, but seconDARily, it couldn't be communicated in a public forum without heated responses from the alleged losers who are already acclimated to, and hence dismissive of, the problems; and there'd be enough human indignation to make matters even more complicated.)

    This blog once cited Benny Brown who cites Dr. Tashma who cites the Chazon Ish that we are looking how to forbid electricity on Shabbos. Hey, aren't you supposed to study the sources and stick to the outcome? Apparently not, when needed.

    (According to anecdotal evidence, RMF & RSZA were exceedingly dismissive of the idea that electricity is בונה. But they factored that opinion of the CI in their rulings, not out of agreement with him but out of respect. But once there's no all-inclusive problem of בונה, we're left to navigate various attempts to allow this or that electricity on Shabbos or on Yom Tov—a “slippery slope”.)

    This is certainly not the kind of defense Hareidim are looking for, nor will others not find it morally reprehensible for our authorities to use these methods, but when all else fails, it just might fit the bill.

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    1. Just addressing electricity on Shabbat: One idea that I heard was that electricity can be used to do almost anything: to heat, to cool, to provide light, etc. Once electricity would be allowed on Shabbat, it really wouldn't be Shabbat anymore.

      A Rav in my shul was saying that we have concrete proof nowadays how it was best that use of electricity is forbidden on Shabbat: Isn't it better that people turn off their cellphones and computers and just disconnect from all that for one day a week?

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    2. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 8, 2020 at 6:05 AM

      RMF says this basic idea in a discussion about Shabbos clocks.

      Delete
  43. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:34 PM

    Returning to Mizrahiists and Reuvenists, they start out on the wrong foot with their irresponsible public statements and dubious apologies about the holocaust. As regards to their statements regarding spilling seed, we have our own authorities as collected and organized so nicely in R. Rones's article (thanks so much for linking!) to only maintain awareness of the subject but not to dwell on it. (Which is why I disposed of their CD when it arrived in the mail.) The question remains if it is beneficial for their crowd. I only met one Mizrahiist, a nice guy he was. Certainly we didn't discuss this subject. So if it's beneficial let them continue—for themselves. If not they should stop. Not that I would necessarily believe their claims that it's beneficial. And they should remember to clean up the rest of their shop.

    Rabbi Hananel Nifi of Italy (d. 1836/7), in a biographical piece on De Rossi, has some additional nuance to offer about Chazal's hyperbole in general and specifically about spilling seed. R Nifi apparently left out this piece on (the controversial) De Rossi from his mini encyclopedia of rabbinic personalities and later the manuscript was found and published by someone else. I'll copy and paste the original Hebrew at length, not the whole thing, and then recap some important points in English:

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  44. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:37 PM

    כמוהר"ר עזריה מן האדומים נולד במנטובה ונתישב אח"כ בפירארה. חיבר ס׳ מאור עינים ... והרב כמוהר"ר משה פרובנצאלי השיגו על מ"ש בדרוש ימי עולם והוא חזר והשיב אליו כמו שכתוב בסוף הספר.

    ודע דהרב הגדול כמוהר"ר חיד"א זצוק"ל בספרו מחזיק ברכה בקונטריס אחרון א"ח סי׳ ש״ז אות ה׳ הביא בידו מציאה שמצא בגנזי רב גדול בשם כמוהר"ר אלישע גאליקו ומהר״ם אלשיך ומטו בה גם משם מרן קארו זצוק״ל הצועקים מרה כלענה על ספר מאור עינים הנ"ל ... ע׳׳ש באורך.

    ונראה לע"ד דכל כי האי ריתחא דרתחו עמודי וגאוני עולם הנ"ל על הספר הנזכר אינו מפני שנמצא בו שמץ מינות ואפיקורסות ח״ו יען וביען כל הקורא בו יחכם ויבין דתמיד מרומם ומשבח ומפאר חכמת רז״ל וצדקתם ומשתדל לבאר דבריהם ומאמרים סתומים שלהם ... מכל מקום חשו רבנן שמא יגיע הס׳ הזה ביד איזה תלמיד שאינו הגון וישתה מים הרעים של הרבה דעות שונות מכמה מחברים שהביא שם בענינים האלו ויעשו רושם בדעתו ויבא לנטות מקבלת רז"ל בזה ולכפור בעיקרי תורתנו הקדושים. והילכך נראה בעיניהם דראוי להסיר מכשול מדרך עמינו.

    וכל זה שכתבתי מסכים עם מסורת שיש בידינו ומימי ילדותי שמעתיה שאסור לכל תלמיד לקרוא בזה הספר אם לא יטול רשות מרבו המובהק. אבל על כל פנים חכמת הרב הנ״ל ואמונתו ויראת חטא שלו מאירים ומזהירים כזוהר הרקיע מתוך ספרו, ולא עוד אלא שהיה פייטן ופיוט מזמור ליום השבת וכו׳ הוא ממנו וגם לקהל קדוש איטאליאני יש להם רשות א׳ קודם ברכו ליום ז׳ של פסח, והרב הנ״ל היה בזמן הרמ׳׳ע ומהר"ם פרובינצאלי וסיעתייהו זכותו יגן בעדנו.

    אחר שכתבתי כל זה הלכתי לעיר ריגייו ומצאתי בבית נכותו של כמוהר״ר ישעיה קרמי זצוק"ל קונטריס השגות על כל ס' מאור עינים הנל בכ״י מכונים למהר׳׳ם פרובינצאלי דשפך חמימי וחמימי דחמימי על רבינו המחבר בכל פנה ופנה ובפרט על מ"ש בחלק אמרי בינה פרק כ׳ דף פ״ז שמה שהגדילו רז"ל עונש הרבה עבירות הוא דרך גוזמא. והר"ם פרובינצאלי נחלק עליו וכתב עליו אוי לו לבעל דעת זו שבקש להתיר אסורים. וכן מ״ש בדף קמ״א וקמ׳׳ב בענין ... חמתו בערה בו וקרא עליו דברים קשים כגידים יע״ש.

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  45. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:41 PM

    ואני בעניי אף שמכיר אני מיעוט ערכי שאיני כדאי להשיב על דברי הרמ"ף מ׳׳מ הרי משנה שלימה שנינו הכל מלמדין זכות, וק"ו על החכמים מחברי ספרים דחייבים אנחנו לדונם לכף זכות ולמשכוני נפשין להצדיק דבריהם ... אשר על כן אוף הכא אחרי נשיקת כפות רגלי הרמ׳׳ף ושאלת אלף מחילות ממנו אמינא דהרב כמוהר”ר עזריה מאדומים לא עלה על דעתו מעולם ח"ו להתיר אסורים ולא להקל בהם כלל כדקאמ׳ הרמ׳׳ף. דגם הוא ודאי ס"ל שהעבירות שהזכיר הם חמורות מאד וענשם רבה למעלה. אלא דמ׳׳ש בזהר דעון הוצאת שז״ל חמור מכל העבירות ואין לו תשובה וכן מ״ש רז״ל שהוא כשופך דמים לא דברו בדוקא ממש אלא נתכוונו לומר דחמור מאד ממה שהדעת חושב.

    ובוא ואראך דאינו יחיד בדעת זו יען מצאתי להרב בעל בית שמואל מפרש ש"ע אה"ע (סי׳ כ׳׳ג) שהביא מ״ש בס׳ חסידים שאם א׳ מתיירא שאל יכשל בא"א או בנדה ח"ו טוב לו להוציא זרע לבטלה רק יתענה מ׳ יום בימי הקיץ או ישב בקור בימי החורף וכתב הוא ז"ל לפי זה מ״ש בזהר כאן דעון מוציא שז"ל חמור מכל עבירות לאו דוקא עכ"ל. ואע"ג דהרב פתח עינים בנדה (פ״ו) [פ"ב דף יג.] השיב על דברי הבית שמואל וחילק להוכיח דאין דברי ס׳ החסידים נגד הזהר הקדוש ולעולם אימא לך דדברי הזהר הם בדוקא יע"ש מ"מ מאן דאמר כהרב בית שמואל לא יקרא טועה מדרך המוסר ואין לקונן עליו אוי....


    ... אמנם אין כוונתי אלא להוכיח שסברת הר"ר עזריה מאדומים איננה סברה כוזבת ופסולה בהיות שעינינו הרואות שחשבו כמוהו גדולים אחרים שצדקתם ויראת חטאם גלוי לכל בני עמינו ושלא היו מתירי אסורים.

    וכן מ"ש עוד וכאלה אין קץ אשר אמרו בהבאי וגוזמא כדי להרחיק אדם מן העבירה ע"כ, אין כוונתו לומר שאין להם עונש כלל ח"ו דהא מצינו במקומות הרבה שפירשו רז״ל שלא דברו אלא בלשון גוזמא ואעפ״י שהפליגו בשיעור שנתנו מ"מ איזה שיעור יש ד"מ הא דאמרינן בפ"ק דעירובין מבוי שהוא גבוה מכ׳ אמה ימעט ור"י מכשיר עד מ׳׳ם ונו"ן ותני בר קפרא עד מאה ואמרינן בשלמא לבר קפרא גוזמא וכו׳ והא ודאי דבר קפרא נתכוון להתיר מ"ם ונו"ן ויותר אלא דמה שהגדיל עוד השיעור עד מאה הוא דרך גוזמא. וכן אמרו דיברה תורה בלשון הבאי ד"מ ערים גדולות ובצורות בשמים דאעפ"י שא"א כפשוטו מ"מ ודאי משמעות הכתוב הוא שהיו ערים גדולות ובצורות עד מאד. וכן כאן מ"ש הר”ר עזריה מאדומים שאמרו בהבאי וגוזמא נתכוון לומר שענשם ח מ ו ר ו ד א י א פ י ׳ י ו ת ר מ מ ה ש י ח ש ב ו ב נ י א ד ם אך לא ממש כמו פשט דבריהם. ומי לנו גדול מהרב ראשית חכמה ביראת חטא וקדושה בכל מדות טובות שמנו חכמים בצדיקים ואעפ"י כן גם הוא משכן עצמו לפרש דמ״ש בזהר שעון הוצאת שז"ל אין לו תשובה אינו כפשוטו אלא ר"ל שתשובתו קשה. ובודאי שכוונתו היתה שלא לרפות ידי בעלי תשובה שלא יתייאשו מהתשובה. והכי נמי נימא בעד מהר״ר עזריה מאדומים שכוונתו היתה כדי שלא יחזיקו בפני עצמם החוטאים האלה רשעים גדולים יותר מדאי ויתייאשו ח״ו מהתשובה בחשבם שאין קץ לענשם ושהושוו לעע״ז וכו'.

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  46. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:44 PM

    "Rabbi Azariah De Rossi authored “Meor Einayim”. Chidah cites earlier rabbis who cried out bitterly against that work. It seems to me that Meor Einayim contains no heresy. He constantly praises and glorifies Chazal's wisdom and piety—only that a studentשאינו הגון might see several opinions brought there and end up denying fundamentals of our holy Torah. This agrees with what I heard in my youth that it was forbidden for any student to study it unless he received permission from his rabbi. But the author's wisdom, faith, and fear of sin shine out from his Sefer.

    "Not only that, but he was a Paitan—the Piyut מזמור שיר ליום השבת is from him, and the Italian community has a Piyut from him for Pesach.

    "I found a booklet of objections on the entire Meor Einayim from Rabbi Moshe Provencali, especially what he write in Imrei Bina chapter 20 that Chazal hyperbolized the punishment of several sins. Rabbi Provencali objected and wrote, “WOE to an intelligent person that tried to allow the prohibited….

    "I know that I am not worthy to respond to Rabbi Provencali, but after kissing the soles of his feet and asking for a thousand pardons I say that Rabbi De Rossi never dreamed to allow or even be lenient with, G-d forbid, anything prohibited. Certainly Rabbi De Rossi also agrees that the sins he mentions are very grievous and their punishments are highly great. Only that that which Zohar says that the sin of spilling seed is more severe than all other sins and has no repentance, and that which Chazal say that it is like murder, they did not speak precisely. They only meant that it is much more severe than what we think.

    "I'll show you that he isn't alone in this view. Beis Shmuel E”H 23 also holds so. Although the Chida in פתח עינים, נדה דף יג argues with him, but one who follows Beis Shmuel need not be considered to have strayed from the ethical path, and we need not lament him, “WOE”.... My intent is only to show that Rabbi De Rossi's understanding isn't treif, for we see that other great people whose piety and fear of sin are known to all and did not allow anything prohibited, understood like him.

    "Likewise that which he writes that there is no end to the instances where Chazal engaged in hyperbole to keep people away from sin, he doesn't G-d forbid mean that there is no punishment. He means that their punishment is certainly more severe than what people think, but not actually like the simple reading of their words. The revered author of Reishis Chochma writes likewise. He certainly meant it for Baalei Teshuvah, that they not give up; the same for Rabbi De Rossi."

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  47. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:45 PM

    To tie one loose end, whether the Hareidi leadership can be trusted to assess whether the ends indeed justify the means, we can turn to a statement of R. Dessler. (Rabbi Dessler happens to agree with two foundations of Rationalist Judaism, that Genesis need not be literal and that Chazal's scientific statements need not be correct.)

    He writes:

    “I had the merit to know several of theses great men personally … —such as the Chofetz Chaim os”m, Reb Chaim of Brisk os”m, and Reb Chaim Ozer os”m—and I have observed them at meetings on matters concerning Klal Yisrael. And I can tell you with all sincerity that the amazing agility of their minds could be perceived even by puny intellects such as ours … [though] there was not the slightest chance that anyone like you or me could follow completely the crystal-clarity of their understanding.

    “And more: Whoever was present at their meetings could see with their own eyes the extent and depth of the sense of responsibility with which they approached these matters; it could be seen on their faces when they deliberated for the sake of heaven and devoted their minds to considering the problems of Klal Yisrael.

    “Anyone who did not see this has never seen feelings of responsibility in his life. Whoever had the merit to stand before them on such an occasion could have no doubt that he could see the Shechinah resting on the work of their hands and that the Holy Spirit was present in their assembly.”

    Overall, the current Hareidi leadership is in the tradition of the leaders R. Dessler mentions, and the earlier leaders already laid down the foundations for decisions being taken by the current leaders. In certain areas they appear to make baseless statements that might have beneficial ends. I find it prudent to pause before disputing them in those cases.

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  48. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 4, 2020 at 11:46 PM

    Let me add that I do not at all agree with the STORC cherem. The ends were horrific.

    There is further reading here, http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2010/11/falsely-asserting-that-rabbinic-law-is.html except that it contains an inaccuracy, for RMF actually says that RZHC misunderstood CS, i.e CS should be listed under “prohibited”.

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  49. Wow, those were some, uh, long comments...

    Incidentally, what is the "STORC cherem"?

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    1. Pandora's elephant / This Comment Should Be BannedSeptember 7, 2020 at 10:34 PM

      Wow, those were some, uh, long comments...

      My agent likes to think of them as 'rich'. ;)

      Incidentally, what is the "STORC cherem"?

      The Science Torah Orthodox Rabbi Controversy cherem, against the views of the Rishonim, recent Gedolim, and many in between, presented as against Rabbi Slifkin.

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  50. It is interesting to noee that many Orthodox Jews among Chabad and others confuse commutation of a sentence with a pardon. God knows why. They also get confused that the commutation does erase the offense. As for Rubashkin it is better than nothing and hopefully he will get thru his supervised release(which they also do not understand) and sin no more. Maybe part of this confusing, etc is based on ignorance and Perry Mason novels. Many non Jews have no idea of the legal system as well.

    ReplyDelete

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