Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can I Enter a Ruin?

This post deals with the gemara which starts on the bottom of Daf 3A in Mesechet B'rachot:

ת"ר מפני שלשה דברים אין נכנסין לחורבה מפני חשד מפני המפולת ומפני המזיקין. מפני חשד ותיפוק ליה משום מפולת [דף ג,ב גמרא] בחדתי ותיפוק ליה משום מזיקין בתרי אי בתרי חשד נמי ליכא בתרי ופריצי. מפני המפולת ותיפוק ליה משום חשד ומזיקין בתרי וכשרי. מפני המזיקין ותיפוק ליה מפני חשד ומפולת בחורבה חדתי ובתרי וכשרי אי בתרי מזיקין נמי ליכא במקומן חיישינן ואב"א לעולם בחד ובחורבה חדתי דקאי בדברא דהתם משום חשד ליכא דהא אשה בדברא לא שכיחא ומשום מזיקין איכא:

What the Gemara is Saying

This gemara can be somewhat confusing so I will try and be as clear as possible. The gemara states a general rule: For three reasons one may not enter a hurba (a ruin): 1) chashad (suspicion of lascivious conduct; 2) mapolet (fear of dangerous falling ruble); 3) m'zikin (fear of dangerous - unseen - forces). Next, the gemara tries to determine why three reasons are needed as opposed to just one. It takes up each reason and finds the case where that reason alone would apply and neither of the other two. I will paraphrase the arguments for each reason:

1) Why say: don't go into a hurba because of chashad? Wouldn't it be enough to say don't go into a hurba because of mapolet or m'zikin?

The gemara explains that there is a case in which we would not be concerned about mapolet - if the hurba is new. There is also a case in which we would not be concerned about m'zikin - if you go into the churba with another person (the gemara takes it for granted that there is no fear of m'zikin in the presence of two people). Here the gemara points out the difficulty that the contingency in which there is no fear of m'zikin is the same contingency in which there is no chashad (i.e., the presence of two people). The gemara clarifies that there is a case where there are two people present (so the fear of m'zikin is removed) but there is still chashad - that is, when those two people are p'reetzee (promiscuous, in the sense of casual and unrestrained in sexual behavior; morally loose).

2) Why say: don't go into a hurba because of mapolet? Wouldn't the reason of chashad or m'zikin suffice?

The gemara gives the case of two k'shairee (morally upstanding individuals). In this case there is no fear of chashad and there is no fear of m'zikin. The only concern left is mapolet.

3) Why say: don't go into a hurba because of m'zikin? Wouldn't the reason of chashad or mapolet suffice?

The gemara gives the case of a new hurba entered by two k'shairee. In this case there is no fear of chashad or mapolet. The gemara immediately notices the problem, we would like to say: the only concern left is m'zikin - but they gave a case which involves two people. So in what case is there no concern for hurba or k'shairee but still a concern for m'zikin? The gemara offers two solutions: 1) There is a principle we were not considering before: in the m'zikin's place (the hurba is their "place") two people will not remove the concern. 2) There is a case in which we are not concerned about chashad or mapolet but yet we are concerned about m'zikin: one person entering a new hurba in a field (the gemara posits that women are not commonly found in the field).

Here is a chart to make things clearer (I hope):








Why that reason is not needed (i.e., another reason that should be sufficient):

Why that reason is needed (i.e., case where it will apply):

Difficulty w/ reason it is needed:





1) new hurba



2) 2 people

if there are 2 people then there is no chashad

2) the 2 are p'ritzei



1) chashad & m'zikin

1) 2 k'sheiri



1) chashad & mapolet

1) new hurba & 2 k'sheiri

if 2 then no m'zikin

1) in their place (the Hurba) the m'zikin will have influence even with the presence of 2 people



2) 1 person, new Hurba in a field (Explanation: In a field there is no chashad (b/c women are not commonly in the field) but there are m'zikin.)

The Problem

The problem emerges from the gemara's first solution in #3. If we say that in the m'zikin's place two people will not remove our concern for the harm they can cause then the gemara's solutions in #1 and #2 loose their force. If we say that the gemara's second solution rejects this principle then we come to our second problem: now we have a case in which it is permissible to enter a hurba: namely, two people (no m'zikin) in a new hurba (no fear of mapolet) in a field (there would be no chashad, fear of mapolet or fear of m'zikin).

It could be that the gemara is not trying to prove that one may never enter a hurba. The point of the gemara is to show that one must always consider these three matters before entering a hurba: 1) if I go in, will I be suspected of lascivious behavior? 2) is there a danger of being injured by falling debris? 3) are there any unseen forces that could hurt me? Yes, there might be rare cases in which one might be allowed to enter but the intelligent man will always consider these three matters first.

The Deeper Lesson

I believe there is a deeper lesson here. These three matters are actually the three things one must consider before going anywhere. In other words, one must always consider before going somewhere (or doing something) if going to that place will: 1) cause people to become suspicious of him; 2) put one in physical danger; 3) put one under the influence of unseen forces. Why does the gemara have to tell us this? Most people do not like the idea that they have to make decisions based on contingencies that are outside their control. People especially do not like to think that they have to be concerned with what other people think about their activities. People almost always underestimate the potential danger of a situation (just think of how many times you have gone out driving in the middle of a snow shower, or driven above the recommended speed limit). Almost no one takes into consideration the unseen forces that might affect/harm them (see this post on m'zikin).

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