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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Issurei Biah - Chapter Sixteen

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Issurei Biah - Chapter Sixteen


A man with maimed testicles or a severed member who married a native-born Jewess and engaged in sexual relations1 is punished by lashes, as [Deuteronomy 23:2] states: "A person with maimed testicles or a severed member may not enter the congregation of God."

Such a man may marry a female convert or a freed maid-servant. Even a priest with maimed testicles may marry a female convert or a freed maid-servant, because the holiness [of the priesthood] does not rest upon him. He is permitted to marry even a female netin2 or a woman whose status is in doubt.


פְּצוּעַ דַּכָּא וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה שֶׁנָּשְׂאוּ בַּת יִשִׂרָאֵל וּבָעֲלוּ לוֹקִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג ב) "לֹא יָבֹא פְצוּעַ דַּכָּא וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה בִּקְהַל ה'". וּמֻתָּרִין לִשָּׂא גִּיֹּרֶת וּמְשֻׁחְרֶרֶת. וַאֲפִלּוּ כֹּהֵן שֶׁהוּא פְּצוּעַ דַּכָּא מֻתָּר לִשָּׂא גִּיֹּרֶת וּמְשֻׁחְרֶרֶת לְפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ בִּקְדֻשָּׁתוֹ. וַאֲפִלּוּ נְתִינָה אוֹ אֶחָד מִן הַסְּפֵקוֹת מֻתֶּרֶת לוֹ:


Since a man with a maimed organ is forbidden to marry among the Jewish people, [our Sages] did not decree against his marrying a female netin or a woman whose status is in doubt.3 A man with maimed testicles or a severed member is, however, forbidden to [marry] a female mamzer4 whose status is definite, because this prohibition is of Scriptural origin.


הוֹאִיל וּפְצוּעַ דַּכָּא אָסוּר לָבוֹא בַּקָּהָל לֹא גָּזְרוּ בּוֹ עַל הַנְּתִינִים וְלֹא עַל הַסְּפֵקוֹת. אֲבָל פְּצוּעַ דַּכָּא וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה אָסוּר בְּמַמְזֶרֶת וַדָּאִית שֶׁהֲרֵי אֲסוּרָה מִן הַתּוֹרָה:


What is meant by maimed testicles? Anyone whose testicles have been wounded. What is meant by a severed member? Anyone whose shaft has been cut off.

There are three organs to which wounds can disqualify a male: the shaft, the testicles, and the tract in which the semen develops. If one of these three was wounded or crushed, the man is disqualifed.5


ואֵי זֶהוּ פְּצוּעַ דַּכָּא. כָּל שֶׁנִּפְצְעוּ הַבֵּיצִים שֶׁלּוֹ. וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה כָּל שֶׁנִּכְרַת הַגִּיד שֶׁלּוֹ. וּבִשְׁלֹשָׁה אֵיבָרִין אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּפָּסֵל הַזָּכָר בַּגִּיד וּבַבֵּיצִים וּבַשְּׁבִילִין שֶׁבָּהֶן תִּתְבַּשֵּׁל שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע וְהֵן הַנִּקְרָאִין חוּטֵי בֵּיצִים. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּפְצַע אֶחָד מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה אֵיבָרִין אֵלּוּ אוֹ נִדָּךְ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל:


What is implied? If the shaft is wounded, crushed, or cut off from the corona or above the corona,6 he is disqualified. If a portion at the top of the corona is cut off, but even a hairsbreadth [of the corona] remains which surrounds the entire shaft, he is acceptable. If the shaft was cut like a pen is sharpened or like a funnel above the corona,7 he is acceptable.8


כֵּיצַד. נִפְצַע הַגִּיד אוֹ נִדָּךְ אוֹ שֶׁנִּכְרַת הָעֲטָרָה אוֹ לְמַעְלָה מֵעֲטָרָה פָּסוּל. וְאִם נִכְרַת מֵרֹאשׁ הָעֲטָרָה וְנִשְׁתַּיֵּר מִמֶּנָּה אֲפִלּוּ כְּחוּט הַשַּׂעֲרָה מֻקָּף לְכָל הַגִּיד כָּשֵׁר. נִכְרַת הַגִּיד לְמַעְלָה מֵעֲטָרָה כְּקֻלְמוֹס אוֹ כְּמַרְזֵב כָּשֵׁר:


If the shaft is perforated below the corona, he is acceptable. [The following rules apply if] the corona itself is perforated. If when the person ejaculates, semen emerges from the hole, he is unacceptable. If the hole becomes closed, he returns to acceptable status. If the shaft is perforated below the corona when the portion above is in the midst of corona, he is disqualified. For the entire corona must be intact [for the person to be acceptable].


נִקַּב לְמַטָּה מֵעֲטָרָה כָּשֵׁר. נִקְּבָה הָעֲטָרָה עַצְמָהּ אִם כְּשֶׁיִּרְאֶה קֶרִי תֵּצֵא שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע מִן הַנֶּקֶב פָּסוּל. נִסְתַּם הַנֶּקֶב חָזַר לְהֶכְשֵׁרוֹ. נִקַּב לְמַטָּה מֵעֲטָרָה שֶׁכְּנֶגְדּוֹ לְמַעְלָה בְּתוֹךְ הָעֲטָרָה פָּסוּל שֶׁהָעֲטָרָה כֻּלָּהּ מְעַכֶּבֶת:


If the seminal tract becomes obstructed and the semen emerges from the urinary tract, he is unacceptable.


נִסְתַּם שְׁבִיל שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע וְחָזַר לִרְאוֹת שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע מִשְּׁבִיל שֶׁמַּשְׁתִּין בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל:


If both or one of the testicles9 were severed, wounded, or crushed or one was lacking or pierced by a hole, he is unacceptable. If both or one of the seminal tracts are severed, crushed, or wounded, he is unacceptable.


נִכְרְתוּ הַבֵּיצִים אוֹ אַחַת מֵהֶן אוֹ שֶׁנִּפְצְעָה אַחַת מֵהֶן אוֹ שֶׁנִּדּוֹכָה אַחַת מֵהֶן אוֹ שֶׁחָסְרָה אוֹ שֶׁנִּקְּבָה הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל. נִכְרְתוּ חוּטֵי בֵּיצִים אוֹ אַחַת אוֹ שֶׁנִּדָּךְ אוֹ נִפְצַע הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל:


If one of the seminal tracts was perforated into the urinary tract and the person urinates from two sources - the seminal tract and the urinary tract - he is acceptable.10


נִקַּב חוּט מִחוּטֵי הַבֵּיצִים לִשְׁבִיל מֵי רַגְלַיִם וַהֲרֵי הוּא מַטִּיל מַיִם מִשְּׁנֵי מְקוֹמוֹת מִשְּׁבִיל הַמַּיִם וּמִשְּׁבִיל שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר:


Whenever we have used the term "unacceptable" in this context, the implication is that [the malady] was not caused by the hand of heaven, e.g., [his testicles] were severed by a man or a dog, he was struck by a sharp end, or the like. If, however, he was born with maimed testicles or a severed member, or without testicles, he became ill because of a bodily ailment and these organs ceased to function, or an ulcer arose in them that caused them to waste away or be severed,11 he is permitted to marry among the Jewish people. For all of these blemishes are caused by the hand of heaven.


כָּל פָּסוּל שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ בְּעִנְיָן זֶה כְּשֶׁלֹּא הָיוּ בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם כְּגוֹן שֶׁכְּרָתוֹ אָדָם אוֹ כֶּלֶב אוֹ הִכָּהוּ קוֹץ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ. אֲבָל אִם נוֹלַד כְּרוּת שָׁפְכָה אוֹ פְּצוּעַ דַּכָּא אוֹ שֶׁנּוֹלַד בְּלֹא בֵּיצִים אוֹ שֶׁחָלָה מֵחֲמַת גּוּפוֹ וּבָטְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אֵיבָרִים אֵלּוּ אוֹ שֶׁנּוֹלַד בָּהֶם שְׁחִין וְהֵמֵסָּה אוֹתָן אוֹ כְּרָתָן הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר לָבֹא בַּקָּהָל שֶׁכָּל אֵלּוּ בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם:


It is forbidden to destroy a male's reproductive organs. This applies to humans and also to animals, beasts, and fowl, both from a kosher species and from a non-kosher species, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora. Although [Leviticus 22:24] states: "And you shall not do this in your land,"12 According to the Oral Tradition,13 we learned that this [prohibition] is applicable in every place. The verse teaches that one should not act in this manner among the Jewish people, not with their own bodies, nor with the bodies of others.

Whoever castrates [a person or an animal] should be lashed14 according to Scriptural Law everywhere. Even a person who castrates a person who has been castrated should be lashed.


אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיד אֵיבְרֵי זֶרַע בֵּין בְּאָדָם בֵּין בִּבְהֵמָה חַיָּה וְעוֹף. אֶחָד טְמֵאִים וְאֶחָד טְהוֹרִים. בֵּין בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כב כד) "וּבְאַרְצְכֶם לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ" מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה נוֹהֵג בְּכָל מָקוֹם. וְעִנְיַן הַכָּתוּב לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה זֹאת בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין בְּגוּפָן בֵּין בְּגוּף אֲחֵרִים. וְכָל הַמְסָרֵס לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה בְּכָל מָקוֹם. וַאֲפִלּוּ מְסָרֵס אַחַר מְסָרֵס לוֹקֶה:


What is implied? One came and severed a person's member, another cut off or pulled away his testicles and a third cut his seminal tract; all receive lashes. Similarly, if one crushed a person's member, another pulled it away, and a third cut it off, all receive lashes. [This applies] although the last person castrated a person - or an animal, beast, or fowl - who had already been castrated.

A person who castrates a female - whether a human or other species - is not liable.15


כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁבָּא אֶחָד וְכָרַת אֶת הַגִּיד וּבָא אַחֵר וְכָרַת אֶת הַבֵּיצִים אוֹ נִתְּקָן וּבָא אַחֵר וְכָרַת חוּטֵי בֵּיצִים. אוֹ שֶׁבָּא אֶחָד וּמָעַךְ אֶת הַגִּיד וּבָא אַחֵר וְנִתְּקוֹ וּבָא אַחֵר וּכְרָתוֹ כֻּלָּן לוֹקִין. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא סֵרֵס הָאַחֲרוֹן אֶלָּא מְסֹרָס. בֵּין בָּאָדָם בֵּין בִּבְהֵמָה חַיָּה וָעוֹף. וְהַמְסָרֵס אֶת הַנְּקֵבָה בֵּין בְּאָדָם בֵּין בִּשְׁאָר מִינִים פָּטוּר:


It is forbidden to have a man or a male of another species drink a potion that causes him to lose his sexual potency. Lashes are not given, however. A woman is permitted to drink a potion to cause her to lose her sexual potency so that she will not conceive.16

If a person bound a man and set a dog or other animal upon him until his sexual organs were maimed or he made him sit in water or snow until his sexual organs lost their potency, he is not given lashes unless he castrates him by hand. It is, however, fitting to subject him to stripes for rebellious conduct.17


הַמַּשְׁקֶה עִקָּרִין לְאָדָם אוֹ לִשְׁאָר מִינִים כְּדֵי לְסָרְסוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה אָסוּר וְאֵין לוֹקִין עָלָיו. וְאִשָּׁה מֻתֶּרֶת לִשְׁתּוֹת עִקָּרִין כְּדֵי לְסָרְסָהּ עַד שֶׁלֹּא תֵּלֵד. הֲרֵי שֶׁכָּפָה אֶת הָאָדָם וְשִׁסָּה בּוֹ כֶּלֶב אוֹ שְׁאָר חַיּוֹת עַד שֶׁעֲשָׂאוּהוּ כְּרוּת שָׁפְכָה אוֹ שֶׁהוֹשִׁיבוֹ בַּמַּיִם אוֹ בַּשֶּׁלֶג עַד שֶׁבִּטֵּל מִמֶּנּוּ אֵיבְרֵי תַּשְׁמִישׁ אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה עַד שֶׁיְּסָרֵס בְּיָדוֹ. וְרָאוּי לְהַכּוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת:


It is forbidden to tell a gentile to castrate one of our animals. If the gentile took the animal and castrated it on his own initiative, it is permitted.18 If a Jew acts deceitfully in this context,19 he should be punished and required to sell the animal to another Jew. He may [sell it] to his son who is past majority, but not to his son who is below majority, nor may he give it to him.20


אָסוּר לוֹמַר לְעַכּוּ''ם לְסָרֵס בְּהֵמָה שֶׁלָּנוּ. וְאִם לְקָחָהּ הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ וְסֵרְסָהּ מֻתָּר. וְאִם הֶעֱרִים יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּדָבָר זֶה קוֹנְסִין אוֹתוֹ וּמוֹכְרָהּ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֵר. וַאֲפִלּוּ לִבְנוֹ הַגָּדוֹל מֻתָּר לְמָכְרָהּ. אֲבָל לִבְנוֹ הַקָּטָן אֵינוֹ מוֹכְרָהּ לוֹ וְלֹא נוֹתְנָה לוֹ:


As explained in Chapter 15, Halachah 2, all of the prohibitions against sexual relations that involve the violation of a negative commandment alone involve a situation where the woman has been consecrated. As mentioned in the notes to that halachah, there are other authorities who differ with the Rambam on this matter.


See Chapter 12, Halachot 22-23.


To anyone other than a halachic authority, the Rambam's ruling appears problematic: A woman whose status is in doubt is either a female mamzer or an acceptable native-born Jewess. In either case, this man would be forbidden to marry her. Why then is he permitted when her status is not clarified?

Halachically, however, Kiddushin 73a interprets the phrase "He shall not enter God's congregation," as forbidding one from marrying only a person whose lineage is definite. The Rambam maintains that even the Sages did not enforce a decree in this instance. (See Beit Shmuel 5:2.)


The Rambam's position is that although having a maimed organ disqualifies a priest from the holiness of the priesthood, it does not disqualify an Israelite from the holiness with which he is endowed. The Ra'avad differs with this ruling and states that a man with a maimed organ may marry a female mamzer. The Maggid Mishneh mentions other authorities who follow both of these views. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 5:1) follows the position of the Rambam, while the Rama mentions the other view.


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Yevamot 8:2), the Rambam states that any difficulty which renders a man sterile according to medical knowledge disqualifies him from marriage.


I.e., any portion of the shaft between the corona and the body that is cut off disqualifies the person.


I.e., any portion of the shaft between the corona and the body that is cut off disqualifies the person.


Rashi (Yevamot 75b) differs and disqualifies such a person. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 5:3) quotes both views without stating which should be followed.


The Rama (Even HaEzer 5:7) states that there are authorities who do not disqualify a person if one testicle is intact. He states, however, that since a Scriptural prohibition is involved, it is preferable to follow the more stringent view.


For this difficulty will not prevent him from conceiving a child.


Rabbenu Asher differs with regard to the latter two instances and does not consider illness and the like as "by the hand of heaven." Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 5:10) quotes both views without stating which one should be followed. [See also Rav Kappach's notes to the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Yevamot 8:2) which discuss whether or not this ruling involved a change of mind for the Rambam.]


Which could be understood as implying that the prohibition applies only in Eretz Yisrael.


Sifra to the above verse.


The punishment given for the violation of a Scriptural commandment.


The Maggid Mishneh and the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 5:11 interpret the Rambam's statements as meaning that although there is a prohibition against doing so, lashes are not given.


This ruling serves as the basis for contemporary Rabbis to permit women to take oral contraceptives.


The punishment given for violating a Rabbinic commandment.


As long as the gentile acted on his own initiative, the Jew is not obligated to suffer a loss.


I.e., encouraging a gentile to castrate the animal without actually telling him to do so.


For a son below majority is not considered as having an independent financial domain. See the Rama (Even HaEzer 5:14) who mentions more particulars concerning this issue.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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