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The Seventh Commandment

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Parsha Halacha/Parshat Yitro

About Fidelity and the Importance of Segregation in Education
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The Torah portion of Yitro includes the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments (Aseret HaDibrot). The seventh commandment is Lo Tinaf, a commandment  regarding sexual immorality, which can be translated in several ways:
  • Rashi says it means, “You shall not commit adultery.”[1]
  • The Talmud says this also means one may not act as a liaison to facilitate adulterous relationships.[2]
  • The Seforno says that, although the verse is referring to adultery which is the most common sin of this type, it also refers to other forbidden relationships.
  • The Shach on the Torah adds that this verse prohibits having relations even with an unmarried woman. In fact, he says that the words לא תנאף stand for לא תהנה נפשך אפילו פנויה”Do not have pleasure yourself, even with an unmarried woman.”
  • The Midrash says[3] that  לא תנאף is a contraction of the words  לא תיהנה באף – do not get pleasure through the nose, meaning that one should not (purposefully) smell the perfume being worn by a forbidden woman. In fact, the same Midrash says that this prohibition includes even sinning in one’s mind.[4]
Why the Seventh?
The commentaries discuss the significance of this prohibition being the seventh commandment. Several explanations are given:
  • Seven Prohibited Relationships
Rabbeinu Bachaye says that the number seven alludes to the seven forbidden types of relationships: An unmarried woman, a divorcee (who is forbidden to a Kohen Gadol), one’s wife when she is a Niddah, another man’s wife, a non-Jewish woman, a man, and an animal.[5]
  • Seven Prohibited Actions
In addition, Rabbeinu Bachaye says there are seven prohibited actions relating to this prohibition. These are gazing (at a forbidden woman), hearing (the singing voice of a forbidden woman), yichud (being alone with a woman who is not one’s wife), speaking (immodestly), touching, kissing, and the actual sin.
The Pause
The Zohar[6] points out that in the three commandments of not to murder, commit adultery and steal, there is a pause (pesik) between the word lo (do not) and the next word (tirtzach, tinaf and tignov – murder, commit adultery and steal). The Zohar explains that the pause teaches us that in a small number of cases these actions are permitted and may, in fact, be a mitzvah. Specifically,
  • One may kill a man condemned to die by the (ancient) Jewish court.
  • One may be intimate with one’s wife even if he has already fulfilled the mitzvah of procreation.[7]
  • One may steal a teacher’s mind (i.e., fool them) by saying he didn’t understand the lesson (even though he did) in order to have the teacher explain it again at greater length.
Why So Strict?
Rav Sa’adiah Ga’on gave the following reasons why the Torah is so strict regarding the sin of forbidden relations:[8]
  • The desire for this sin is very great and can cause one to lose his senses completely.
  • This sin is different than others in that it necessarily involves two individuals. Although many sins involve two people (e.g., stealing), forbidden relations are unique in that both people are partners in the sin (in the case of a willing relationship).
  • Other sins involve more specific actions, whereas this sin involves an act that creates human beings.
  • This sin involves a heated passion that is more intense than other sins.
Nuclear Power
The Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked why, according to halacha, it is necessary to have strict separation between the sexes. He explained that the attraction between a man and a woman is like nuclear energy. If used in a positive way, it can greatly benefit the world, but if used in a negative way, it can destroy the world, G-d forbid.[9]
The Placement
The last five of the Ten Commandments all involve sins between man and man. The first one (of the five), do not murder, has to do with honoring the body of our fellows. The third one, do not steal, means that we should respect his property. The second one, do not commit adultery, involves respecting his spousal rights. This is placed between the respect to the person’s body and his property as it is an intermediate between those two.[10]
Corresponds to the Creation of the Animals
The Zohar says[11] that the Ten Commandments correspond to the Ten Utterances with which G-d created the world. Specifically, the seventh commandment corresponds to the seventh utterance – “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind.” Just as the earth was told to create each species according to its kind, and those kinds are supposed to mate only with their own species, so too every human being should cleave only to their kind, i.e., their spouses.
Reasons for the Mitzvah
The Rambam writes that the prohibition against adultery is obvious and does not need explanation.
The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 35), on the other hand, offers four reasons for the prohibition:
1)      “G-d wanted every aspect of this world to produce fruit according to its kind and that one kind should not mix with the other. So too, He wanted that it should be known whose seed each person is and that there not be confusion about this.”
2)      We are commanded to honor our fathers. If people were to commit adultery (G-d forbid), the children would not know the identity of their true father.
3)      We are forbidden to have relations with certain close relatives. Were adultery to be prevalent, people would not be aware of the identity of their relatives.
4)      People are extremely possessive of their spouses and would be very angered by their infidelity (G-d forbid). As such, adultery could lead to murder.
Rav Sa’adiah Gaon writes[12] that “It is wise for us… not to mate like animals and be unable to honor our fathers… And so that one can inherit from his father as he inherited from his… and so that we know all of our relatives and we can then treat them with appropriate compassion.”
The rest of this article will discuss the importance of having separate classes for boys and girls in Jewish schools.
Separating Boys and Girls in School
Rav Ovaidah Yosef wrote[13] that it is an absolute obligation for Jewish schools to have separate classrooms for boys and for girls. He cites the following verses in the Tanach to show that, even at a young age, it is proper to maintain a separation between boys and girls.
  • “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the round dance with music, and the young men and the old men together.”[14]
  • “And the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in its streets.”[15] (The proof is that it doesn’t say “boys with girls.)
  • “Young men and also maidens, old men with young boys.”[16] (The word “gam – and also” indicates that the young men and maidens are not together. As opposed to the old men who are “with” the young boys.)
  • “From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and also (gam) maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders.”[17] This means that even at a time of terror, when there is fear of the sword (G-d forbid), the young men and young women should remain separate. The separation is alluded to by the word “gam – also,” between the young men and the maidens.
  • Concerning the time that Ya’akov was going to Egypt with his family, the verse says, “His sons and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters and his sons’ daughters and all his descendants, he brought with him to Egypt.”[18] The wording of the verse indicates that the men and the women were in separate groups. This is, despite that the fact that they were all cousins.[19]
The Me’iri writes,[20] “‘One should not teach his son a trade with women.’[21] This means that one should not teach one’s son a trade that will (in the future) cause him to have excessive contact with women.[22] Some say that this means one should not teach a trade to boy and girl together, so that they not become too accustomed to speak to each other.”
Similarly, the Sefer Chassidim writes[23] that one should not mix boys and girls together lest they come to sin.
In a similar vein, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes[24] that, although boys and girls of a young age do not have a desire for each other, it is nevertheless proper to have separate classes for them so that they be educated in proper conduct. If they are taught together they will become friendly and may continue in this manner even when they are older. Rav Moshe explains that, according to some opinions, even when the children are young, it is mandatory for the classes to be separate for educational reasons (chinuch). Others say that at a young age it is not mandatory but is praiseworthy. All agree that when the children are older, it is mandatory.[25]This applies both to Jewish and secular studies.
In a case where there are not enough students to have separate classes and if they do not have mixed classes it will be impossible to make a school, which would cause many of the children to attend a secular school, Rabbi Yosef ruled that one should take the lesser of two evils and start a school with mixed classes. He only permitted this up until the 3rd grade and only on a temporary basis. Whereas, he writes, “as soon as it is possible to separate the classes, one should do so without delay in order to educate the Jewish children with the purity of holiness. ‘When we educate the youth in his (proper) path, he will not deviate from it, even in his old age.’[26]
Similarly, Rav Moshe Feinstien wrote[27] that it is better to have mixed classes for the younger grades than to have the children study in public school where they will not be taught faith in G-d or proper behavior. Nevertheless, as soon as it becomes possible, a school that has separate classes for even the younger grades, should be established.
May we soon merit the fulfillment of the verse “Behold I bring them from the north country and gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth… a great company shall they return there…Then the virgin shall rejoice in the round dance with music, and the young men and the old men together, and I will turn their mourning into joy.”[28]

[1] This is based on Levit. 20:6 and Ezekiel 16:32
[2] Shavu’ot 47b
[3] Mechilta DeRashbi, see Torah Shlemia, ot 344 that this explanation is also found in some versions of the Talmud -in Niddah 13a
[4] In the words of the Midrash “One may not eat from his plate and imagine that he is eating from his friend’s plate.”
[5] It is not clear as to why close relatives are not listed.
[6] Parshat Yitro, pg. 93b
[7] The Tzror HaMor cites the above Zohar to include the permissibility of one’s brother’s wife in the case of Yibum.
[8] Quoted in Torah Sheleimah, ot 342
[9] I saw this in My Story, a fascinating book by Jewish Educational Media
[10] Sefer Ha’ikarim, vol. 3, chapter 26, quoted in Torah Sheleimah, note 360
[11] Parshat Vayikra, 12a
[12] Emunot VeDe’ot, ma’amar 3
[13] Responsa Yechave Da’at, vol. 4. Siman 46
[14] Jeremiah, 31:12
[15] Zachariah, 8:5
[16] Psalms, 148:12
[17] Deut. 32:25
[18] Gen. 46:7
[19] The last two proofs are cited by the Mekor Chessed (by Rabbi Reuven Margilyot) on the Sefer Chassidim, Siman 168. The first three verses are also cited in the Sefer Chassidim
[20] On Kiddushin, 80b
[21] Mishnah, Kiddushin, 82a
[22] This is how the Metivta’s Yalkut Biurim explains the Me’iri. The commentary on the Me’iri by Rabbi Avraham Sofer (in the print of Kedem, Jerusalem, 1963) wonders why this Mishnah is not cited in the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries.
[23] Siman 168. See Bi’ur Halacha on Siman 139, Se’if 3 D.H. Lehakel BaKol regarding mixed dancing
[24] Igrot Moshe, Y.D. vol. 1, Siman 137
[25] The two opinions are based on how to understand Sukkah 46b. See Magen Avraham, 658:8 and Mishnah Berurah, 658:28
[26] Proverbs, 22:6
[27] Igrot Moshe, ibid.
[28] Jeremiah, 31:7 – 12
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!


Aryeh Citron

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