Tag Archives: Judaism

Homiletics or Halacha: An Example from Niddah

Another example relates to a famous statement by R. Meir about the issur of Niddah. 

תלמוד בבלי מסכת נדה דף לא עמוד ב

תניא, היה ר”מ אומר: מפני מה אמרה תורה נדה לשבעה – מפני שרגיל בה, וקץ בה, אמרה תורה: תהא טמאה שבעה ימים, כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה כשעת כניסתה לחופה.

 

R. Meir asks why a Niddah is assurah to her husband for seven days.  He answers that the Torah wanted to separate them for seven days so that when they are together again “she will be as beloved to her husband as he was she got married.”  R. Meir can either be understand as explaining why there is a notion of separating for Niddah at all, or why the issur formulated as it was – as seven days with all the laws that go along with, regardless of when she stops bleeding.  [Separating during menstruation was relatively common in many ancient cultures.  The specific laws of Niddah are more of a chiddush than the basic notion of separation.]  Either way, he offers an explanation for the laws of Niddah.

The simplest understanding is that this is homiletic/philosophical, but has no normative value.  For example, there is no obligation to be a Niddah for a week every month, and if someone uses hormones to minimize how often she is a Niddah, that is fine.   There is no obligation to create this distance that makes the heart grow fonder.

However, there was one Rishon (that I know of) who thought it did have (quasi-)normative value.  Continue reading Homiletics or Halacha: An Example from Niddah

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Policy and Psak – The Rav on Women’s Learning (Halachic Methodology 7)

This shiur is a case study in how a psak acts to set communal policy, focusing on the issue of women’s learning.  The shiur and sources are available: here.

The Rav wrote two letters when asked whether girls should be taught Gemara.  The second, which is much more famous, affirms that we should open the halls of תורה שבעל פה  to women.  However, in the first letter, which I think is critical to understanding the letter, first requests assurance that his answer will be accepted as binding.  Continue reading Policy and Psak – The Rav on Women’s Learning (Halachic Methodology 7)