Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Immersion In A Mikveh For Tumas Keri

The following is the Rif on the matter, citing the gemara:
We learnt {in a brayta}: Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera says: Words of Torah are not susceptible to {ritual} uncleanness {tumah}.
And there was a story about a student who was mumbling and reading above Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera {because he had had a seminal emission}. He {Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera} said to him: My son, open your mouth and let your words be clear, for it states in Yirmiyahu 23:29:

כט הֲלוֹא כֹה דְבָרִי כָּאֵשׁ, נְאֻם-ה; וּכְפַטִּישׁ, יְפֹצֵץ סָלַע. {ס 29 Is not My word like as fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? {S}

Just as fire is not susceptible to tumah, so too words of Torah are not susceptible to tumah.

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: The world practices like the three elders - in words of Torah like Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera, like Rabbi Yoshaya in kilaim {forbidden mixtures}, and like Rabbi Illai in the first shearing.

When Ze'eri came {from Israel} he said: They have abolished immersion {in the mikvah for seminal emission}. Some say {he said}: They have abolished {ritual} washing of hands. The one who said "immersion" is in accord with Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera. And the one who said "washing of hands" is in accord with Rav Chisda, for Rav Chisda would curse one who returns after water at the time of prayer.

There is one who said that this they they said "They have abolished immersion" is in regard to both words of Torah and prayer. And there is one who said that this is only as regards to words of Torah, but in regard to prayer you need immersion. And not immersion {tevila} specifically but rather washing in 9 kav. And Rabbenu Hai Gaon wrote that since the gemara does not deal with this matter, we should take the custom of all Israel that all Baal Keri, even if they have no water, should not pray until they wash.
Of course, people nowadays don't pasken directly from the gemara, or the Rif. But this principle, cited lehalacha, should give people something to think about.

And it would seem (though I am not paskening at all in this blogpost) that two minutes in the shower give these 9 kav, which is required by the Rif only misafek specifically for prayer. My minhag is not to go to the Mikveh for tumas keri. (And while there might be tznius issues in declaring this, by looking at what the polemic-writers are writing (see inside on the pamphlet), we see that such declarations have a need, for otherwise people will rewrite history.)

Yet this is an old dispute, and different people have different practices.

But in this day and age, every issue is cast as one in which one way is right, and everyone else that follows the non-stringent practice is doing wrong.

Thus, as BreslovWorld, part 1 and part 2 arguing that all men must go to the mikveh as an halachic obligation. This based on a Hebrew leaflet which I saw in shul a few weeks ago, and was greatly annoyed by, because of the way it gave only one side of the dispute, and cast that which it did cite in specific ways. Two citations from BreslovWorld:
It is an unforgivable sin that almost all Yeshivas today have no Mikva and all their students study as Bali Keri (ritually impure) their whole life.
Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira, and others, would probably disagree. And then:
In light of the above, one can no longer hide behind the myth that Yeshiva students, those who follow Lithunian custom, or anyone else are exempt from mikva. People that want holiness don’t look for exemptions. May Hashem send a spirit of purity throughout the People of Israel, amen.
Compare this with what Rav Kanievsky said,
on the actual pamphlet. Click on the link above, but click on the picture (right) to see a specific part of it. Basically, they tried to snooker him into endorsing not only their project but also their conclusions by asking him the question, "Is it bitul Torah to go to the mikveh for tumas keri?" He told them it was not, but was even kiyum haTorah.

Then he realized how they might try to run with this and miscast it. Therefore, they include the following text:
However, he stressed that his intent was not from the aspect of halacha, but rather from the aspect of the greatness of the significance of the matter, for it was already ruled in Shulchan Aruch that there is no obligation in the matter. This language was shown to they eyes of Maran {Kanievsky} shlita and he said upon it "gut geshribn."

The flyer I saw in shul had the same caveat in the text, but that which he stressed was placed in a much smaller font.

So which is it? BreslovWorld looks at the (one-sided) sources and concludes that it is an unforgivable sin to learn while in a state of tumas keri, and that one cannot hide behind the myth that anyone is exempt, while Rav Kanievsky states that
his intent was not from the aspect of halacha, but for it was already ruled in Shulchan Aruch that there is no obligation in the matter.

I am not paskening that one is or is not obligated in it. And that is why I am not going to spend my time arguing about every point. But I certainly will not change my conduct based on polemics such as this. My point here is not to argue the halacha of it, but just to point out the pattern of false presentation in polemics.

(See also at revach this post.)

Update: On careful consideration, the first reference to unforgivable sin is the sin on the part of the yeshivos, rather than of the bachurim. Still, it is a somewhat fair contrast. And the latter one about exemption is better.


Anonymous said...

What if the atmosphere in the mikvah is unkosher, with people hanging out, smoking, discussing loshon hora, lack of tznius and perhaps even worse things ? These things exist in some places.

Perhaps the principle of יצא שכרו בהפסדו needs to be invoked at times.

Anonymous said...

There are some other pearls of wisdom on their site:
# Part of the seminal fluid (shichvas zera) comes from the brain, this is sent down the spine.
# When a person spills seed he is wasting away part of his brain.
# This lowers all functions of the brain especially memory.

Lots more interesting issues there.

The question I pose is as follows:
Does a Breslover Chossid who knows anatomy and modern science have to be 'shomer habris'? There aren't any demons nowadays, and one's brain does not shrink due to seminal emissions. The site doesn't seem to explain that the Torah forbids such actions - so maybe it is OK?

Just some food for thought as to how stupid you can get from ignoring the Torah and focusing on Kabbalistic explanations of everything.

joshwaxman said...

good point.
IIRC, that actually reflects an ancient medical understanding of the path of sperm, and so it is likely Chazal thought this was the path it took as well.

but indeed, they don't mention that it is assur, and so on. and its entirety, that page reads like... wow.


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