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De'ot - Chapter Five

De'ot - Chapter Five

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Halacha 1

Just as the wise man is recognized through his wisdom and his temperaments and in these, he stands apart from the rest of the people, so, too, he should be recognized through his actions - in his eating, drinking, intimate relations, in relieving himself, in his speech, manner of walking and dress, in the management of his finances, and in his business dealings. All of these actions should be exceptionally becoming and befitting.

What is implied? A Torah Sage should not be a glutton. Rather, he should eat food which will keep his body healthy, without overeating. He should not seek to fill his stomach, like those who stuff themselves with food and drink until their bellies burst. They are alluded to by [the statement of] the prophet [Malachi 2:3]: "I will spread dung on your faces, the dung of your feasts." Our Sages explain: These are the people who eat and drink and make all their days like feast days. They say, "Eat and drink, for tomorrow, we will die."

This is the food of the wicked. It is these tables which the verse censures, saying: "For all tables are full of vomit and excrement; there is no room" (Isaiah 28:8).

In contrast, a wise man eats only one dish or two, eating only enough to sustain him. That is sufficient for him. This is alluded to by Solomon's statement: "The righteous man eats to satisfy his soul" (Proverbs 13:25).

Halacha 2

When the wise man eats the little which is fitting for him, he should eat it only in his own home, at his table. He should not eat in a store or in the marketplace, unless there is a very pressing need, lest he be viewed without respect by others.

He should not eat together with the unlearned, nor at those tables that are "filled with vomit and excrement." He should not eat frequently in other places, even in the company of wise men, nor should he eat where there is a large gathering.

It is not fitting for him to eat at another person's [table] except at a feast associated with a mitzvah, e.g., a betrothal or wedding feast - and then, [only] when a scholar is marrying the daughter of a scholar.

The righteous and the pious of old never partook of a meal that was not their own.

Halacha 3

When a wise man drinks wine, he drinks only enough to soften the food in his stomach.

Whoever becomes drunk is a sinner, is shameful, and will lose his wisdom. If he becomes drunk before the common people, he desecrates God's Name.

It is forbidden to drink even a small quantity of wine in the afternoon hours, unless it is taken together with food. Drink that is taken together with food is not intoxicating. Only wine that is taken after the meal is to be avoided.

Halacha 4

Although a man's wife is permitted to him at all times, it is fitting that a wise man behave with holiness. He should not frequent his wife like a rooster. Rather, [he should limit his relations to once a week] from Sabbath evening to Sabbath evening, if he has the physical stamina.

When he speaks with her, he should not do so at the beginning of the night, when he is sated and his belly [is] full, nor at the end of the night, when he is hungry; rather, in the middle of the night, when his food has been digested.

He should not be excessively lightheaded, nor should he talk obscene nonsense even in intimate conversation with his wife. Behold, the prophet has stated (Amos 4:13): "And He repeats to a man what he has spoken." [On this verse,] our Sages commented: A person will have to account for even the light conversation that he has with his wife.

[At the time of relations,] they should not be drunk, nor lackadaisical, nor tense - [neither both of them,] or [even] one of them. She should not be asleep, nor should the man take her by force, against her will. Rather, [the relations should take place] amidst their mutual consent and joy. He should converse and dally with her somewhat, so that she be relaxed. He should be intimate [with her] modestly and not boldly, and withdraw [from her] immediately.

Halacha 5

Whoever conducts himself in this manner [may be assured that] not only does he sanctify his soul, purify himself, and refine his character, but, furthermore, if he has children, they will be handsome and modest, worthy of wisdom and piety.

[In contrast,] whoever conducts himself in the ways of the rest of the people who walk in darkness, will have children like those people.

Halacha 6

Torah Sages conduct themselves with exceptional modesty. They do not demean themselves and do not bare their heads or their bodies.

Even when one enters a latrine, he should be modest and not uncover himself until he is seated. He should not wipe himself clean with the right hand. He should stay away from all others and enter a chamber beyond a chamber, a cave within a cave, and relieve himself. If he [must] relieve himself behind a fence, he should move far enough away that no one can hear the sound if he breaks wind. If he [must] relieve himself in an open area, he should be far enough off so that no one can see him baring himself.

One should not speak while relieving himself, even if there is great need. Just as he conducts himself with modesty while in the latrine by day, he should [also] do so at night.

One should always train himself to relieve himself in the early morning and after dark only, so that he [need] not go far off.

Halacha 7

A Torah Sage should not shout or shriek while speaking, like the cattle and wild beasts, nor should he raise his voice overly much. Instead, he should speak gently to all people. [In addition to] speaking gently, he should take care not to stand at a distance, lest [his speech] appear like the speech of the haughty.

He should greet all men [before they greet him], so that they be pleased with him. He should judge every one in a good light, speak favorably of his fellow man, [never mentioning] anything that is shameful to him, love peace and pursue it.

If he sees that his words will be effective, and will be given attention, he should speak; if not, he should keep silent. What is implied? He should not try to placate a man in the moment of his anger. He should not question a man about his vow at the time he is making his vow, [but wait] until he is tranquil of mind and calm. He should not comfort a man while his dead is lying before him because [the bereaved] is unsettled until he has buried [his dead]. The same applies in other similar cases. He should not look at his fellow man at the moment of his humiliation, but turn his attention away.

He should not distort facts, exaggerate a situation, or minimize it, except in the interests of peace and the like.

The guiding rule is that he should speak only words of wisdom or in connection with acts of kindness and the like. He should not speak to a woman in the marketplace, even if she be his wife, or his sister, or his daughter.

Halacha 8

A Torah Sage should not walk erect, with his head held high, as [Isaiah 3:16] states: "And they walked with necks outstretched and flashing eyes." He should not walk with a [short-stepped,] toe-to-heel, stately [gait] like [that of] women and the proud, as [Isaiah, ibid.] states: "walking and mincing as they go, tinkling with their feet."

Nor should he run in public like a madman, nor bend over like a hunchback. Rather, he should cast his eyes downward as he [does when he] stands during prayer. He should walk in the market-place like a person preoccupied with his business affairs.

From a man's carriage, too, one can recognize whether he is wise and a thoughtful person or mindless and a fool. Thus, Solomon said in his wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:3): "On the road, too, when the fool walks, his mind is empty and he proclaims to all that he is a fool" - he informs everyone about himself, that he is a fool.

Halacha 9

A Torah Sage's clothing should be attractive and clean. It is forbidden that [a] blood or fat [stain] or the like be found on his garment.

He should not wear regal garb, e.g., clothes of gold and purple, which draw everyone's attention, nor the dress of the poor which shames its wearers, but attractive garments of the middle range.

His flesh should not be visible under his clothing as [is the case when one wears] the exceptionally sheer linen garments produced in Egypt. His clothes should not drag on the ground like the dress of the haughty, but [should extend] to the heel and his sleeves [should extend] to his fingers.

He should not let his cloak hang down, for that creates an impression of haughtiness, except on the Sabbath if he has no change [of cloak].

In the summer, he should not wear shoes that have often been mended and have many patches. He may do so in the rainy season, if he is poor.

He should not go out in the marketplace perfumed, or with perfumed clothes, nor should he put perfume on his hair. However, he is permitted to rub perfume on his body if he does so in order to remove filth. Similarly, he should not go out alone at night, unless he has a set time to go out for his studies. All of these [restrictions are instituted] because of [possible] suspicion [of immorality].

Halacha 10

A Torah Sage manages his financial affairs judiciously. He eats, drinks, and provides for his household in accordance with his funds and [degree of] success without overtaxing himself.

The Sages have directed [us] regarding the ways of the world: A person should eat meat only with appetite as [Deuteronomy 12:20] states: "If your soul should crave to eat meat..." It is sufficient for the healthy to eat meat [once weekly,] from Sabbath eve to Sabbath eve. If he is wealthy enough to eat meat every day, he may.

The Sages have [also] directed us, saying: One should always eat less than befits his income, dress as befits [his income], and provide for his wife and children beyond what befits [his income].

Halacha 11

The way of sensible men is that first, one should establish an occupation by which he can support himself. Then, he should purchase a house to live in and then, marry a wife. [This order of priorities may be inferred from Deuteronomy 20:5-7], which states: "Who is the man who has planted a vineyard, but not redeemed it...;" "who is the man who has built a house, but not dedicated it...;" "who is the man who has betrothed a woman, but not taken her [to wife]..."

In contrast, a fool begins by marrying a wife. Then, if he can find the means, he purchases a house. Finally, towards the end of his life, he will search about for a trade or support himself from charity.

[This is also implied by the order of] the curses mentioned [in Deuteronomy 28:30]: "You shall betroth a woman..., you shall build a house..., you shall plant a vineyard;" i.e., your behavior will be disordered so that you will not succeed in your ways. However, in regard to blessing [I Samuel 18:14] states: "And David was thoughtful in all his undertakings and God was with him."

Halacha 12

One is forbidden to renounce ownership of, or consecrate, all of his possessions and [thereby,] become a burden to society.

He should not sell a field and buy a house, [sell] a house and buy chattels, or use money [acquired] by [selling] his house for trade. Conversely, he should sell chattels to buy a field. The rule is that he should aim to improve his [financial position] and to exchange the impermanent for the permanent.

His intention should not be to enjoy slight momentary pleasure, or to enjoy some slight pleasure [for which he] incurs a great loss.

Halacha 13

A Torah Sage [should conduct] his business dealings with honesty and good faith. When [his] answer is "no," he says, "no;" when [his answer] is "yes," he says, "yes."

He is stringent with himself in his accounting, gives and yields to others when he buys from them, but is not demanding [about what they owe him].

He pays for his purchases immediately. He does not act as a guarantor, or accept objects for deposit, or act as a debt collector for a lender.

He accepts obligations in matters of buying and selling for which the Torah does not hold him liable, in order to uphold and not go back on his verbal commitments. If others have obligations to him by law, he grants them an extension and pardons them. He lends and bestows gifts.

He does not encroach upon another's occupation, nor does he ever cause someone discomfort. The rule is that he should be among the pursued and not the pursuers, among those who accept humiliation but not among those who humiliate [others]. Whoever does all the above and their like, of him [Isaiah 49:3] states: "And He said to me, 'You are My servant, Israel, through whom I will be glorified.'”

Commentary Halacha 1

Just as the wise man - This term provides the key to this chapter. Throughout the chapter, the Rambam uses the term talmid chacham (Torah Sage). However, he begins the chapter by using the term, chacham (wise man), to refer to his statements in Chapter 1, Halachot 4-5, which describe a wise man as one who constantly evaluates his behavior and follows the desired middle path.

is recognized through his wisdom and his temperaments and in these, he stands apart from the rest of the people, so, too, he should be recognized through his actions - Sefer HaMitzvot (positive mitzvah 8) describes the mitzvah of resembling God as seeking "to emulate Him - His good deeds and the honorable attributes with which He was described."

As mentioned in the commentary to the first chapter, in Hilchot De'ot, the Rambam puts a far greater stress on a person's emulation of God's "attributes" and less to the emulation of His deeds. Therefore, the first three chapters emphasize the importance of personality development and the methods with which we can refine our character traits. This chapter concludes the treatment of the mitzvah to emulate God and focuses on the "good deeds" that reflect the process of inner refinement described above.

In Chapter 3, the Rambam postulates that we must set two goals for our behavior:
a) an immediate and intermediary goal, the maintenance of physical health;
b) the ultimate goal, the knowledge and service of God.

In Chapter 4, he outlines a regimen of behavior that allows man to reach the first goal. In this chapter, he concentrates on the second and more complete purpose.

in his eating, - The commentaries have suggested the Sifre, Zot HaBrachah and Derech Eretz Zuta, Chapters 5 and 7 as sources for the Rambam's statements. However, neither of those sources is quoted verbatim. Rather, they serve as models which the Rambam uses as the basis for his own composition.

The Rambam elaborates on each of the particulars listed here in the following halachot. In regard to eating, see the second part of this halachah and Halachah 2.

drinking, - This refers to drinking wine. See Halachah 3.

intimate relations, - See Halachot 4-5.

in relieving himself, - See Halachah 6.

in his speech, - See Halachah 7.

manner of walking - See Halachah 8.

and dress, - See Halachah 9.

in the management of his finances, - See Halachah 10-12.

and in his business dealings.- See Halachot 13.

All of these actions should be becoming and befitting.

What is implied? A Torah Sage - Though the Rambam begins the chapter with the use of the term chacham (wise man), when he starts to speak of details, he employs the term talmid chacham (Torah Sage). Perhaps this implies that the peaks of character development epitomized by the chacham can only be achieved when one develops his wisdom in Torah study.

should not be a glutton. Rather, he should eat food which will keep his body healthy, - as described in the previous chapter. Furthermore, even when eating these foods, he should not overindulge.

without overeating. - In the previous chapter, Halachah 15, the Rambam warned against overeating from a health perspective. Now, he treats it as an ethical inadequacy and a departure from the desired middle path. See also Chapter 1, Halachah 4, Chapter 3, Halachah 2.

He should not seek to fill his stomach, like those who stuff themselves with food and drink until their bellies burst. - The Rambam underlines the negative aspects of the tendency to overindulge and gorge oneself on food by using an extreme example. See also the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 8, where he compares people who pursue gluttony to a slave who revels in dung.

They are alluded to by [the statement of] the prophet [Malachi 2:3]: "I will spread dung on your faces, the dung of your feasts." - We have translated the verse in keeping with the interpretation of our Sages quoted below. However, in its original context, the verse refers to those who bring the festival offerings without proper intent.

Our Sages - Shabbat 151b

explain: These are the people who eat and drink and make all their days like feast days. - Though it is a mitzvah to celebrate the Sabbaths and festivals with feasts, here we are referring to those who feast:
a) self-indulgently and without a commitment to fulfill God's will; and
b) constantly and not only on select occasions.

They say, "Eat and drink for tomorrow, we will die." This statement is found in Isaiah 22:13. However, the Rambam is not quoting the verse as a support, he is merely borrowing the expression to exemplify an existential search for pleasure.

This is the food of the wicked. It is these tables which the verse censures, saying: "For all tables are full of vomit and excrement; there is no room" (Isaiah 28:8). - The final word of the verse, makom, can also refer to God and thus, implies that God's presence is also lacking. Eating for the sake of indulgence is the direct opposite of the approach of "Knowing God in all your ways" described previously.

Avot 3:3 also quotes this verse and the Rambam alludes to that mishnah in the following halachah.

In contrast, a wise man eats only one dish or two, eating only enough to sustain him. That is sufficient for him. - As a source for eating two dishes, the commentaries have suggested Derech Eretz Rabbah, Chapter 7:

It happened that Rabbi Akiva served a meal to his students. [The servants] brought two dishes before them... they ate and were satisfied.

As a source for eating one dish, they point to (Sanhedrin 94b):

"And may the name of the righteous be blessed (Proverbs 3:33)" - this refers to Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ate [only] a litra of greens for a meal.

These sources notwithstanding, it appears that the Rambam is merely stating that a Sage should confine himself to simple and modest fare; he may not have had a specific source in mind.

This is alluded to by Solomon's statement: "The righteous man eats to satisfy his soul" (Proverbs 13:25). - Note the Rambam's use of this verse in Chapter 1, Halachah 4.

Commentary Halacha 2

When the wise man eats the little, which is fitting for him, he should eat it only in his own home at his table, - The previous halachah discussed the quantity of food and the attitude with which it was to be eaten. The present halachah concerns itself with the place and the company in which the wise should eat. It revolves around the principle that a person should be modest while eating and refrain from doing so in public. (See the Guide to the Perplexed, ibid.)

[He should not eat] in a store - Kol Ya'akov notes that this store may even be one specifically designated for eating, e.g., a restaurant, coffee-shop, or the like. Indeed, we find the Hebrew, chanut, used to refer to a place of eating in Bava Metzia 83b.

or in the marketplace, - Though the Jerusalem Talmud, Ma'aserot 3:2 mentions this prohibition in reference to a Torah Sage, the Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40b condemns even a common person for such behavior, stating: "Whoever eats in the marketplace is like a dog." The passage in Kiddushin continues to explain that such a person is unacceptable as a witness and the Rambam quotes that law (Hilchot Edut 11:5).

The commentaries have attempted to resolve this difficulty in different ways: For example Tosafot, Kiddushin (ibid.) explains that a common person is condemned only if he eats a full meal in the market place, while a wise man should not eat anything at all in public. The Kessef Mishneh (Hilchot Edut) differentiates between eating in a crowded place - which is forbidden for everyone - and eating in a quiet corner - which is deemed improper only for a Sage. The Bach (Choshen Mishpat 34) explains that a common person is censored only for eating while walking through the market place, while the wise man should not eat in public even while standing in one place.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that in this halachah, the Rambam uses the expression chacham (a wise man), his ideal for a person with a developed personality, and not talmid chacham (a Torah Sage). Apparently, he does not differentiate between a Torah Sage and a common person in this matter and requires a refined, highly developed standard in meeting our physical needs from everyone.

unless there is a very pressing need, lest he be viewed without respect by others.

He should not eat together with the unlearned, - Sanhedrin 52b states that, at the outset, a common person will consider a Torah Sage to be like a vessel of gold. However, if the Sage derives benefit from the common person, he will come to regard the Sage like an earthenware shard.

Note Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:11, where the Rambam equates the dining of a learned and pious man together with the unlearned with the desecration of the Name of God. See also Hilchot Sanhedrin (25:4) where he rules that communal leaders and judges should not eat and drink with the common people.

nor at those tables that are "filled with vomit and excrement." - This expression is obviously a reference to Avot 3:3:

[When] three eat at one table and do not speak words of Torah there, it is as if they eat from sacrifices to the dead [i.e., idols] as [Isaiah 28:8] states: "For all tables are full of vomit and excrement; there is no room."

In his commentary to this mishnah, the Rambam writes:

Previously, the verse dealt with eating and drinking while forsaking the Torah and those who study it. Therefore, all of these tables are considered as if excrement and filth; i.e., the foods of idol worship, are eaten upon them.

Furthermore,...

He - the wise man

should not eat frequently in other places, - outside his own home; i.e., the wise man, even when he eats in a private home and in the proper company, should limit the number of homes that he frequents (Pesachim 49a).

even in the company of wise men, nor should he eat where there is a large gathering. - The reason for these restrictions is, as the Rambam expresses in the Guide to the Perplexed (ibid.), a basic desire for a person, particularly when he relates to others, to emphasize the refined and developed aspects of his being and not those which he shares with other animals. Therefore, even when there is no danger of subjecting himself to undesirable influences or disgracing the Torah with which he is identified, he should refrain from performing a physical activity like eating in the presence of others.

It is not fitting for him to eat at another person's [table] except at a feast associated with a mitzvah, - Chullin 95b states that Rav would not partake of a meal in public unless it was associated with a mitzvah.

e.g., a betrothal - This decision is not accepted by all authorities. Some do not consider such a betrothal feast as "associated with a mitzvah."

Erusin translated as "betrothal," refers to the first stage of the marriage process, i.e., giving the woman the wedding ring. In Talmudic and post-Talmudic times, this ceremony was carried out before the actual wedding (nisuin). At present, we perform the two stages of the wedding, erusin and nisuin together. Thus, reference to what we term engagement as erusin is technically a misnomer.

or wedding feast - and then, [only] when a scholar is marrying the daughter of a scholar. - Pesachim 49a mentions that weddings between scholars and common people are undesirable and should not be attended by a Torah Sage (Avodat HaMelech). The Rambam also deals with this subject in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, Chapter 21.

The righteous and the pious of old never partook of a meal that was not their own. - Chullin 7b relates that even when Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi invited Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair to a meal, the latter Sage refused. Note also the Rambam's comments at the conclusion of Hilchot Zechiah U'Matanah.

Commentary Halacha 3

When a wise man drinks wine, he drinks only enough to soften the food in his stomach. - Ketubot 8b states that wine is useful in the process of digestion.

Whoever becomes drunk is a sinner, - The commentaries cite Berachot 29b: "Do not become drunk and do not sin;" a passage which seems to say that drink leads to sins. There is room for question for it appears that the Rambam views drinking itself as sinful.

is shameful, - In the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 8, the Rambam castigates drunken revelry in the harshest terms:

A drinking party is more shameful than a gathering of naked people [who] defecate together in daylight in one place. Elimination is a necessary human function. However, drunkenness is the voluntary act of the wicked man.

and will lose his wisdom. - See Proverbs 31:5: "Lest he drink and forget the Law and pervert the judgement of all the poor."

The Torah gives examples of the degrading effects of drunkenness (Noah, Genesis, Chapter 8; Lot, Genesis, Chapter 19). There are specific prohibitions against drinking - e.g. a priest is not allowed to perform the priestly services while under the influence of alcohol (Leviticus 10:9-11). Similarly, numerous passages throughout the Prophets and Sacred Writings castigate drunkenness. These are also paralleled in the rabbinic literature, e.g. Sanhedrin 70a, VaYikra Rabbah 12.

If he becomes drunk before the common people, he desecrates God's Name. - Note the Rambam's remarks in Hilchot Sanhedrin 25:4:

When a person is given a position of authority over the community... most certainly [he is forbidden] to eat and drink and become drunk in public and in a gathering of the ignorant or at a repast of friends.
Woe to those judges who act with such affront to the Torah of Moses, who disgrace its laws and reduce it to the earth, bring it down to the dust and cause evil to themselves and their descendants in this world and the next.

Most commentaries cite Pesachim 49a as the source for the Rambam's statement, however, that passage does not mention intoxication. The Zohar, Vol. I, 110a, specifically associates drunkenness with the desecration of God's name.

Since intoxication is such an undesirable state...

It is forbidden to drink even a small quantity of wine - Note Hilchot Tefilah 4:17 which considers a revi'it (between 3 and 5 oz.) of wine as slightly intoxicating. Since our wines are considerably weaker than those of the Rambam's time, it is questionable whether this measure would apply today.

in the afternoon hours, - Avot 3:13 mentions wine that is drunken in the afternoon as one of four things which "remove a person from the world." Avot D'Rabbi Natan, Chapter 21, explains that drinking wine in the afternoon causes a person to "negate the entire Torah."

unless it is taken together with food because drink that is taken together with food is not intoxicating - to the same degree as wine that is drunk without food. See the Rambam's commentary to the Mishnah, Pesachim 10:6.

Only wine that is taken after the meal is to be avoided.

Commentary Halacha 4

Although a man's wife is permitted to him at all times, - i.e., outside the restrictions of the niddah

it is fitting that a wise man behave with holiness. - Though a Jew's commitment to holiness must encompass every aspect of his behavior, the Torah and our Sages have always emphasized the importance of this quality in regard to sexuality. There is no more powerful expression of man's basic, instinctual nature than sex. Therefore, precisely in this area, a Jew must reveal that his nature is not only material, that he possesses a spiritual dimension that lies at the core of his being and seeks expression.

For this reason, the Jewish marriage bond is referred to as Kiddushin, emphasizing how kedushah, holiness, is a fundamental element in marriage. Similarly, Leviticus 20:7, proclaims "Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am God, your Lord," as a preface to the laws proscribing forbidden intimate relations. Sh'vuot 18b interprets the above verse as also including a command to conduct oneself in a holy manner within permitted relationships.

The quality of holiness involves not only restraint, as mentioned in the ensuing statements, but also the manner in which relations are carried out. The Rambam elaborates on this aspect in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:9 and in his commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:4.

He should not frequent his wife like a rooster. - The rooster is a widely used symbol of lust. The phrase used by the Rambam is quoted from Berachot 22a. See also Hilchot Tefilah 4:5.

In Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:11, the Rambam also elaborates on this matter, calling frequent intimate relations a severe blemish and boorish behavior which was frowned upon by the Sages.

Rather, [he should limit his relations to once a week] - Ketubot 62a,b describes the frequency with which people involved in different occupations should engage in intimate relations (See also Hilchot Ishut 14:1-4.). The measure given here is the one allotted to Torah Sages.

from Sabbath evening to Sabbath evening, - Ketubot (ibid.) states that Psalms 1:3: "It brings forth its fruit in its season" applies to such a person.

[The commentaries note the continuation of the verse, "Its leaves will not wither", and interpret it as implying that the draining of physical energy caused by intimate relations which the Rambam described in Chapter 4, Halachah 21, will not occur when a person follows this schedule.]

Iggeret HaKodesh (attributed to the Ramban) emphasizes that on the Sabbath, a person is granted a greater spiritual potential which enables him to maintain his bond with God even when involved in physical activities.

if he has the physical stamina. - See Hilchot Ishut, Chapter 14, where the Rambam prescribes criteria for the frequency of intimate relations that are coordinated with a person's physical stamina.

When he speaks - The Rambam quotes this euphemism for intimate relations from Nedarim 20b.

with her, he should not do so at the beginning of the night, when he is sated and his belly [is] full, nor at the end of the night, when he is hungry; rather, in the middle of the night, when his food has been digested. - Note Chapter 4, Halachah 19. Iggeret HaKodesh explains that both during the time food is being digested and when a person is hungry, his emotional balance is somewhat disturbed and it is difficult for him to develop the proper attitude and spiritual awareness necessary to make intimate relations a Godly act.

Nedarim 20b emphasizes that the midnight hour also allows a person to rest from all his worldly involvement. The quiet of the hour prevents him from being disturbed by other thoughts and he is able to concentrate on his wife alone.

Despite the advantages of having relations at midnight, many contemporary authorities suggest that a couple not hold to this as a binding rule. If a couple have already begun thinking of sex, they should not be forced to wait until midnight to fulfill their desires.

He should not be excessively lightheaded, - Previously (Chapter 2, Halachah 7), the Rambam cited a mishnah (Avot 3:16) which links lightheadedness and immorality.

nor should he talk obscene nonsense even in intimate conversation with his wife. - Though a man should talk to his wife to prepare her for intimacy, he must be careful of what he says. Note the comments of VaYikra Rabbah 24:7.

"And your camp shall be holy, that He see no lewd things in you" (Deuteronomy 23:15). The latter refers to unseemly speech. Rav Shmuel bar Nachman said: Lewd speech is obscenity.

Behold, the prophet has stated (Amos 4:13): "And He tells over to a man what he has spoken." [On this verse,] our Sages - Chagigah 5b

commented: A person will have to account - when being judged in the afterworld...

for even the light conversation that he has with his wife. - for every aspect of a man's behavior is significant.

[At the time of relations,] they should not be drunk, - For intimate relations to be a meaningful act, each of the partners must have all his faculties at his command.

As mentioned in the following halachah, a proper attitude toward intimate relations will cause one to father children who are refined and attractive. The converse is also true. If parents engage in intimate relations in a coarse manner or if there is friction and lack of harmony between them, the children born of their union will have undesirable character traits.

In particular, Nedarim 20b describes ten situations in which relations are forbidden and states that the children born of such unions are endowed with extremely negative tendencies. One of the undesirable states at the time of relations is drunkenness. See also the following halachah and Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:12.

nor lackadaisical, - People should not engage in relations except when motivated by desire (preferably a holy desire as explained in Chapter 3). For this reason, as mentioned below, a husband should spend time arousing his wife's desires.

nor tense - Some manuscripts have atzubim- "depressed" - instead. Neither state of mind conforms to the attitude desired by the Torah as mentioned below.

[neither both of them,] or [even] one of them. - The act of intimacy should be a true union between man and wife. Therefore, the partners must work on developing a single state of mind.

She should not be asleep, nor should the man take her by force, - These two situations are also included among the ten prohibited relations mentioned in Nedarim 20b.

against her will. - The Avodat HaMelech states that this statement also implies that one should not compel his wife to agree to intimate relations. See Eiruvin 100b.

Rather, [the relations should take place] amidst their mutual consent and joy. He should converse and dally with her somewhat, - Chagigah 5b describes how the Sage, Rav, would abandon all formalities and inspire an atmosphere of relaxed happiness before intimacy. (Note the description of Rav in Chapter 2, Halachah 4.)

so that she be relaxed. - Iggeret HaKodesh states:

You should motivate her with words that move her heart and settle her mind and make her happy so that your mind will be fused with hers, and your intent with her intent.
You should say some things that arouse her desire, feelings of connection, love, will, and romance, and others which lead her to the fear of God, piety, and modesty.

He should be intimate [with her] modestly and not boldly, and withdraw [from her] immediately. - The commentaries note that the Rambam's statements are based on the following passage from Nedarim 20b:

They asked Ima Shalom (the wife of Rabbi Eliezer): "Why are your children so attractive?"
She replied to them: "He only engages in relations with me... at midnight. During intimacy, he uncovers a handbreadth and covers a handbreadth (i.e., engages in intimacy modestly) and it appears that a demon is pressuring him" (i.e., he would withdraw after completing the act of intimacy).

Commentary Halacha 5

Whoever conducts himself in this manner [may be assured that] not only does he sanctify his soul, purify himself, and refine his character, but, furthermore, - in addition to these spiritual and ethical benefits,...

if he has children, - The Rambam does not promise that children will be conceived. However, if conception takes place,...

they - the offspring

will be handsome - Note the passage from Nedarim quoted in the previous halachah.

and modest, worthy of wisdom and piety. - Iggeret HaKodesh states:

When a person joins together with his wife while his thoughts cleave to the spiritual realms, those thoughts draw down a sublime light which rests on that drop of semen... Thus, that drop of semen is always connected to that shining light.
This is the mystic secret implied in [God's words to the prophet, Jeremiah, (1:5)]: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;" i.e., He had already established a connection of shining light with the sperm [from which] that Tzaddik [was conceived] at the time of [his parents'] union.

[In contrast,] whoever conducts himself in the ways of the rest of the people who walk in darkness - The latter phrase is borrowed, out of context, from Isaiah 9:1.

will have children like those people. - The effect of improper intimate behavior on offspring is mentioned in Nedarim 20b and Eruvin 100b. Note our comments in the previous halachah. See, too, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:12.

Commentary Halacha 6

Torah Sages conduct themselves with exceptional modesty. - With this statement, the Rambam establishes a connection with the previous halachah and sets the motif for what follows. Modesty is not simply a matter of dress, (this is discussed in halachah 9), but rather, an awareness of God which causes a person to cover head and body out of respect for the Divine Presence. The Rambam expands upon this concept in the Guide for the Perplexed (Vol. III, Chapter 52):

He is constantly with us, observing us, as [Jeremiah 23:24] proclaims: 'Can a man hide himself in the secret places and I not see him,' says God." Understand this well.
Know that when perfect men comprehend this, they achieve such humility, such awe and fear of God and a sense of shame before Him... that their private behavior with their wives and in latrines is like their public conduct with other people.
Know that they have forbidden a man to walk with an erect carriage, because: "the entire world is filled with His glory" (Isaiah 6:3)... We are always in His presence... Thus, the greatest among the Sages found it difficult to bare their heads because the Divine Presence constantly hovers over man.

They do not demean themselves and do not bare their heads, - Kiddushin 30a relates that Rabbi Chiya bar Abba once saw Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taking his son to school while wearing a makeshift hat. When Rabbi Chiya asked him the reason he was wearing such a head-covering, he explained that he was forced to leave his home in a hurry and was not able to arrange his turban. Nevertheless, he found it preferable to wear even a makeshift head-covering, rather than go out bareheaded.

Kiddushin 31a quotes Rav Huna, the son of Rav Yeshoshua, as explaining that he would not walk four cubits bareheaded out of respect for "the Divine Presence which is above my head." (See also Zohar, Vol. III, p. 245b.) Similarly, Shabbat 156b relates that an astrologer told Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak's mother that he was destined to be a thief. From his earliest childhood, she trained him to avoid this fate. She would constantly tell him to cover his head "so that the fear of God will be upon you."

or their bodies. - The Mishnah Berurah (2:1) lays down the following general rule: Any portion of our bodies which is usually covered should not be revealed unless there is a specific reason for doing so.

Modesty, as understood in the present context, results from the awareness of the Divine Presence. The ordinary man experiences such awareness while at prayer when "he is as if standing before the Divine Presence" (Hilchot Tefilah 4:16) and then he is required not to bare his head (ibid. 5:5) or various parts of his body; e.g., his chest (ibid. 4:7) and his feet (ibid. 5:5). As emphasized in Chapter 3, Halachah 3, a wise man should try to be conscious of the Divine Presence at all times and places. As a result, he will constantly be modest.

Though in Talmudic times and in the Rambam's era, personal modesty and covering one's head were considered the signs of a Sage (Kiddushin 8a) and a unique and special merit (Shabbat 118b), at present, both practices have been accepted as ordinary behavior for all observant Jews.

Even when one enters a latrine, he should be modest and not uncover himself until he is seated. - Tamid 27b quotes Rav as giving his son the following advice: "Sit and reveal yourself. Cover yourself and stand."

He should not wipe himself clean with the right hand. - Since the right hand is used to tie Tefillin (Berachot 62a) and is given priority over the left hand regarding service in the Temple (Zevachim 24a), the installation ceremony of priests (Leviticus 8:23), and other ritual manners, it is not proper that it be used for this function.

Many authorities maintain that this restriction only applies when one is cleaning oneself with one's hand alone, but not when one uses toilet paper.

He should stay away from all others and enter a chamber beyond a chamber, a cave within a cave, and relieve himself. - Berachot 62b derives this law from I Samuel 24:3's description of the behavior of King Saul. Though it is forbidden to delay relieving oneself (Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 17:31), our Sages did not give this prohibition precedence over the dictates of modesty (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 3:11).

If - no latrine is available and

he [must] relieve himself - These restrictions only apply to defecation. The Sages feared that refraining from urination might be damaging (Bechorot 44b).

behind a fence, he should move far enough away that no one can hear the sound if he breaks wind. - I.e., even though an observer might see that he is squatting and thus, conclude that he is defecating, since the fence covers his lower body, there is no difficulty (Berachot 62a).

If he [must] relieve himself in an open area, - where such a barrier is not available

he should be far enough off so that no one can see him baring himself. - i.e., though the ultimate reason for modesty is the awareness of God's presence, there also is a dimension of modesty which implies respect for one's fellow man and restraint in revealing one's body and bodily functions in his presence.

One should not speak while relieving himself, even if there is great need. - Berachot 62a states that "modesty and silence are appropriate for the latrine." Sanhedrin 19a states that women are allowed to speak in the latrine to prevent men from entering.

Just as he conducts himself with modesty while in the latrine by day, he should also do so at night. - Berachot, ibid. Since modesty is practiced out of an awareness of God's presence, there is no difference between day and night (The Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 52).

One should always train himself to relieve himself in the early morning and after dark only, so that he [need] not go far off - to avoid others seeing him (Berachot, ibid.).

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