Now for the last piece of lovely Aggadah from Niddah 31. The first passage is one of my favorites, where the rabbis decide [quite unscientifically] that in order to conceive a son, the man must bring the woman to orgasm first. What a far cry from Christianity, where any pleasure during sex was a sin.
R. Ami stated, "If the woman emits her seed first she bears a male child, and if the man emits his seed first she bears a female child; for it is written [in Leviticus], 'If a woman emits seed and bear a son'." At first it was said that if the woman emits her seed first she will bear a male and if the man emits his seed first she will bear a female, but the Sages did not know the reason until R. Zadok came and explained it [from Genesis]: "These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore unto Jacob, with his daughter Dinah." The Torah thus ascribes the sons to the mother and the daughter to the father. It is also written [in Chronicles], "And the sons of Ulam were mighty men and had many sons and grandsons." Yet is it within a man's power to produce many 'sons and grandsons'? But the fact is that they restrained themselves during intercourse in order that their wives should emit seed first so that their children would be males. This is why R. Katina said, "I could make all my children to be males." Rava stated, "One who desires all his children to be males should cohabit and then repeat the act."

Next come questions about Torah laws. R. Simeon b. Yohai was asked: Why did the Torah ordain that a woman after childbirth should bring a sin offering? He replied: When she is in hard labor she swears impetuously that she will have no intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she should bring a sin offering for breaking her oath. And why did the Torah ordain that in the case of a male [the woman is clean] after seven days and in that of a female after fourteen days? [On the birth of a] male with whom all rejoice she regrets her oath after 7 days, [but on the birth of a female] about whom everybody is upset she regrets her oath after 14 days. And why did the Torah ordain circumcision on the eighth day? In order that the guests shall not enjoy themselves while his father and mother cannot [because she would tamei and unable to even touch her husband until after 7 days]. This last question is often quoted by the Orthodox: "Why did the Torah ordain that a woman is niddah for seven days? Because if his wife is always available to him [a husband might] come to loath her. This way, she is niddah for seven days in order that she shall be beloved by her husband as at the time of her first entry into the bridal chamber."

Lastly, our Gemara asks why a man goes in search of a woman and a woman does not search for a man? [how little he knows] This is like the case of a man who lost something. Who goes in search of what? He who lost the thing [Adam lost a rib to Eve] goes in search of what he lost [not the lost item for its owner]. And why does the man lie face downwards and the woman face upwards towards the man [during intercourse]? He [faces the earth] from which he was created, and she [faces the man] from whom she was created.
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Published on June 24, 2012 17:07 • 832 views • Tags: daf-yomi, niddah, talmud
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message 1: by Richard (last edited Jun 24, 2012 06:53PM) (new)

Richard Maggie, Thank you for the Talmud lesson. It was enjoyable, interesting and informative!

But I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of Christianity's attitude to pleasure during sex.

I wish to make it clear from the outset that my intention is not to start a heated argument, but to have a respectful interfaith dialogue.

I think most early Christian theologians would have thought that the main purpose of marriage was to "be fruitful and multiply." To say that conjugal pleasure was frowned upon may have been true, but I don't think it was absolutely forbidden. (Even if it was, I'm sure many Christian couples quietly ignored it anyway!) But the issue was quite nuanced, even in the works of theologians.

I respectfully offer this explanation of St. Augustine's views on the issue of sex. It's pretty convoluted but I think it explains things quite well.

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