73:1. If two people were sleeping under one cover and their bodies (1) are touching each other (2) he should not read the Shema unless there is a garment separating (3) them from their waist (4) and below.
MB 1: Touching – It says touching because then it is forbidden to read the Shema without a garment separating them, even if they will turn their faces away from each other. And if they are lying facing each other it is forbidden to read the Shema without a separating garment even if they are not touching, as long as they are lying close to each other.
MB 4: And below – But above, even if they are touching they will not come to have inappropriate thoughts. Be aware that all this also requires that his head be outside the covers, in order that he not see his nakedness, and he also needs to cover his heart so that his heart will not see his nakedness, as we will see later at the start of Siman 74 – look there in MB 2 what we have written about this. The Pri Chodosh writes that it seems to him that if one did read the Shema without turning aside his head or without a separating garment, that he still has fulfilled his duty. The Pri Megadim is unsure about this, as is the Yeshuas Yaakov.
Jonathan Chody [email protected]
Siman 73 How to Act with Regard to Reading the Shema when One is in Bed with One’s Wife or Children (cont.)
[The key presumption here is that people do not wear any clothing while in bed, as was customary at the time of the Shulchan Aruch (16th cent.). It also seems apparent that the average bed was much smaller then, so that direct skin contact with others sharing the bed was difficult to avoid. -LC]
73:2. One who is in bed [literally “one who is sleeping”, not necessarily in bed -LC] (5) with his wife (and their skin is touching) may read the Shema by facing away from her, even without the separation of a cloth, since a man’s wife is considered like his own body [this is true in a number of areas of Jewish law -LC]. But there is an authority (6) who forbids this practice and requires a cloth to separate them (as when other members of the family are in the bed with him), and it is proper to follow this stricter opinion.
MB 5: With his wife etc. – Because a man’s wife is like his own body and he is used to being with her, so that merely having direct skin contact will not arouse sensual thoughts. [This is a pragmatic, not cynical statement by the Shulchan Aruch. Obviously at times such contact _will_ arouse sensual thoughts, in which case one should presumably follow the stricter opinion given above and place a cloth in between himself and his wife. -LC] If the man turns away and the wife remains facing him, although she is facing his back, he is still permitted to read the Shema, because we are not concerned that he will not have sensual thoughts, provided that his skin does not touch her private parts. But if both husband and wife wish to read the Shema, she must also turn away from him, and they may read even though their skin is touching.
MB 6: Who forbids – That is, without the separation of a cloth. According to this stricter opinion, one must be very careful when one is reading the Shema on his bed and reciting the blessing “HaMapil”* to have a cloth separating them. With such a separation it is permitted to read the Shema even lying face to face (as in MB 3). [see yesterday’s Halacha Yomi] [* There is a special reading of the Shema before sleeping, which consists primarily of the first paragraph of the Shema and the blessing “HaMapil” – “who causes [sleep] to fall.” We also add several other paragraphs, and presumably one must have a separation then as well. –LC, YM]
73:3. If one is in bed (7) with one’s minor children [see 73: for the definition of minor children -LC], one may read the Shema (8) by turning away without the separation of a cloth [as with one’s wife -LC], but if one’s children are (9) grown, one must place a cloth as a separation.
MB 7: With one’s minor children etc. – Regarding minor children, all authorities agree that they also are like one’s body, and we need not worry that they will arouse sensual thoughts. Nevertheless, it is forbidden to read the Shema while face to face with them. The Pri Chadash is lenient here and offers a proof, but in the works Ma’amar Mordechai and Birkei Yosef the authors refute the Pri Chadash’s proof. One may further infer from the words of the Ma’amar Mordechai that even if one does not require turning away from one’s minor children, one is forbidden to read the Shema if one’s private parts are touching their skin or vice versa. [as with one’s wife -LC]
MB 8: Facing away – That is, one preferably should be back-toback with one’s children, and if one’s children are not also facing away (i.e., they are facing one’s back), one must take care that one’s skin doesn’t touch their private parts. This seems the correct law to me, and it may be proved from 74:5, where it is clear that if one’s skin touches another person’s private parts it is forbidden to read the Shema.
MB 9: Grown – The same law applies to minor children who are not one’s own [one may infer this from the Rambam; see the Biyur haGra, Siman 75, Par. 4, in the gloss, which seems to offer a differing opinion but can be reconciled with that of the Rambam]. However, according to what is explained further on in 75:4 in the Rama, that the nakedness of a minor who is not old enough for marital relations is not considered nakedness for Jewish legal purposes, it would seem that the same would apply to minor children not one’s own, so if they are not old enough for marital relations one may be lenient in our case (i.e., one need not have a cloth separating in order to read the Shema). [The age at which a child is legally considered fit for marital relations is 9 years and a day for a male and 3 years and a day for a female. These ages may seem rather young to us, especially the latter, but these are the ages when it is considered physically possible for the act to occur. -LC]
73:4. Until what age are children considered minor with regard to the above law (in 73:3)? For a boy until 12 years and for a girl until 11 years. Before these ages are attained, even if they have grown two hairs in their private regions, it is permitted to read the Shema in the same bed with them, even without the separation of a cloth. (10) During the 13th year for a boy (from age 12 to 13) and during the 12th year for a girl (from age 11 to 12), (11) if they have grown two hairs one must have a cloth separating, and if not a cloth is not needed. >From the age of 13 years for a boy and 12 years for a girl, even if they have not grown two hairs it is forbidden to read the Shema without a cloth separating.
MB 10: During the 13th year etc. – That is, once the first day of this year has begun. The same goes for what the Shulchan Aruch writes afterward in 73.4, “from the age of 13 years…”, that is, as soon as the 13th year is completed. 13 years and a day are not needed, only 13 full years including the day of birth. For example, if a child were born on the first of Tishrei (Rosh HaShanah) at the end of the day (right before sundown), as soon as the beginning of the 1st of Tishrei comes in the 14th year, the 13 years are completed (i.e., although the final 24 hours have not been completed, we regard it as 13 complete years), and he is treated like an adult. The same is true regarding Bar Mitzvah (i.e., becoming responsible for all of the commandments), except that there we also require two hairs. See above in 55:9 and in the Mishnah Brura there. [The analogous conditions apply to a girl, except one year earlier. -LC]
MB 11: If they have grown two hairs – See in the Magen Avraham [commentary on the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Avraham Abeli Gombiner, 17th cent.], who writes that according to the opinion of the Tur [Legal code on which the Shulchan Aruch is based, by Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, 13th-14th cent.], in Even HaEzer, Siman 21, once this age is reached (12 for a boy and 11 for a girl) it even if two hairs have not grown it is forbidden to read the Shema without a cloth separating. And even without reading the Shema, it is forbidden to lie in bed together naked in close physical proximity with one’s child, once he/she has reached this age, and see in the Chelkas Mechokek [Rabbi Moshe Lima, 17th cent.] and the Beis Shmuel [Rabbi Shmuel ben Uri Shraga Faibish, 17th cent.] there.
[Today’s Halacha is going to be surprising, or may even offend some readers unfamiliar with traditional Jewish practices in the area of male-female interaction. It may be disconcerting to realize that so much that is taken for granted in the 1990’s is seen in Halacha as inappropriate. However, I honestly believe that a Madison Ave. advertising firm would be the first to agree that the Rabbis obviously had great perception of what excites men about looking at women, or hearing them sing – and that whereas the former group designs their material to attract mens’ eyes, the latter take great pains to steer men away from the resulting temptation to be attracted to a woman, especially where a relationship with her would be inappropriate.