May a Jew Lend Money Without Witnesses?

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

The Gemara states1:

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב כל מי שיש לו מעות ומלוה אותן שלא בעדים עובר משום ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול וריש לקיש אמר גורם קללה לעצמו שנאמר תאלמנה שפתי שקר הדוברות על צדיק עתק

אמרו ליה רבנן לרב אשי קא מקיים רבינא כל מה דאמור רבנן שלח ליה בהדי פניא דמעלי שבתא לישדר לי מר עשרה זוזי דאתרמי לי קטינא דארעא למזבן שלח ליה ניתי מר סהדי ונכתב כתבא שלח ליה אפילו אנא נמי שלח ליה כל שכן מר דטריד בגירסיה משתלי וגורם קללה לעצמי

תנו רבנן שלשה צועקין ואינן נענין ואלו הן מי שיש לו מעות ומלוה אותן שלא בעדים …

The Rif2 and the Rosh3 cite the statement of Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav that one who lends money without witnesses violates לפני עור, and the Beraisa of צועקין ואינן נענין, but they omit the statement of Reish Lakish and the episode of Rav Ashi and Ravina. The Rambam rules4:

אסור לאדם להלוות מעותיו בלא עדים ואפילו לתלמיד חכמים אלא עם כן הלוהו על המשכון. והמלוה בשטר משובח יותר. וכל המלוה בלא עדים עובר משום ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול וגורם קללה לעצמו:

The Shulhan Aruch cites the Rambam nearly verbatim5.

Despite the seeming unambiguity of the interdiction, this Halachah has apparently been honored in the breach for at least several centuries; many Aharonim have struggled to justify this widespread disregard, as we shall begin to show here, and continue, בג”ה, in future posts.

The first one I know to address this issue is Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller6:

ובגמרא ריש לקיש אמר גורם קללה לעצמו ומדלא אמר אף גורם כו’ שמע מינה דלא סבירא ליה ריש לקיש הך דלפני עור וטעמיה דסבר דלא אמרה תורה אלא העור באותה שעה שנותן לפניו המכשול כפשטיה דקרא … וכן רבינא דלא רצה להלוות לרב אשי בלא עדים אמר לו דגורם קללה לעצמו ולא אמר לפני עור מהא איכא למשמע דהלכתא הכי דהא רבינא בתראה הוא ונפקא מינה אי ההוא גברא בעי למיקם בגורם קללה דלא הוה עובר על דברי חכמים

ועל זה אפשר שסמכו העולם שאין מדקדקים בכך כך נראה לי ליישב מנהגא

אבל רבינו גם הרי”ף השמיטו (לדרב) [לדריש לקיש] ולדרבינא ומסתברא שסברתם לפסוק כרב ודריש לקיש להוסיף בא ולא הוצרכו להעתיקו. ומדרבינא ליכא למידק דאפשר שלא רצה לקרות על רב אשי קרא דלפני עור. והרמב”ם .. העתיק גם שניהם לדרב ולדריש לקיש:

His justification seems problematic, since it assumes that the custom is against the Shulhan Aruch, who follows the Rambam.

The Maharam Schiff also addressed7 the question of why Ravina excused himself to Rav Ashi by mentioning the concern of גורם קללה לעצמו rather than the prohibition of לפני עור; he was not very happy with the approach of Rav Heller8:

כל שכן מר וכו’ וגורם וכו’. ולא שלח ליה לאו דלפני עור וכו’ דלא שייך רק אם יכפור ובחזקת זה לא הוי רב אשי בעיני רבינא חס ושלום רק פן ישכח ונעלם ממנו והוא לא ידע ויהיה גורם קללה לעצמו ובמעדני מלך הבל יפצה פיהו:

(אמר המגיה פיסקא זו מצאתי בכתבי המחבר מחוקים ועל שהעתיקו המעתיק הנחתיו ושרא לנא מרנא:)

Rav Yitzhak Blazer defends Rav Heller9:

אולם לענ”ד נראה דדברי המעדני מלך [בפלפולא חריפתא] הם פי חכם חן ושפיר הקשה נהי דרב אשי לא הוי בחזקת שיכפור במזיד מכל מקום כיון דהוא טרוד בגירסא ומשתלי וכדשלח ליה רבינא כל שכן מר דטריד בגירסא ומשתלי וגורם קללה לעצמו ואם כן משום זה גופיה עובר בלפני עור לא תתן מכשול דטרוד בגירסא ועלול לשכוח ויכפור בשוגג והוי עבירה בשוגג. ובעל כרחך דלא סבירא ליה לרבינא כלל הא דעובר משום לפני עור לא תתן מכשול הן אם יכפרנו במזיד או בשוגג וזהו סעד למנהג העולם. כן נראה לי ברור כוונת הפלפולא חריפתא …

Rav Avraham Yaffah-Schlesinger has a lengthy discussion of Rav Heller’s comments and the related question of whether לפני עור applies to the causing of an inadvertent transgression10.

[About this post’s title: most non-Jews associate the titular phrase with Matthew, but it is also in our text of Birchos Ha’shahar, cited in the Talmud Bavli11.]

  1. בבא מציעא דף ע”ה ע”ב [↩]
  2. שם סוף איזהו נשך [↩]
  3. שם איזהו נשך סימן פ [↩]
  4. מלוה ולוה פרק ב’ הלכה ז [↩]
  5. חו”מ סימן ע’ סעיף א [↩]
  6. פלפולא חריפתא סוף איזהו נשך [↩]
  7. He apparently subsequently erased his comments from the manuscript, as per the quotation below [↩]
  8. שם [↩]
  9. שו”ת פרי יצחק חלק א’ סימן מ”ח [↩]
  10. שו”ת באר שרים חלק ג’ סימן ס”ח אות ג [↩]
  11. ברכות דף ס’ ע”ב [↩]

From Bein Din Ledin, here.

Why Exactly Don’t Jews Go Swimming on Shabbos?

See Forthodoxy’s outline of most issues pertaining to the matter.

I do not agree with Yehudah B. Ilan’s conclusions, but all Torah questions require fresh, honest study, especially those arousing cognitive dissonance. We must, as part of the obligation to study Torah, continually reopen what grabs our attention and let the chips fall where they may. Too few Torah scholars today do so, relying on various slogans which reinforce unjust habit and Appeal to Authority. An imprecatory verse from Pirkei Avos comes to mind:

ודלא מוסיף יסף

May the author be blessed with many more years and good health to uncover the truth in the Torah!

P.S. Why do I disagree? For one, modern scholars may add prohibitions of permitted activities to the Torah (as long as (1) they are self-consciously doing so and revealing the fact, (2) their reasoning is sound, and (3) there is no unjustified leniency or sin brought about through the new stringency). So Forthodoxy over here is correct, but incomplete. Examples include not having the Shli’ach Tzibbur pray and say blessings for the congregation, since it is suspected that they do not listen carefully (unlike Chazal’s day), umbrellas on Shabbos (?), some laws of Bassar Bechalav, the Gaon on not going to the Mikveh on Shabbos, et cetera. Perhaps Rambam on Redid might be another (also relevant to Forthodoxy here. YB romanises it as “radhiydh”). Do post-Chazal scholars keep up to the three aforementioned standards required? Not always.

There is more to say, but not now.

Is There ‘Wasting’ Seed in Marital Intimacy?

Guilt-Free Marital Intimacy: Spilling Seed Is Permitted Sometimes!

I recently took a survey of many young couples my age in an effort to determine what exactly we had all been taught in our Chosson and Kallah classes. Were our lessons similar? Did they differ in any extreme way? I discovered something disturbing- namely, that nearly everyone was totally ignorant of two very important sources. To be completely blunt and very honest, I am going to discuss intimacy and sexuality here. If this troubles you, please don’t read further.

The first source that people had not been taught is the Ri to Yevamos 34b.

The gemara is discussing various sexual practices and focuses specifically on Er andOnan and the fact that apparently they engaged in unnatural intercourse (shelok’darkah). A question is raised by Tosfos: What of the gemara in Nedarim 20b? There it says:

R. Johanan said: The above is the view of R. Johanan b. Dahabai; but our Sages said: The halachah is not as R. Johanan b. Dahabai, but a man may do whatever he pleases with his wife [at intercourse]: A parable; Meat which comes from the abattoir, may be eaten salted, roasted, cooked or seethed; so with fish from the fishmonger.4 Amemar said: Who are the ‘Ministering Angels’? The Rabbis. For should you maintain it literally, why did R.Johanan say that the halachah is not as R. Johanan b. Dahabai, seeing that the angels know more about the formation of the fetus than we? And why are they designated ‘Ministering Angels’? — Because they are as distinguished as they.5

A woman once came before Rabbi and said, ‘Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he overturned it.’ Rabbi replied: ‘My daughter! the Torah hath permitted thee to him — what then can I do for thee?’

The same way that a man may eat meat in whichever manner he pleases- whether it be salted, roasted, cooked or seered– so too may a man do with his wife whatever he pleases (as long as it is mutual and consensual). The question Tosfos raises is that there seems to be a contradiction- in Nedarim we say that a man can do whatever he wishes, yet here in Yevamos we are taking issue with Er and Onan and the fact that they engaged in “unnatural intercourse.”

The answer is that in fact we are not taking issue with the fact that Er and Onan engaged in unnatural intercourse. Wherefore were these two brothers punished? The explanation we can offer is because A) one brother practiced this spilling of seed as coitus interruptusin order to ensure that his wife would never become pregnant, and this form of birth control is forbidden B) the wife of one’s brother is generally forbidden to a man and the only case in which he may take her is if he plans to build up his brother’s family through her= Yibum; the fact that this brother was spilling his seed showed he had no interest in actually fulfilling the mitzvah of Yibum and thus was guilty of one of the forbidden relations.

This means that shelo k’darkah (insofar as it may mean coitus interruptus) is forbidden when it is used as a method of birth control. However, as the Ri explicitly states, “if a man’s desire is for his wife in this particular way (shelo k’darkah inasmuch as it means spilling seed) and he only does this sometimes, but not every time (i.e. not as a method of birth control, for instance) then it is permitted.”

But what’s more, this issue is raised by none other than the great Gadol R’ MosheFeinstein himself.

This appears in Even Ha’Ezer SamachGimmel.

R’ Moshe explains that when it speaks of “motzi zera l’vatalah” – wasting seed, this is referring to a true waste of seed where there is absolutely no need for that seed to have been spilled. However, it is permitted to spill seed outside of the woman for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Onah and in order to cause his wife to be joyous/ fulfilled (because then it’s not l’vatalah, but rather for a purpose)! Because when it comes to the matter of relations between a man and his wife, the Torah permitted a man to do that which his heart desires which is shelo k’darkah because he considers it his need and it is not considered l’vatalah and in fact it is completely permitted. The reason it is only permitted sometimes (and not always), is because it will not always be a need or desire as oftentimes he will be satisfied from the k’darkah intimacy.

R’ Feinstein goes on to quote the Ri and cites both of his provisions. The Ri offers two different opinions, one more stringent and one less so. 1) That he who deliberately intends to spill seed – it is assur (but if he comes to spill seed and had not intended it, that is fine) 2) If he commonly spills seed outside of the woman/ this is a regular thing for him to do, it is also assur because one does not crave this regularly. R’ Feinstein follows the second approach of the Ri and explains that if someone sometimes desires to do this, it ismuttar even if he does not have in mind that it should be for the sake of the mitzvah but rather only because it is a need between himself and his wife. That’s pretty radical!

Now, why am I telling you this? Because Heshy’s chosson teacher (if you want to learn with our teachers/ get their info, email me), who showed him these sources, explained that there are many couples who harbor desires to act with one another in a loving way that might also arouse the man to a point where he does not spill seed within the woman, but rather outside of her, and they believe they are bad people because of this. Alternatively, there are those who simply do as they wish and believe that they are breaking Torah law and halakha and thus struggle with a lot of guilt because they were never taught accurately.

What it comes down to is: Be intimate with your wife and make her happy and glad, and should you wish to sometimes (derech akrai) engage in behavior that is shelo k’darkahand which includes spilling seed outside of her rather than within her, that is perfectlymuttar and fine. Just beware because if you do this every time or regularly it becomes a problem.

ADDENDUM: I thought this was obvious, but in case it wasn’t: what I am presenting here are merely sources. Obviously you should ask your own rabbi, posek or halakhic decisor before following them, which is true of all my posts. Rock on.

From Curious Jew, here.