ט׳ בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (September 29, 2017)

Sanhedrin 75a-b: The Cure for Love Sickness

On yesterday’s daf we learned that there are only three mitzvot that are so severe that a person should give up his life rather than perform the forbidden acts: Avoda zara (idol worship), gilui arayot (forbidden sexual activities) and shefikhut damim (murder). As a continuation of the discussion regarding gilui arayot the Gemara relates the following story.

Rav Yehuda quoted Rav as telling of a man who fell in love with a certain woman and became love-sick in his desire for her. After consulting physicians he was told that he would only be cured if he engaged in sexual relations with her.

forbade relations, even if it meant that he would die.

The suggestion was raised that she appear before him naked.

The Sages forbade that, as well.

Yet another suggestion was raised, that he converse with her privately.

The Sages forbade that, as well.

Two opinions are offered in the Gemara as to whether the woman was married or not. The Gemara asked why, if she were unmarried, were the Sages so concerned about the relationship. Rav Pappa suggested that the concern was for the family’s honor; according to Rav Aḥa son of Rav Ika the concern was that Jewish girls would be seen as promiscuous. Furthermore, the Gemara argues that even marrying her would not have satisfied his desires, based on Rabbi Yitzḥak’s teaching that the passage in (9:17) mayim genuvim yimtaku – stolen waters are sweet. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the woman did not want to marry him because of her social status.

In ancient medical texts – like that of Galen – we find references to “love sickness.” It was physicians whose knowledge was based on these works who made the suggestions that were rejected by the Sages in this story.

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