Mamzer Scandal in Philadelphia
- Book:: Philly Scandal of Remarriage without a GET
- Shalom Bayis Beth Din - For All Ages
- Men and Women: Who is Superior? And the Moon Woman...
- Broken Marriages and Derech Erets Today
- Teshuva Created a Stable World
- Projects of Jewish Outreach Congregation
- Table of Contents
- Marital Intimacy
- BLOGS BY RABBI DOVID E. EIDENSOHN
Monday, February 19, 2018
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Rambam Chapter 15 of the Laws of Marriage says, “The rabbis have decreed that a man should not be without a wife lest he come to sinful thoughts.” The Magid Mishneh there brings the source of the Rambam in the gemora Yevomose 62B, “A man is forbidden to live without a wife.” Let us understand that the Rambam and the Magid are not saying that if a man has a wife and they have no intimacy that this is okay. It is not okay. The Rambam and the Magid mean that only when a man has a functioning marriage where there is regularly intimacy as taught in the Shulchan Aruch and gemora is he fulfilling his obligation. But if a wife wants a divorce and the husband refuses to give her one, even if they continue to live in the same house, the husband has no intimacy nor does the wife. This can cause both of them to find intimacy with another person who is forbidden to them and if they do this they are doing a horrible sin.
See also the Code of Laws Even Hoezer about marriage, chapter 76 paragraph 13, that a husband or wife who demand that intimacy be only wearing clothes separating husband and wife, that this is grounds for divorce. See also Beis Shmuel there. This may be an argument among the authorities, but this is what it says in the Code of Laws.
Another problem is that even if a marriage is broken and husband and wife live in the same house without intimacy, the biological processes of both husband and wife, the need for regularly intimacy, is not being served. This can either lead to the husband and wife seeking other partners not their spouses, or the husband can sin with masturbation, a serious sin. But biology must be served, and one who lives without a functioning wife is not serving his biology. The wife also has a biology and emotions and they must be served.
Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter 23 paragraph one says that it is forbidden
to emit sperm and this is a very great sin. The Shulchan Aruch elaborates on
the very serious nature of that sin.
so, a husband who has reached a point with his wife that he cannot have
regularly intimacy with her, either because she refuses or because he does not
want to be with her, we have a crisis. Biology is burning for a young person,
and it doesn’t go away for many years until the person is really old, and even
then, who knows if anybody is really cleansed of the biology. If so, the only
solution is a good marriage. If a person is unable to have intimacy but the
marriage is good, things may be fine. But especially with younger people, any
marriage with no functioning intimacy and nothing to calm the fire of the biology,
what hope is there to be saved from serious sins?
are today thousands of people without a proper protection from their biology.
Many people divorced and cannot remarry for whatever reason. Many people can
marry but are reluctant because of the many problems in marriages today, the
gender war, etc. Many people delayed marriage until it got to the point that
they could only marry by accepting somebody much older or much different than
the person they always planned to marry. Such people can wait and wait and wait
until they find what they always wanted, but it is not easy to find somebody
you wanted in your youth when you are much older.
is a crisis and it is only getting worse. The gender wars, the fears, the lack
of proper guides for many people, yes, it is a crisis and it is only getting
us review our teaching here. A husband and a wife are supposed to live together
with regularly intimacy. This is crucial to save them both from sin. If the
marriage is not going well, and the two live in the same house, but there is no
regular intimacy, we have a very dangerous situation that can lead to very
serious sins. It is therefore sinful for a man and a wife to live in the same
house in a broken marriage without regular intimacy.
is crucial today when many marriages break down and intimacy suffers, that both
should recognize they are living in sin that can lead them heaven forfend to
very serious sin. Again, it is a sin for a husband or a wife to live without
regular intimacy. If the marriage has broken down both husband and wife live in
sin. Now, if the husband wants the wife but the wife is against the husband and
doesn’t want anything to do with him, for instance, the classical case of a
woman complaining that her husband disgusts here, this is a situation where
there is no proper intimacy in the family, and it is a sin for both husband and
wife to live together.
woman with Kiddushin cannot force the husband to divorce her against his will, only to
divorce her willingly. And if the husband refuses to divorce her willingly, he
is living in sin, and she is suffering, but the sin is not hers, the sin is
that of the husband who will not give her a GET. If there are children who will
suffer from a broken family and a GET from father to mother, it may be that the
husband has an excuse to save the children from a divorce. But the husband is
living without a functioning marriage, which can lead to serious sins.
a couple living together and certainly living apart without regular intimacy
are living in sin. If the marriage has broken down but there cannot be a
divorce because of the children, we have a very serious problem that leads to
serious sins. Every effort must be made to rectify the problem.
if the Beth Din or people involved in solving the problem can convince the
husband to improve his attitude to the wife, and if the wife can be convinced
to improve her attitude to the husband, perhaps they can improve their marriage
and find a way to have regular intimacy. But if not, they are both living
separately and are both exposed to biological problems that lead to serious
rabbonim have told me that today there are entire sections of Orthodox people
who live in sin, because of the problems today with marriage. Every day that
the marriage exists without regular intimacy is a day of sin.
the one hand, a woman cannot force a Kiddushin GET from the husband. On the
other hand, the husband is not allowed to live without a functioning marriage,
meaning, a marriage with regular intimacy. Something has to give. And the
greatest efforts must be made to solve the problem. The key is to find people
who can solve these problems, and bring the husband and wife back together
until they accept regular intimacy.
the one hand, a husband cannot be forced to divorce his wife if the marriage
was made with Kiddushin. On the other hand, the husband is not allowed to live
without a regular intimacy, nor is the wife permitted to live this way.
come to a situation where either people get involved who can solve the problem
of the marriage, or they must consider a divorce. If children are involved, and
a divorce is a terrible thing for them, and perhaps husband and wife don’t want
to divorce, and yet they don’t want to have regular intimacy, I don’t know how
husband and wife are allowed to continue without regular intimacy, because of
the biology that has no cure.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
To Marry and to Escape It
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
To Marry and to Escape It is about an Orthodox Jewish woman who marries an Orthodox Jewish man with Kiddushin and then finds that her marriage is a mistake. She may not remarry without receiving a GET divorce document from her husband, given willingly, or if her husband dies. She may leave her husband but not remarry. See footnotes about this problem and what I recommend as a solution, namely, not to marry with Kiddushin but to marry with Pilegesh, a marriage recognized by the Talmud in Sanhedrin 21A and the Shulchan Aruch in the beginning of the Laws of Kiddushin.
The gemora above brings it and great authorities permit and encourage it, such as the Ramban in his name and the name of the Rambam as long as the couple behaves in a proper marital manner and not zenuse[i]. Rav Yaacov Emden son of the Chacham Tsvi is enthusiastic about it. See Shailess Yayvetz II:15 especially at the end of the lengthy teshuva, for his enthusiastic encouragement of Pilegesh. He also indicates that refusal to marry with Pilegesh can result in problems.
Despite this, my main enthusiasm for Pilegesh is because today women who want to leave their husbands are often encouraged by certain rabbis to do things such as forcing their husbands to give them a GET or recently to leave their husbands and remarry with no GET. The majority of Torah authorities consider either of these invalid to the extent that the children born from the new husband are likely mamzerim. A mamzer who marries a Jewish woman produces more mamzerim, for all generations. So I say better Pilegesh than mamzerim, even if there may be some quibbling about Pilegesh. Again, the gemora in Sanhedrin 21A quoted by the Vilna Gaon clearly states that Pilegesh is a Torah marriage. The Shulchan Aruch quoted above mentions that some forbid Pilegesh because the woman may be ashamed to go to the Mikva. But if she is encouraged by the husband or local rabbis to go to the Mikva there is nothing wrong with it. And I feel that even if here and there somebody disagrees with Pilegesh, better to do that with all who back it, and not make mamzerim. Just ask the children who will be mamzerim.
Now I want to talk a bit about the problems faced by married people and those who simply are not marrying.
Briefly stated, we have many people even Orthodox Jews, who refuse to marry. We also have many people, including Orthodox Jews, who divorce. We also have many people of various ages whose biology give them no peace, and they end up doing serious sins. Young people are boiling with biology. If I was their age, and not seventy-five years old, I would probably sin also. I have spoken to rabbis who are familiar with the situation and they tell me that entire sections of the Orthodox community have adapted a lifestyle that is the opposite of kedusho.
There is a man well known who has worked for years on trying to get divorced Jews to remarry. He told me he failed to find success in that, despite great efforts. Briefly, the Torah gives us laws of when to marry and how to marry. If parents are involved with getting their children married, and find the proper mates before the age of twenty, and do the necessary checking of the prospective mates, there is hope. If we are too busy to follow the Torah, we are in trouble.
How a husband engages in having children and how he treats his wife is taught in the Torah and the Talmud. It is the first subject taught in the Code of Laws (Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer) about marriage laws. What the Code of Laws says are direct quotes from the Talmud with references from the Torah. Therefore, let us begin with the beginning of the Code of Laws about marriage.
We quote the Shulchan Aruch there, “The Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying. Chapter One – The Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying and the Sin of Being Without a Wife: 14 paragraphs.”
Note the two things here. First, “the Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying.” Two is “the Sin of Being Without a Wife.” First we will deal with the mitsvah to be fruitful and multiply.
“Every man is obligated to marry a woman in order to be fruitful and multiply. And anyone who is not active in being fruitful and multiplying is as one who poured blood and shrinks the Image of G‑d and causes the Divine Presence Shechina to depart from the Jews.
This is from a gemora in Yevomose 63b. There it explains more than is explained in the brevity of the Code of Laws. The language in the gemora is: “Tanyo, we have learned in the name of Rabbi Eliezar: Anyone who is not involved in being fruitful and multiplying is as one who spills blood. As it is said, ‘One who spills the blood of a person in the person, his blood will be spilled. After this it says, ‘And you be fruitful and multiply.’” The Maharsho in his commentary there explains that HaShem created the first man, Adam, to come into the world. Adam came into the world together with the souls of those who had to be born. This birth came about by people being fruitful and multiplying. Thus, anyone who does not practice being fruitful and multiplying has caused the body of Adam to be missing that part of him that could have grown into a human being and helped fill the world with people. Thus in a sense it means that a person who does not fulfill this potential of creating human life is as one who destroys the potential of souls that could have become human beings if a human would have practiced being fruitful and multiply.
The gemora there continues and says, “Rabbi Yaacov says that one who does not practice being fruitful and multiplying it is as if he had made smaller the image of G‑d.” That is, “because people were created in the image of G‑d” which is followed by the passage “and you be fruitful and multiply.” Meaning, having children assures that there will be people in the image of G‑d. The more children coming into the world create those in the image of G‑d. And one who does not produce these children by refusing to be fruitful and multiplying is blamed for not creating a person in the image of G‑d.
The gemora on page 64A says that one who does not engage in having children causes the Schechina to depart from the world. The Schechina wants to rest upon Jewish children, and if there are not enough Jewish children, where does the Schechina go? To pieces of wood and the stones?
The Ramo Rabbi Moshe Iserles quotes a gemora in Yevomose 62b about bringing joy to one’s wife and self
The Shulchan Aruch then quotes the Ramo, who brings teachings for Ashkenazi Jews. We are still in chapter one paragraph one, but first comes the teaching of Rabbi Caro a Sefardi and then the teaching of Ramo who was an Ashkenazi.
“Rabbi Tanchum in the name of Rabbi Chaniloy says, ‘Any man who lives without a wife lives without happiness without blessing and without goodness. Without happiness as it is said, ‘And you should find happiness through you and your wife.’ Without blessing as it says, ‘to bring blessing to your house.’ Without goodness as it is said, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone.’ In Israel they would say, ‘Without Torah and without a wall (the wife protects her husband).’ Rovo bar Ulo says, ‘without peace.’” The gemora then discusses the obligation of the husband to have marital relations with his wife when appropriate, and that brings husband and wife happiness.
The gemora we quoted before now brings the topic of marital relations as a key to Shalom Bayis. This gemora is connected to the previous gemora that we quoted above about a wife bringing happiness, etc. And now we have the mitsvah upon the husband to make his wife happy with marital intimacy.
The gemora is that above in Yevomose 62b that discussed the need for a man to have a wife. Now the gemora expands this to explain the obligation of the husband to make his wife happy, an expansion of the gemora above saying that the wife made the husband happy. Now it goes in two directions. The wife makes the husband happy and the husband makes the wife happy. This is specifically mentioned in the gemora when the husband has marital relations with his wife, something crucial for Shalom Bayis and the happiness of the wife.
The gemora there begins by continuing the previous thread of how crucial a wife is for the happiness of the man. And now it talks about how crucial the man is to make the wife happy and to make Shalom Bayis in the family. This is done when the man fulfills his obligation to have intimacy with his wife on a regular basis.
The gemora brings a passage, “And you will know that there is peace in your tent, and you will visit your home (meaning you will have intimacy with your wife) and not sin.” This means, says the gemora, that a husband who refrains from having marital intimacy with his wife is a sinner.
The gemora there then expands on the obligations of the husband to his wife and says, “He who loves his wife as he loves himself, and who honors his wife more than himself, and he who raises his sons and daughters to go in the path of righteousness, and he who marries off his children just prior to the age of marriage, of him the passage says, ‘and you will know that there is peace in your tent.’”
The honoring of the wife more than himself is explained to pertain to spending money on the wife. Even though the husband needs to buy something he must defer to his wife and buy for her if there is only money for one of them to purchase. Rashi in the gemora there explains that a woman without the clothes and other things that women need suffers more than a man without those things, so the husband must first satisfy his wife with spending and only afterwards should he spend on himself.
The Raishise Chochmo mentioned below in the footnote explains, “And the husband must always honor her so she has enough money to buy what she needs and for her to have proper clothing, even if the husband has to spend more money on her than he can afford.” Of course, if the husband spends more on his wife than what he can afford, it means that he will have to make up the loss by sacrificing himself and not buying something that he needed.
We see here that although a wife provides a husband with the afore-mentioned gifts of happiness, etc., this comes about because the husband sacrifices for his wife and suffers loss of buying what he needs so that she can buy what she needs. This theme of the husband sacrificing for his wife is based upon a passage in the Torah.
See Devorim 24:5, “When a man takes a new wife….he will make his wife that he took rejoice.” Rashi notes that the obligation on the husband to make his wife rejoice means that she rejoices, not him. The same is taught in the Zohar that emphasizes the need for the husband to make his wife rejoice not that he rejoices. The husband must sacrifice to make his wife happy. As the Zohar says, “This rejoicing is not for the husband to rejoice but for his wife to rejoice, as it is written ‘and he shall make his wife rejoice.’” Here we see the husband sacrificing to make his wife happy.
The Shulchan Aruch and commentators suggest that a boy should marry at the age when he begins his eighteenth year meaning when the seventeenth year has turned into the beginning of the eighteenth year. We must keep in mind that this is appropriate for families when the parents are in charge of finding a mate for the boy. If a boy has parents who are not involved with his marriage, as we sometimes find, this can be a problem.
Parents who struggle with finding the right mate for a child sometimes just get worn out and quit. If that happens a child may have friends who suggest a match, or a shadchon. But to marry young is advisable mainly when parents are heavily involved. Of course, the choice must be the choice of the child not the parents. And yet, without heavy parental efforts in finding the right mate, there can be problems.
We find in that paragraph, “Under no circumstances should one be over the age of twenty and not marry.” This is surely not the custom in the Yeshiva world, as some are busy learning and don’t want to get married at the age of twenty. Also, if somebody is looking hard for a shidduch but didn’t find the right one, this is not so serious. But if somebody just refuses to look for a shidduch, that is serious, unless the person is busy learning Torah and doesn’t want to stop learning.
There is a story I heard about a young man who was not marrying, and he spoke to his rebbe. He explained that he found some appropriate candidates for marriage, but he thinks he could do better. The rebbe told him, “The people you saw last year and two years ago, those are the people you will see later on.”
I once learned in a Yeshiva where a student was a great learner and very handsome. But for some reason he didn’t get married. I want over to him and asked him if he knew what HEFSED MERUBO meant. He surely knew what that meant. It means “a great loss.” That is, sometimes a rabbi is asked a question about Jewish law, and it is possible to want to be strict about the problem and forbid it. But if there is a great loss by being strict a prominent rabbi might rule that we should be lenient.
I continued: Tell me, I said, you have been involved in shidduchim a few years and no marriage. Each year that goes by and you don’t marry, you could have married and had a child. Is that not a great loss? Soon he was married.
A young man called up his father and said, “Dad, mazel tov!” The father had no idea what that meant. It seems that the father was one of those parents who just gave up the struggle to find his child a shidduch. So he let his son float. The son waited and waited, and finally found a shidduch on his own. He then called up his father and said “mazel tov!” The father was surprised, and he deserved to be surprised. Yes, a parent suffers to find the right mate for a child. But that doesn’t mean that you just drop it. There are shadchonim. There are other people who have contacts with the kind of people you are looking for. But just to drop your child in the middle of getting married?
A Person Who Had a Boy and a Girl Has Fulfilled Pru Urevu but Should Preferably Marry and also Continue to Have More Children
A Jewish person is supposed to be married and is supposed to have children. The mitsvah in the Torah is PRU URVU be fruitful and multiply.
Another mitsvah is taught in the Beis Shmuel chapter One paragraph 1. Even somebody who already has children has another mitsvah לערב אל תנח את ידך meaning even if you had children in your younger years, as you get older, you still have a mitsvah to increase with more children. This is not the mitsvah of pru urvu but it is another mitsvah “in the older phase of your life do not refuse to have more children.”
The world is created and designed to produce children. This is called "לשבת יצרה“.
See the Mishneh and gemora Yevomose 61B: “A man must not refrain from having more children unless he has children. Beis Shamai says two male children. And Beis Hillel says a male and a female, as it is says, ‘male and female He created them.’”
The gemora says, “We infer from this that if he has children he can refrain from being fruitful and multiplying. But this does not exempt him from the obligation to have a wife. This is a proof to Rav Nachman in the name of Shmuel who said, ‘even if a man has many children it is forbidden to be without a wife as it is said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone.’” See also there the Tosfose Chad Mikamoi if two males are better than a male and a female. The plain teaching of the Mishneh seems to say that male and female to Beis Hillel is better than two males.
If I recall correctly there was somebody who had a lot of boys but no girls. The question is if he had to divorce his wife as he had not achieved a boy and a girl. I understand that the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l blocked him from divorcing his wife even though he had no female but many boys. The plain meaning of the Mishneh above is that two children means a boy and a girl but not two boys. And this is the basic understanding of Tosfose Chad Mikamoi. However, see Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter one paragraph 5, “When a man has a boy and a girl he has fulfilled the mitsvah of being fruitful and multiplying.” The Bi’are HaGola there#40 says, “The source is a Mishneh in Yevomose 61B according to the opinion of Beis Hillel.” It doesn’t say that two boys are also good. However, to divorce a wife for having too many boys and no girls is also a problem because divorce isn’t just a bandaid, it is a disaster, unless the wife is completely unable to have children, and even then we could discuss the situation. See Ramo in Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter one paragraph 3 that for many generations we have not kept to the custom of forcing a divorce on a woman who cannot have children. (See also the Gro there 1:10 Lo Nohadu other opinions.)
See Beraishis II:18, “And HaShem Elokim said, ‘It is not good that a man should be alone. I will make for him a helpmate opposite him.” We see that a man alone is “not good.” The plain understanding is that it is not good, not because the wife produces children, but because the man himself needs a “helpmate opposite him.” The two of them are one. This is born out in subsequent passages that Adam was alone and unhappy until HaShem brought to Adam part of his body that became his wife. Then Adam rejoiced and said, ‘And man said, ‘this time there is bone from my bones,and flesh from my flesh. To this shall be called “woman” because this is taken from a man.’” (In Hebrew it is understood better. ISH is man and ISHO is woman. They are similar. They are one.)
See chapter one paragraph 13: A woman is not commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Nonetheless, some say she should not live alone lest people suspect her of having relations with men not her husband. The Vilna Gaon brings there a gemora in Bovo Metsiah 71A that a woman who lives alone and has men living in her building can sin with them when she doesn’t expect them to publicize her sin. If so, any woman who is not married and has men in her building can be suspected of sinning, even though the gemora does not say this but rather says that a woman is possibly suspected when she buys a servant who will not publicize her sinning with him. But if she does not buy a servant it is not definite that we suspect her. However, living alone obviously is a biological test for a woman and she may be tempted to sin.
 The vast majority of Orthodox women men and women marry with Kiddushin. This creates the above situation that the wife cannot leave the marriage unless the husband gives her a document called GET willingly or dies. Whereas many women are bitter at this and some leave Orthodox Judaism, I propose that women consider marrying with Pilegesh, a permitted kind of marriage that does not penalize a spouse for leaving the marriage, and it is a valid Orthodox marriage. For information about this contact me at 845-578-1917 or email@example.com.
 See Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Laws of Kiddushin 26:1 and various commentators especially lengthy comments by Vilna Gaon.
 See Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying chapter one paragraph one the Shulchan Aruch and the Ramo.
 The Shulchan Aruch has three sections. One is the teaching of Rabbi Yosef Caro called Shulchan Aruch. Then we have the comments of Rabbi Moshe Isserless, who adds teaching pertaining to Ashkenazim to offset the sefardic teachings of Rabbi Caro. The third section are the various latter commentators.
 Raishise Chochmo page 266b דרך ארץ האיש עם אשתו.
 volume III page 277b in the parsha of Saitsai.
 Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter One paragraph 3 see Beis Shmuel and Chelkas Mechokake.
 There are discussions in the above paragraph about forcing older people to marry. Some want to force and some refuse to force. There is also a discussion in paragraph 4 about somebody who only wants to learn Torah and not marry.
 See chapter one paragraph 8. There is a question in the Beis Shmuel if marrying to have more children is a dirabonon or a diorayso.
 Beraishis II:18
 In the gemora there Yevomose 61B the gemora says that a man without children must marry a woman who can have children. But one who has children is not so forced to marry a woman who can have children. See the discussion there if one can sell a Torah scroll to merit having children. See also the Tosfose there NAFKO MINO.
[i] Ramban is in the volume of Rashbo called Meyucheses. Some of the responsum there is signed clearly by the Ramban, including number 283 and 284. In 2843 he deals with Pilegesh. The vast majority of the material the volume called Meyucheses is not signed by the Ramban and is not signed at all. We must therefore assume that the signed teshuvose are surely from the Ramban, and the unsigned teshuvose are possibly not from the Ramban but maybe the Rashbo. The volume is titled שו"ת הרשב"א המיוחסות להרמב"ן.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
The Book of Tehilim
Commentary by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
1A. - Happy is he [the man] who did not walk with the advice of wicked people. I do not know the perfect English translation for the Hebrew word of ASHREI אשרי . I tried “secure” and “successful” but these according to the Roget’s Super Thesaurus connote “secure from fear” and “successful defeating others”. Happiness also fails in the Thesaurus because it indicates “joy, gladness, contentment, bliss, delight, jubilation, pleasure, cheer, high spirits, peace of mind, elation, rapture, euphoria, exuberance, felicity, ecstasy.” In truth, ASHREI connotes all of these, but secure is involved with a negative “fear” and successful is involved with “defeating others”. Happiness has no negative quality so I chose it, although it fails to go beyond the good feeling one has when happiness happens. But happiness can be a fleeting thing, and who is happy in the sense of joy and rapture for long moments?
Thus, the correct translation of ASHREI must be an explanation perhaps with some words of exactly what the Psalmist intended. The Psalmist intended to convey happiness, secure and successful, but not in their transitory states and not in their relation to fear and defeating others. It is a deeper word than all three. It is a word that conveys a sense much deeper than joy and vastly superior to the kind of happiness that comes along for a ride and then leaves. It is a word much stronger than secure and much more positive than successful. When we use joy to define ASHREI but only by stretching it into a lifetime feeling; when we use “secure” not just as security from fear of failure and such negative things, but security in locking our souls to heaven and our minds to Torah; if we also combine “successful” as defeating others who are wicked, who defy the Torah, and include in successful the constant war with the Satan and defeating it, we are approaching the meaning of Ashrei. But I left it as “happy” so as not to create many words to explain one word. Precisely because the many words won’t do the job either. ASHREI is a word that conveys a Jew who has a soul linked to heaven and a mind that knows this world. It is a word that warns us about evil and encourages us to stay righteous. Until we have a word that unites this world and the next, and G‑d with our struggles to understand Torah, we are left with ASHREI!
1B. “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” is a past tense. It might seem more correct and more powerful to say “who does not walk with the advice of wicked people.” If “did not walk” is a past tense, it allows an understanding that as of now he no longer refuses to walk with the advice of the wicked, which is surely not want the Psalmist meant. But the Psalmist realizes that people who believe in Torah and two worlds and good and evil are constantly struggling with the Evil Inclination. There are times when such people who are typical Jewish people win the fight with the Satan and sometimes they fail. When a Jew fails he repents. Maybe today he is repenting about what he did yesterday but tomorrow he may go back to his old ways. This is not ASHREI. This is a sad failure that is not the glory of the book of Tehilim. The glory of the Book of Tehilim is when the old evil is completely washed away so that “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” connotes a very long period of piety. A sin here or there that is a rarity in one’s long piety is one thing. But if the sins are frequent, that is not ASHREI.
1C. “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people.” What is this about “walking”? And what is this about “advice”? Let it just say “who did not go in the ways of wicked people’?
The Talmud says, “That which proceeds from an impure thing is impure. And that which proceeds from a pure thing is pure.” )Bechorose 5b)The advice of the wicked people does not mean that they are wicked in the sense that they want to harm the righteous. We are talking about people who are wicked but they are not intent on harming religious people nor do they want them to do sins. Their advice here can be good advice. Otherwise, the Psalmist would be talking about double trouble, walking with wicked people and getting bad advice from them. No, the advice was good advice. Even an evil person, can, if he so wishes, tell somebody good advice. Many people would say, look, he is a smart man. His advice is usually sound. Let’s do what he suggests. But the pious knows that “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” He doesn’t want good advice form a wicked person.
Now what is this about “walking”? This means we know somebody who is not so religious, but he is very smart. He tells us how to go about something, and we have no fear that he hates us and wants to cause us harm. Probably, we assume, the advice is solid. On the other hand, he is not so religious. To go and just accept his advice may be a step away from Torah. So, the person makes a compromise with the wicked man. He will “walk” doing the advice of the wicked man. But walking doesn’t mean that he swallows the man along with his advice. No, his head, his heart, his intellect, have nothing to do with the wicked. On the other hand, he does follow the advice of the wicked men, and he convinces himself that he is far removed from the wicked and their wickedness. He is only “walking” with his feet in the advice of the wicked, but his head, his soul, his heart, his true self, is not swallowing evil and wickedness. Only the feet are walking along in the path suggested by the wicked person. And the wicked person himself did not indicate in any way that he wants to contaminate the righteous person, who may be a close relative. But that walk can be the process of “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” Somehow, this effects the piety of the good person.
We find in the beginning of the Torah reading called AIKEV a lengthy discussion by one of the great commentators, the Or HaChaim HaKodosh. AIKEV means “heel.” The Torah reading of AIKEV begins “and it will be AIKEV” meaning according to the Or HaChaim when the person’s spirituality is so perfect that it goes from the head to the heels, a complete tsaddik whose entire essence is for Torah.
The Book of Tehilim begins with a similar idea. A righteous person who “walks” according to the “advice” of the wicked, is not completely connected to HaShem. The feet are impure and that impurity damages the entire essence of the person who otherwise is righteous. Now he is impure and damaged because the “heel” or “walking” element in him follows the advice of the wicked, even if the wicked had no intention of causing him any evil or impurity. “That which proceeds from the impure is impure.”
“and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand”. A path is designed for traffic that is for people to go here and there. “He didn’t stand” why should he stand when everybody is moving? First he talks about
“Happy is he who did not walk in the advice of the wicked.” Now he talks about “and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand.” First he is happy for not walking in the advice of the wicked and then he is happy for not standing in the path of the sinners. First he talks about avoiding the wicked and now he talks about avoiding the sinners. What is the difference between a person who is wicked or who is a sinner?
Wickedness means just that. Somebody defied G‑d. Sinners can mean he sinned inadvertently, or it could mean that he deliberately ignored the obligation to do something important. If somebody refuses the mitsvah of circumcising his child, that is a serious and deliberate omission. One who was too tired to wake up and pray in time is a sinner, but it is not so terrible as one who rejects a very important Torah command deliberately.
We can now understand the phrase “and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand.” Stand but now walk. Walk means he walks deliberately there, with design. He wants the advice of the wicked. That is serious. Now, one stands and does not walk. Walking is a deliberate act and one that shows that the person definitely associates with the wicked. One who stands does not go anywhere that shows his interest in participating with wickedness. He is just standing there. The sinners walk there, but he does not walk. What then is evil about what he does? Because the sinners that are walking past him constantly are of two varieties. Some are just too tired to wake up on time in the morning. And some just don’t care if they ignore circumcising their child. One who walks somewhere knows where he is walking and why he is walking. One who just stands in the crowd as it flows with its varieties past him can absorb many types of sin, and there are quite a variety from deliberately violating of the most serious Torah commands, to one who ignores an obligation to do a mitsvah not because of wickedness but because he is terribly tired and prolongs his siesta by mistaking when he should wake up. All of them walk past him and he stands there, knowing that they are passing him constantly with various levels of sin. When he is finished standing, he has absorbed evil in its many forms from many people.
In a way, this, the second part of passage one, about one who stands among the walking sinners, has absorbed more evil than the first sinner, who walks in the path of the of the advice of the wicked. Sinners on the one hand, are not described as wicked, and perhaps they are not wicked. They are human beings who like all human beings have good and bad sides, angels of love and happiness and evil angels who teach sin. But their mixture of good and evil does not necessary brand them as evil people, or wicked people. Therefore, the first part of the passage about the advice of the wicked, is about truly wicked people whose advice has reached the person who walks where that advice is located. The second part of the passage about one who stands among the sinners, is about the rest of humanity who have good and bad moments, and are not considered basically evil. They are thus higher than the first part of the passage dealing with people called clearly wicked, on the other hand, the intense variety of sinners who may not be yet on the level of RESHOIM or really wicked people, has its own evil part. So many people with so many sins, that wash over the standing person, has its own dynamic, and its cumulative effect can perhaps be worse than the one who walks in the advice of the wicked.
“And in the dwelling place of scorners he did not sit.” The Hebrew phrase מושב לצים usually means that the scorners dwelled there regularly and met with other scorners. One who joined this crowd and absorbed scorn is badly damaged, because scorning is a very powerful evil. Usually a passage of three evil parts builds higher and higher, beginning with small things and finally concluding with the worst things. If so, the worst of the three things is sitting along with the others who are scorners. What can the person sitting there do to avoid being swept into the evil of the scorners? Essentially, the power of scorning is such that a person in such a state is surely badly damaged by his sitting there.
In fact, we may even suggest a reason for the three parts of the passage. The first two passages were about one learning evil, just as the third part teaches. However, the first two passages had the advantage of describing a lower level of evil than the final part. The first level of evil was walking in the advice of the wicked. A wicked person can perhaps have some useful advice, it is not always about how to do sins. The person is wicked, but his advice is not necessarily wicked. But one who walks in the advice of the wicked is influenced negatively. The second level is one who stands while the sinners flow around him. Here, too, the level if not pure evil. He is different than the sinners. That is a saving factor. But the final passage is very serious. First of all, it deals with a group of scorners who can, more than anyone else, bring one to despise the righteous and respect the wicked. Second of all, the individual who wanders into their group and sits with them is acting just as they do, and this is conducive to his joining their community and becoming like them, a full-fledged scorner, one of the worst sins.
People could ask, how is it possible for a person to become a full-fledged member of a group that exists to scorn and make fun of righteous people? The answer is right in the beginning of the passage. Do a small sin, just follow the advice of the wicked, advice that may have some saving value, but it does connect you to the wicked. The next level is to stand among the flow of sinners, and it rubs off on the one who stands. This kind of influence can eventually bring a person to a level when he, just based on the relatively minor sins of the first two parts, can plunge right into the hideous evil of a house filled with scorners, and he sits with them, meaning, he is one with them.
Chapter One passage 2: “Because his desire is only with the Torah of G‑d, and he will study His Torah day and night.” This passage teaches us that fighting evil directly is a losing battle. As the Chofetz Chaim said, “We don’t fight darkness by punching it. We fight darkness by creating light.” How do we escape doing evil? By doing good deeds, meaning, by being involved with Torah learning day and night. That is the way of light. And that is the way to escape darkness and evil. Again, to fight evil directly plays into the hands of evil, because we cannot destroy evil that way. Only by creating light can we dispel darkness.
When we punch darkness we absorb darkness, despite our best intentions. When we learn Torah, we absorb holiness from heaven. We are with G‑d and evil cannot exist there.
“His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d.” Some people enjoy studying Torah for its wisdom and interesting ideas. They therefore study Torah not because it is the Torah of G‑d, but because it is interesting to them. The righteous turns to Torah because it is the Torah of G‑d and it is the venue to find G‑d.
Again, there is much in the Torah to inspire people in various ways. But the pious turn to Torah because in Torah learning we connect to G‑d.
“And he will study His Torah day and night.” This is very troubling. It seems to say that a righteous person studies Torah day and night. If so, when does he sleep and when does he eat and when does he pray? Obviously, it does not mean that his entire day and night is spent learning Torah. It means rather that within each day and each night there is an established place for Torah learning. Furthermore, ideally, this established place for Torah learning must not be altered and pushed off. This way the supremacy of Torah is assured but when the time for learning Torah can be pushed here and there the Torah learning is denigrated and weakened.
Let us return to our passage and how we have translated it. “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d and he will study His Torah day and night.” Thus we translate “His Torah” meaning G‑d’s Torah. However, Rashi has a different translation. He translates it as and he will study his Torah day and night. That is, the passage begins “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d, and he will study His Torah day and night.” We thus translated “and he will study His Torah” meaning what the earlier words of this passage say that it speaks of the Torah of G‑d. If so, we must translate His Torah not his Torah. But Rashi disagrees. Rashi says that the meaning of the passage is that originally the Torah is that of heaven of G‑d. However, one who studies Torah properly with full desire merits that the Torah of G‑d becomes the Torah of the learner. Thus we translate not His Torah but his Torah.
Again, Rashi translates the passage “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d and he will study his Torah day and night.” Here “his” means the person who studies Torah properly, who merits that the Torah now belongs to the learner. This is the purpose of learning Torah which G‑d gave to people so that they will merit to “own” the Torah as their own.
Chapter One Passage 3: “And he will be as a tree planted upon flowing water, whose fruit will be given in its proper time. And its leaves will not dry up, and all that he will do will succeed.” This is an incredible statement. One devoted to Torah learning merits that “all that he will do will succeed.” Does that mean that he will never suffer in this world, but just learn Torah constantly and merit only happiness and success? What person merits such a life? We know that even great and righteous people have terrible problems. How can the Psalmist of Tehilim promise all people devoted to learn Torah that all that they will do will succeed, which seems to indicate a perfectly happy life. Who in the world merits this?
In the previous generation there were two great saints. In Europe the greatest saint was the Chofetz Chaim, and in Israel the greatest saint was Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. The Chofetz Chaim had a son-in-law who was a great saint and a major Torah personality, but he died young. When he died the Chofetz Chaim’s daughter asked her father who such a perfectly righteous person could die. The Chofetz Chaim answered, “Would you prefer that G‑d destroy half of the world?” Meaning, that in heaven a decree was made to destroy a huge number of Jews, and the death of the Chofetz Chaim’s son-in-law saved them.
Is this “all that he will do will succeed”? In this world few if any people have perfect lives with no problems. But the problems have a reason, and when people die young and go to the higher world, if they are worthy, great and happy things await them. In that world, and only there, they will merit to realize that “all that he will do will succeed.” Furthermore, even in that world, judging mortals who have evil inclinations and who are rarely perfect, there may have to be some punishment. But the righteous person suffers and accepts his punishments which is the general state of human beings who have evil inclinations and do sin. HaShem will make their arrival in the higher world a glorious thing and bring them eternal happiness. But in this world, things are rarely if ever perfect. Living here with true faith that G‑d controls the world and He thinks only of making people happy, as the great rabbis have taught, gives us the understanding we need to accept life as it is and trust in the love G‑d has for all of us.
In Israel the counterpart of the Chofetz Chaim was the Gaon and Tsadik Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. He was the Rov of the Jerusalem Orthodox and was honored by everyone. He was a close disciple of the greatest rabbis of the time. And yet, he suffered that many of his children died. Despite this, he always felt that G‑d was loving and close to him. This is the power of Torah. G‑d is close to the righteous and those who devote themselves to Torah. But the process of living in a world of evil and punishment is a great trial. Here is much suffering. The righteous accept heaven’s will and know that in the proper time they will understand, in this world or the next.
Chapter One passage 4 – “The wicked are not like that. But they are as the leavings of the grain that is blown away by the wind.” In what sense are the wicked different from the righteous? But the righteous are the fine fruit of the tree, and the wicked are the refuse and leavings of the grain that are not eaten and not turned into food, but rather are useless to people. It is only a mercy from heaven that causes this worthless refuse to be blow away by the wind. It has no value to people.
Chapter One passage 5 – “Therefore, the wicked will not rise up to succeed when they are judged by heaven, nor will the sinners merit to be counted among the counsel of the righteous.”
The wicked will not rise up but the righteous will rise up. Where will the righteous rise? In the next world, the righteous will find happiness and glory but in this world there are problems. But the wicked will not rise up to achieve this world or the next. The wicked will want their deeds to achieve for them merit in this world and the next, but their deeds are worthless. Their deeds are the leavings of the grain that is blow away by the wind.
Chapter One passage 6 – “Because G‑d knows the way of the righteous. And the way of the wicked will be destroyed.” G‑d knows the way of the righteous. Does He not know also the way of the wicked? He knows the wicked person’s actions. And He knows the righteous person’s actions. But the passage only makes sense if we accept the word “knows” in a different sense than plain knowing. It means not just knowing, but appreciating.
Rashi explains “because G‑d knows the way of the righteous” because He knows the way of the righteous and it is before G‑d to think of it constantly. But the way of the wicked is hateful for G‑d to look at, and He removes it from before Him.” Rashi then states that the righteous will succeed when G‑d judges them but the wicked will fail.
Briefly and basically the first chapter of Tehilim compares the righteous to the wicked. The righteous in passage one is praised not for any good deed in of itself, but because they avoid the path of the wicked. Passage two tells of the toil of the righteous in Torah constantly. It is this that enables them to escape the influence of the wicked. Passage three tells of the great glory of the righteous that all that they do succeeds, and we explained that this refers not to this world but the Future World. It refers not to the physical happiness of the righteous but to the glory of being loved and known by G‑d as other passages in this chapter teach. Passage four compares the success of the righteous with the failing of the wicked whose deeds are refuse that has no place in heaven. Passage 5 describes the failure of the wicked to survive G‑d’s Judgment. Passage 6 tells how G‑d constantly notices the good deeds of the righteous, but the path of the wicked will be destroyed and ignored by heaven.
Chapter Two passage one -