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|Rav Zadok on Spilling Semen in Vain|
|Written by Rav Zadok HaKohen|
|Wednesday, 08 February 2012|
Rav Zadok on Spilling Semen in Vain
By the Hasidic Master, Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin
Excerpted from his book, “Sefer HaZichronot” on the Torah Parsha “Bereshit”
[Website Editor: DON’T WORRY. BE HAPPY! THERE IS A TIKUN!]
Everyone who is obligated by the commandment of getting married (“be fruitful and multiply”) is forbidden for him to spill his semen in vain (Tosefot, Sanhedrin 59B). It is also forbidden for women to destroy semen (See Tosefot, Ketubot 39A; Niddah 13A).
This negative commandment is more severe than all of the prohibitions in the Torah, for it is like he brings a flood upon the world, for this was the sin of the Generation of the Flood, as it says, “They destroyed hot waters,” and it is better that people say bad things about his children rather than him spilling semen in vain. Anyone who spills semen in vain is under the penalty of death, and it is like he spilled blood and worshiped idols. And it is better that his belly explode rather than bringing himself to spill semen in vain (See Niddah, beginning of Ch.2). In the Tractate Kallah it says that anyone who arouses himself to spill semen in vain is like an animal – just as an animal is only meant for slaughtering and has no life in the world to come, this person also does not have a portion in the world to come. In the holy Zohar (Bereshit 57a) it says, “The term evil (רע) is only applied to those who corrupt their ways on the earth (spill their seed on the ground) etc., and they will not enter the Heavenly Chamber, nor see the face of the Shechinah. This is repeated in the portion of Noach (69a), and in many other places the Zohar elaborates at length upon the great severity of this transgression until saying that repentance does not help. And see elsewhere there (62a) where it says that atonement can be achieved “only with a great repentance.” It is also written in the book “Reishit Chochmah” in the Gate of Kedusha (ch.17), and other books, that tshuva is certainly possible, as the Sages have asserted, that nothing stands in the way of repentance, noting that in this matter, a great and mighty tshuva is called for. The book “Tanna Debe Eliahu” in Likutei Mishpatim (Remez 247) praises the person who never spilled semen in vain, and our forefather, Yaacov, may his memory be for a blessing, was also praised for this, as it says about his firstborn, Reuven, “My might and the beginning of my strength” (Bereshit, 49:3). And many books of mussar elaborated on these points at great length.
What is considered spilling semen in vain (הוצאת זרע לבטלה )? Those who masturbate with their hand or with their legs, and all other ways until they bring about the spilling of seed in vain. Not only this, but a husband who begins intercourse with his wife, then pulls out and ejaculates outside, behold, this is spilling semen in vain, for this was the sin of Er, about whom it is said, “And Er the firstborn of Yehuda was evil.” For this reason, it is forbidden to have intercourse with a woman whose vagina is sealed, which makes the intercourse like spilling seed outside of the proper place. However, it is permissible to have intercourse with a girl before the age of puberty, with a barren woman, and with a post-menopause woman, all of whom are not capable of giving birth, even though it is forbidden to marry them at the outset (l’catchilla), because it is nullifying the commandment to be fruitful and multiply if the man doesn’t already have a child who has reached the age of 20. Nevertheless, if he married one of these women, he is permitted to have intercourse with her, for even with a wife who is pregnant, and thus not capable of giving birth to a child from a subsequent marital union, he is permitted to have intercourse, just as he is permitted to have relations with his wife in a way that is incapable of producing offspring, such as from behind (into her rectal opening), which cannot bring about childbirth, as long as he ejaculates inside, and with the stipulation that he does not make this a regular practice and thus nullify the commandment of bearing children. The husband also must be careful that he remain atop his wife (with his member inside her vagina) until his member loses its rigidity, so that no drop of semen remains on it after he withdraws. And there are those who say that it is permissible for a husband to have relations with his wife in an unnatural fashion, exclusively in her rectal opening, even though this is spilling semen there in vain, only when it is done very occasionally, and not as a regular practice; and there are those who disagree with this, saying that even if it is done rarely, it is forbidden to ejaculate there, that it must be done without emitting semen and the man must hurry when he nears his climax to withdraw from there and enter his wife’s vagina, and only then is it permitted, with the stipulation that it is not done on a regular basis lest he come to spill semen in vain.
[JewishSexuality.com notes that Kabbalists forbid all unnatural relations, and that the “Reishit Chochmah” and Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, interpret any mention in the Gemara of “from the rear” “not in her natural manner” and “upturning the table,” as being that while the husband is behind his wife he enters in the normal place, which, while permitted if done rarely, must only be performed if semen won’t be spilled, something which the Kabbalist,, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi maintains is impossible since the woman is positioned downward and gravity will cause semen to spill out of her vagina.]
Nonetheless, even though certain things may be allowed, everyone who sanctifies himself in things that are permitted to him will be called holy.
In cases of saving oneself from violating a prohibition of forbidden relations (where one must be ready to be killed rather than commit the transgression) like adultery with another man’s wife, or relations with a woman in Niddah, or the like, it is preferable to masturbate, yet he will not be clean from evil, and he must do tshuva (repentance) by fasting for forty days during the summer months or sitting in the cold during the winter, as is written in the Sefer Hasidim. Based on this, the Beit Shmuel wrote that what is written in the Zohar and Shulchan Aruch about spilling semen in vain being the gravest negative commandment is not necessarily so. It is straightforward that adultery and other forbidden relations are punished with severe deaths, and there are other examples in Perek HaArel and the Beit Shmuel (Even HaEzer 25), showing that if masturbation was the gravest sin it would not be allowed in these selected cases.
It is forbidden to ride on an animal (like a horse or mule) in a straddling position without a saddle, for the man’s member will become heated from the hide of the animal. See Rashi who seems to indicate that it must be a saddle from wood. Whether a saddle from leather is a sufficient preventive needs further study (since there are cases where this seems to be permitted and other cases where it is not).
It is forbidden for a man hold his member, even gently, lest he come to spill semen in vain. Even for a certain reason like to scratch, or to examine if he had an accidental emission of semen (keri), or to immerse in a river in front of others and he wants to cover his nakedness with his hand, and the like, it is forbidden to touch it, unless with a thick cloth. (If his member trembled and he saw that he had had an emission of semen, he is allowed to wipe it with a thin cloth, and it seems to me even with his hand in this exceptional instance, since after had an emission, he won’t become aroused.) In cases where permission is granted, it is speaking about touching the testicles, the hair, or the crown of the member, but not the staff of the member itself…. [Here he writes that it is the way of the very pious not to touch their member at all, even while urinating, unless the drops will otherwise fall in an inappropriate place in an obvious manner.] If he is married, and he wife at hand and not in Niddah, he is allowed to hold his member and urinate. Or if he is not married, or married but his wife isn’t at hand, or if she is in the time of her Niddah period, it is forbidden for him to hold his member, unless his urine will spill in unwanted places, and then only touch in the permitted areas.
It is a serious transgression for a man to knowingly cause himself an erection because the erection itself is spilling semen in vain.
[One way to understand this is that by willingly bringing himself to arousal, this will lead to the spilling of semen in vain. Another, more Kabbalistic explanation, mentioned by Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, is that the action which he does to bring on the erection, or the erotic thought or gazing at an erotic image, which causes the arousal, causes, in and of itself, souls, the spiritual part of the sperm, to be jettisoned from the sefirah of “Daat” in the brain, from whence it travels along the spinal column to the organ of the Brit where it merges with the seminal fluid. So in this sense, even before ejaculation, the spiritual component of the zera (seed) is already considered “outside” since it has been already jettisoned from its place, in the spiritual center in the brain, by the arousal and erection alone].
Anyone who knowingly causes himself an erection is put under a ban, and must sit by himself – while other halachic authorities say that he must take it upon himself to sit alone only if the Beit Din (court) imposed the sentence of a ban. If he should awaken at night from sleep and discover himself with an erection, he should hurry to have relations with his wife, if it is during her permitted days, lest he come to spill semen in vain. And if she is not pregnant or not nursing (when the marital union can lead to conception and birth), it seems that they should insert a blocking cloth (moch) inside her vagina, so that she will not become pregnant from this union, since, if it would lead to pregnancy, the child born from such a union would have a polluted spirit from the impure female spirits which visited him in his dreams, and cause dangers to the fetus that could result in physical handicaps as well (Even HaEzer 14; and 25). If he awakens in the middle of a seminal emission, or even at its end, if he senses that there is still some semen in his member, he should cover it with a cloth, so that no more will come out, and go to his wife to have relations, since there is no shiur (minimum halachic measure) to spilling semen, even one drop is a violation. Therefore, he should also be careful after he finishes intercourse with his wife to remain on top of her [until his organ is soft] so that no drops will be remaining on his member when he withdraws.
The great gravity of the transgression spilling semen in vain refers to cases where the person himself willfully emits his seed. However, should it occur against his will (anous), he is not punished, as when he sleeps; or because he ate foods that warm the body, since the Sages did not forbid these foods except for the High Priest on Erev Yom Kippur; or because he slept after heavy exertion or a long journey, which warmed his body, and he discovered keri (a seminal emission) upon awakening, for behold, the Gemara tells of a righteous Hasid who saw a keri because of weariness from the road and he was judged in favorable merit (Shabbat 127B). For a sick person who sees a keri against his will, it is considered a good sign for his recovery (Berachot 57B). If he had a keri on Yom Kippur, he should worry all the year, and if he lived through the year, he should know that he has a portion in the world to come, that his sins have been forgiven, and that he will have a long life. This state of not being punished is only if he did things that do not bring upon the spilling of seed when awake, so if he did them before sleeping, then slept and saw keri, it was the sleep which brought him to it, and he is considered as if compelled against his will (anous), but if he slept with tight pants, etc, that warm the body and can bring upon an emission even when awake, over this he will be punished. Therefore, one should be careful to avoid during sleep all of the things which are prohibited when awake. Thus, the Sages forbade sleeping on one’s back, facing upwards (there are those who say the reverse), but rather he should sleep leaning toward his side so that he doesn’t come to an erection through the warming of his spine – also so his clothes don’t fall on him, or his hands rest on his member and warm it, bringing about the spilling of semen in vain. Even when not asleep it is forbidden to lie like this, one one’s back, so much more so when he sleeps. And he should take care that his organ isn’t uncovered when he sleeps, lest he rise and expose his nakedness to others if he wasn’t sleeping in a closed and dark room (See Rashi, Niddah 12B, and see the Tosefot there, beginning with the word “לייט”).
Fortunate are all those who guard against everything which brings about keri, and don’t see a keri at all, even when anous against his will – he is called holy. For even if a keri is brought about against one’s will (anous), demons and evil spirits are created (Tractate Eruvin 18B). The prophet, Elisha, was praised as being a holy man because no a drop of keri was seen on his sheets. The Sages gave a segula (special safeguard) for this by immersing in Torah study before sleep, as it says, “be satiated (in Torah), sleep, and no evil will chance,” since spilling semen in vain is called evil. It is also mentioned in books the value of saying some verses and Psalms and prayers to save oneself from this, and we have only what our Sages said to go by. And the Arizal advised to sleep wearing tzitzit, and on the night of the wife’s immersion, to remain awake in the evening and study Torah until midnight (or the time of marital relations) and not sleep earlier, lest he come, G-d forbid, to keri. Fortunate is the man who doesn’t ignore these things, and the person who exerts himself to serve Hashem, he is protected against all adversary.
It is also forbidden for a man to fantasize about a sin like adultery, or all other forbidden sexual relations and practices. Even though The Holy One Blessed Be He does not add evil thoughts to the punishment for the sin itself (Kiddushin 40B), nevertheless the fantasy causes the spilling of semen in vain, and the spilling of semen that results from sexual thoughts is worse than doing so with one’s hands and the like. About this, the Sages said that forbidden sexual thoughts are worse than the sin itself (Yoma 29A), see Rashi there. The book “Kad HaKemach,” on Tahara,9, elaborated upon this at length, bringing four explanations and emphasizing the gravity of sexual thoughts and its punishment. It seems to me that this is simple to understand since it causes the spilling semen in vain, while the sin of forbidden relations itself is most often with an unmarried woman or a prostitute, and these are prohibited by the Rabbis, whereby the prohibition of adultery is from the Torah, and thus less prevalent, as stated in Gitten 17B; therefore thoughts that cause spilling semen in vain, which is called the gravest of sins, is much worse than the actual transgression itself.
Even if he is certain that he won’t spill semen in vain if he fantasizes, or, since his wife is at hand, if he becomes aroused she can save him from the transgression, in any event it is forbidden to think about an evil thing in the day so that he not come to make himself impure in the night (Avodah Zara 22B), for a man dreams about at night what he thought about during the day, and thus he will be punished since the thought will come to fruition, and it is cause of the resulting keri, as is stated at the end of the chapter Kama in Kiddushin. If he begins to have forbidden thoughts, he should bring his heart to thoughts of Torah, for the Torah is like a charming beloved, capable of rescuing a person from the evil inclination.
Therefore, a person must guard himself against everything that could bring him to sexual thoughts, and not speak things that could bring him to fantasize (which is also forbidden as unwholesome speech), and not to gaze at women, or at the undergarments of a woman he knows, since this causes forbidden thoughts (besides the danger of leading to unchastity). And it is forbidden to look at people fornicating (like gentiles who aren’t strict about modesty), and even at animals while they mate, but he should look away the moment such a thing appears before him. However, if this looking is for the purpose of biological research or husbandry and breeding, it is possible, since this is their work and they won’t come to sexual thoughts. And a man should not look at the filthy place of his wife (her sexual organ) which causes forbidden thoughts and entices the evil inclination, and causes the spilling of semen in vain if he cannot have relations with her right away (as during the daytime, or in candlelight, or lest someone might arrive, and the like), and there are other prohibitions with this as well.
It is furthermore forbidden for a man to go to a bathhouse with his father, father-in-law, the husband of his mother by a second marriage, or the husband of his sister, in a place where men walk naked. Even if he were to bathe before them he must leave. Even if it is to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father who needs his help in the bathhouse, it is prohibited. Therefore a father should not call upon his son to come with him to the bathhouse (or mikvah) unless the boy has not reached the age of thinking sexual thoughts. It is permitted to look at another man’s organ, other than the relatives mentioned above (many Kabbalists forbid this completely), and at his own organ, but if he knows that this will bring him to forbidden thoughts, he must contain himself and not look, just as he must not look at anything else that he knows will arouse his evil inclination. When he bathes, he can clean his member with casual soaping like other areas of his body, but to linger there is forbidden.
Even sexual thoughts that don’t bring a person to a forbidden action are in no way proper for a man who wants to sanctify himself, who should guard himself from sexual fantasies, for the main thing is the heart, as it says, “You shall not go astray after your heart and your eyes.” It also says, “A pure heart you have created in me….” Our Sages say that the heart and the eyes are two accomplices to sin. Therefore, it is proper for a man to custom himself toward added holiness and pure thoughts, and not muse about vain matters at all, and not to look at things that bring this about. Rabainu HaKadosh took merit that he never looked at his brit in his life, let alone the organ of others. And our father, Avraham, may peace be with him, didn’t look at his wife, as it states in Baba Batra, the chapter Kama. The main idea is that a man should fill his heart with eternal delights of holiness and truth, and not with temporal worldly vanities.
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