Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Since You Asked

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Regarding the previous article “They Seem to be Senseless,” which discussed some rabbinical rules, a number of you wrote back about how wrong it is to group women and dogs and pigs! One man was offended enough to say that my writings were “sick.” And my statement about the non-Jew not walking between two Jews was “extremely racist and offensive,” and the letters became louder and louder!

    When the Rabbis warn about not letting a woman, a dog, or a pig walk between you and your friend, they are not saying that a woman is a dog, or a pig, G-d forbid. What is being grouped is that all three of these have a strong impact on man, albeit for entirely different reasons. Whereas a woman’s very strong impact on a man is through desire, a pig’s strong impact is through disgust, and a dog’s impact might be due to fear. Yes, they are all related in that they all evoke strong reactions, but obviously, they evoke strong responses for entirely different reasons.

      As to my saying that the Rabbis warn against letting a non-Jew walk between you and your friend, know that there are different levels of rabbinical laws. First, of course, are the laws actually written in the Torah. Then, there are the Rabbis’ fences, which were erected to protect us from breaking the Torah laws.

    So, for instance, the Torah forbids writing on Shabbos, but then the Rabbis jumped in and erected a rabbinical fence forbidding even the handling of pencils and pens on Shabbos. The Torah allows handling pencils and pens on Shabbos; it only forbids writing. But the Rabbis knew that if you handle a pencil or pen you will probably come to write, so they forbid even handling them on Shabbos.

     The rabbis went further and also gave us “warnings” and “good advice” edicts. One such warning was mentioned in the previous article, relating to not allowing a woman, a pig, or a dog to walk between you and your friend, since they could cause you some type of damage. A warning does not carry the weight of a rabbinical fence (gezera), but still, it is a rabbinical rule.

     Then, there is the Rabbis’ “good advice.” For instance, they caution that Jews should be careful when walking on the way with a non-Jew. They say that we should keep him to our right side and not allow him access to our left side. This rule comes because the non-Jews of that time and place were dangerous, and they could very well attack the Jew. Therefore, we were warned, keep him on your right side, away from your heart, so your right arm could defend you, and so he could not stab you in the heart.

     I can hear you screaming now. But, this is the reality that we have faced, and it is the reality that some of us face even today. And this is what the Gemora talks about.[i]

     Then, there are the mystical warnings, such as are found in the Zohar. The Zohar warns not to walk between two non-Jews, nor to let them walk between you and your friend. The Zohar is not merely warning us about the physical damage that can come from walking between non-Jews; it is addressing the spiritual damage, too.

     Here, where I live, this warning is not only a spiritual caution. It is also a valid, physical warning. In my neighborhood, no normal Jew would be comfortable allowing an Arab to walk between him and his friend, nor would he want to walk between two Arabs who were walking together.

     I live in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, my apartment is the last apartment on my side of the street before the Arab housing begins. I step out of my apartment each morning at 1:30 (a.m.), and I am very careful about whom I walk between.

    Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is, ask before you scream. The Rabbis probably had a good reason to say what they did.

[i] Chulin 91a


Anonymous said...

regardless of the reasons it's still a challenge when your a woman and a baal teshuvah to see how women get grouped. For instance in the morning blessings men thank HAshem for not making me a gentile slave or woman. I know the men are thanking HAshem that they have so many more mitzvot than women slaves and gentiles. It doesn't mean women are akin to slaves or anything like that yada yada ...Same with grouping women pigs and dogs together, it doesn't mean women are like pigs or dogs but it can be disheartening. It makes that grouping exist in people's mind. Men walking down the street will see women pigs dogs (and non-Jews) all under the category of "things we should not let walk between us" . Likewise "woman slave gentile" - file under the category "things I am glad not to be".
In any case in these days where hopefully bizrat HAshem woman (like the moon) is coming into her full glory-such things MUST be accompanied by explanation . These days to group woman with pigs and dogs without providing a comprehensive explanation would be asking for "trouble" aka a passionate response in defense of women.

Anonymous said...

p.s the above comment is in regard to a kiruv mentality. If you want Jews ( and potential converts and righteous gentiles) to see the beauty of Judaism. Or if you are observant and are also concerned about oppressed people Otherwise no explanation required.

Shiloh said...

Gutman, explain the one verse, which is incredibly clear by the way, that the rabbi's use to hang a mountain off of a string?

It's easy to ban everything, what's difficult is to do it with logic and not medievel superstition.

Anonymous said...

i dont see what all the fuss is about. Tell me if i am wrong but i dont think women are also supposed to walk between pigs gentiles and even jewish men.
i dont know about a jewish woman between non jewish women please enlighten me.
so you women out there can group jewish men with the above.

Torey said...

"Whereas a woman’s very strong impact on a man is through desire, a pig’s strong impact is through disgust, and a dog’s impact might be due to fear."A-OK! Great quote!

Crazy Smade said...

It sounds to me like this quote is less about women, pigs and dogs and more about not letting anything distract you from your studies with your friend, no?

Isn't one suppose to go to extreme lengths to acquire a friend (i.e., a study-partner)...?

King Solomon wrote: "Faithful are the chastisements of a friend, while burdensome are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6). Yehoshua ben Perachia said, make for yourself a rabbi, acquire (buy)for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably." I take this to mean that one should invest time and effort in developing one's relationship with one's study partner.

Isn't one suppose to go to extreme lengths to in order to become a Torah student, even if that means ticking off one's not-so-faithful family members and setting aside wide range of familial obligations in order to study and firmly establish HaShem's Kingship over one's life?

Rabbi Yaakov says like this: "One who walks on the road while reviewing a Torah lesson but interrupts his review and exclaims, 'How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this plowed field!' - Scripture considers him to have forfeited his life."

How much more so if one is distracted by a woman, a pig or a dog?

I could quote numerous examples from the Rabbinic Literature about the importance of study and bitul (self-nullification) and kavanah (directed focus) and not allowing one's self to be distracted from actualizing HaShem's Kingship through study, but ... I'm just a Noachide. Y'all know these texts better than I do.

Great article!

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