5. The *Muchram* (person under *Herem* – a more severe form of ostracism) is even more [restricted] – he does not teach others, nor do they teach him -however, he may teach himself, in order not to forget his learning. He may not be hired, nor may he hire others. We do not conduct business with him. We only deal with him a little, enough for his subsistence.
Q1: Why does Rambam say that the *Muchram* may study? Isn’t that obvious?
YE: Not so obvious. Remember that the prohibitions of a *Menudeh* and *Muchram* are connected to (and, perhaps, derived from) the prohibitions of an *Avel* (mourner). A mourner is prohibited from any Torah study – even on his own. Therefore, we reasonably might have concluded that the same is true for the *Muchram*.
Why indeed is it different? The Avel’s avoidance of Torah study is based upon the notion that Torah study is a source (the best source!) of happiness. “The statutes of the Lord are straight, _gladdening_the_heart” (Tehillim [Psalms] 19). Although the *Muchram* acts similarly to the mourner, that is chiefly in those activities which affect his social interaction – he isn’t really prohibited from “joyous” activities.
In addition, unlike the mourner, whose situation was thrust upon him and who bears no direct responsibility for it – the *Muchram* has caused his own distancing and disgrace. What better way to become motivated to repair that disgrace than through the study of Torah!
Another reason – the mourner only avoids Torah study for a week; the *Herem* may be in effect much longer.
Q2: Why does Rambam qualify the permit for the *Muchram* to study – “…in order not to forget his learning.”?
YE: Perhaps Rambam is addressing the previous question – and favoring the last answer (i.e. due to the potential length of the *Herem*, he may forget his learning – which is inapplicable to a mourner).
RD (Rick Dinitz):
Here’s another question about this passage:
Q3: How do we resolve the seeming contradiction between the last two sentences? If we do not conduct business with a muchram, how then can we deal with him a little, enough for his subsistence?
YE: Perhaps it means that we do not enter into ongoing business dealings (partnerships, major deals etc.) – but may conduct one-time dealings which he needs for his own subsistence.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.