Thursday, August 23, 2012

Berachot 22a: Immersion In A Mikveh For Tumas Keri

The following is a repost of an old parshablog post, relevant to today's daf:

The following is the Rif on the matter, citing the gemara:
We learnt {in a brayta}: Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera says: Words of Torah are not susceptible to {ritual} uncleanness {tumah}.
And there was a story about a student who was mumbling and reading above Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera {because he had had a seminal emission}. He {Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera} said to him: My son, open your mouth and let your words be clear, for it states in Yirmiyahu 23:29:

כט הֲלוֹא כֹה דְבָרִי כָּאֵשׁ, נְאֻם-ה; וּכְפַטִּישׁ, יְפֹצֵץ סָלַע. {ס29 Is not My word like as fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? {S}

Just as fire is not susceptible to tumah, so too words of Torah are not susceptible to tumah. 

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: The world practices like the three elders - in words of Torah like Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera, like Rabbi Yoshaya in kilaim {forbidden mixtures}, and like Rabbi Illai in the first shearing.

When Ze'eri came {from Israel} he said: They have abolished immersion {in themikvah for seminal emission}. Some say {he said}: They have abolished {ritual} washing of hands. The one who said "immersion" is in accord with Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera. And the one who said "washing of hands" is in accord with Rav Chisda, for Rav Chisda would curse one who returns after water at the time of prayer.

There is one who said that this they they said "They have abolished immersion" is in regard to both words of Torah and prayer. And there is one who said that this is only as regards to words of Torah, but in regard to prayer you need immersion. And not immersion {tevila} specifically but rather washing in 9 kav. And Rabbenu Hai Gaon wrote that since the gemara does not deal with this matter, we should take the custom of all Israel that all Baal Keri, even if they have no water, should not pray until they wash.
Of course, people nowadays don't pasken directly from the gemara, or the Rif. But this principle, cited lehalacha, should give people something to think about.

And it would seem (though I am not paskening at all in this blogpost) that two minutes in the shower give these 9 kav, which is required by the Rif only misafek specifically for prayer. My minhag is not to go to the Mikveh for tumas keri. (And while there might be tznius issues in declaring this, by looking at what the polemic-writers are writing (see inside on the pamphlet), we see that such declarations have a need, for otherwise people will rewrite history.)

Yet this is an old dispute, and different people have different practices.

But in this day and age, every issue is cast as one in which one way is right, and everyone else that follows the non-stringent practice is doing wrong.

Thus, as BreslovWorld, part 1 and part 2 arguing that all men must go to the mikveh as an halachic obligation. This based on a Hebrew leaflet which I saw in shul a few weeks ago, and was greatly annoyed by, because of the way it gave only one side of the dispute, and cast that which it did cite in specific ways. Two citations from BreslovWorld:

It is an unforgivable sin that almost all Yeshivas today have no Mikva and all their students study as Bali Keri (ritually impure) their whole life.
Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira, and others, would probably disagree. And then:

In light of the above, one can no longer hide behind the myth that Yeshiva students, those who follow Lithunian custom, or anyone else are exempt from mikva. People that want holiness don’t look for exemptions. May Hashem send a spirit of purity throughout the People of Israel, amen.
Compare this with what Rav Kanievsky said, on the actual pamphlet. Click on the link above, but click on the picture (right) to see a specific part of it. Basically, they tried to snooker him into endorsing not only their project but also their conclusions by asking him the question, "Is it bitul Torah to go to the mikveh for tumas keri?" He told them it was not, but was even kiyum haTorah.

Then he realized how they might try to run with this and miscast it. Therefore, they include the following text:
However, he stressed that his intent was not from the aspect of halacha, but rather from the aspect of the greatness of the significance of the matter, for it was already ruled in Shulchan Aruch that there is no obligation in the matter. This language was shown to they eyes of Maran {Kanievsky} shlita and he said upon it "gut geshribn."

The flyer I saw in shul had the same caveat in the text, but that which he stressed was placed in a much smaller font.

So which is it? BreslovWorld looks at the (one-sided) sources and concludes that it is an unforgivable sin to learn while in a state of tumas keri, and that one cannot hide behind the myth that anyone is exempt, while Rav Kanievsky states that 
his intent was not from the aspect of halacha, but for it was already ruled in Shulchan Aruch that there is no obligation in the matter.

I am not paskening that one is or is not obligated in it. And that is why I am not going to spend my time arguing about every point. But I certainly will not change my conduct based on polemics such as this. My point here is not to argue the halacha of it, but just to point out the pattern of false presentation in polemics.

(See also at revach this post.)

Update: On careful consideration, the first reference to unforgivable sin is the sin on the part of the yeshivos, rather than of the bachurim. Still, it is a somewhat fair contrast. And the latter one about exemption is better.


  1. Meir says
    Please quote the rambam 4:6 what his minhag is. Also can you explain why amongst chasidim women dont go to mikva daily. The tosfos yom tov seems to imply that the original 'takana' was more for women than men. If one can use a swimming pool or shower and even how to use them is debated amongst our late poskim.

  2. chart for tvilas keri

  3. Quoting mesivta gemoro biurim 92
    The minchas yitschok says one can use a shower but the water should 'run' without stopping, one should enter before the water starts running and turn it on yourself and stand for around 3 to 4 minutes under it. The shevet halevi is maikel.
    The chazon ish says that a shower is not in order since the water comes from the 'small holes' and not direct at once.
    The 'mishne halachos' of R Klein says that the 'raavad' says there has to be a 'koach' of a person pouring it and not if done automatically.

  4. "Please quote the rambam 4:6 what his minhag is."

    you may quote it if you like. Rambam 4:6 is not a correct citation. It should be Rambam, Mishneh Torah, hilchot X, 4:6. how is someone to know to look in Hilchos Tefillah, particularly? Besides, I don't do homework assignments.

    Rambam's description of minhag is a description of minhag. And minhag is not binding where it has changed, as it clearly has. He writes elsewhere that takkanat Ezra has been totally nullified.

    besides, as I wrote in the post: "And that is why I am not going to spend my time arguing about every point."

    I think the audio file linked in the other post (audio from Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein) on this topic addresses this, from Chazon Ish to Meshaneh Halachos.

    kol tuv,