Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rambam- Yisodei Hatorah Perek 5 Halacha 8- When and How One is Allowed To Use Forbidden Things

במה דברים אמורים שאין מתרפאין בשאר איסורים אלא במקום סכנה. בזמן שהן דרך הנאתן כגון שמאכילין את החולה שקצים ורמשים או חמץ בפסח או שמאכילין אותו ביוה"כ. אבל שלא דרך הנאתן כגון שעושין לו רטיה או מלוגמא מחמץ או מערלה. או שמשקין אותו דברים שיש בהן מר מעורב עם אסורי מאכל שהרי אין בהן הנאה לחיך הרי זה מותר ואפילו שלא במקום סכנה. חוץ מכלאי הכרם ובשר בחלב שהן אסורים אפילו שלא דרך הנאתן. לפיכך אין מתרפאין מהן אפילו שלא דרך הנאתן אלא במקום סכנה: 

What case are we dealing with that a person can only be healed with any forbidden thing (other than the big three sins) when there is life endangerment? This is only speaking about a case where the forbidden object is used in a way that one can derive pleasure from it. For example, a sick person is allowed to eat creepy and crawly things, anything leavened (bread) on Passover, or even food on Yom Kippur in a manner that one can derive pleasure from this food. (A better example to understand today is that a person would be allowed to eat shrimp in a normal fashion, if it had medicinal qualities, if they were dangerously ill.) However, if the forbidden object is used in a way that one can not derive benefit from it, for instance, that this forbidden object is made into a bandage, an emollient of Chametz (leaven) or Orla (forbidden fruit that the tree is not 3 or 4 years old depending on the situation), or the sick person drinks something bitter combined with this forbidden object and there is no benefit from the forbidden object, this is permitted even if the person is not dangerously sick. This is true by everything except Klai hakerem (mixing species: planting two seeds of different species together is forbidden and called klai hakerem) and milk mixed with meat, because these things are forbidden even if they are used in a manner that one can not derive benefit from them. Therefore, one may not use these things (Klai hakerem and milk mixed with meat) even in an non-beneficial way unless they are dangerously ill. 

I find it so interesting that almost all forbidden things are only forbidden to be used if there is a benefit that can be derived from them. What can we learn from this? To me, it seems like the idea is that G-D put us (Jews) in this world for two reasons, to follow the laws of G-D and to benefit from this world. G-D originally put Adam into this world to benefit and the only thing he was not allowed to do was eat from the tree of knowledge. G-D only gave him one stipulation that allowed him to enjoy everything else, but Adam sinned. However, now that we, the Jews, have received the Torah, there are a lot more stipulations. Why is this? There is a saying at the end of every chapter or so in the Mishna in Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) that says, "Rebbe Chananya ben Akashya says, 'The Holy One, blessed be He, desired to cause Israel to merit, therefore, He increased for them the Torah and Mitzvos (commandments) as it says (in Isaiah 42:21), G-D desired for the sake of his (Israel's) righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious.'" This statement clearly tells us why there are so many stipulations, because it allows us to merit.

However, what is this merit? Some might say that the Torah and Mitzvos only benefit a Jew in the world to come. This is NOT the position of the Rambam. He says (In The Guide 3:27), "The general object of the Law is twofold: the well-being of the soul, and the well-being of the body." Clearly, the Rambam believes that the Torah and Mitzvos were given in order that man can benefit in this world and the next world. The Rambam, later in The Guide (3:33) elaborates to tell us that:

IT is also the object of the perfect Law to make man reject, despise, and reduce his desires as much as is in his power. He should only give way to them when absolutely necessary. It is well known that it is intemperance in eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse that people mostly rave and indulge in; and these very things counteract the ulterior perfection of man, impede at the same time the development of his first perfection, and generally disturb the social order of the country and the economy of the family. For by following entirely the guidance of lust, in the manner of fools, man loses his intellectual energy, injures his body, and perishes before his natural time; sighs and cares multiply; there is an increase of envy, hatred, and warfare for the purpose of taking what another possesses. The cause of all this is the circumstance that the ignorant considers physical enjoyment as an object to be sought for its own sake. God in His wisdom has therefore given us such commandments as would counteract that object, and prevent us altogether from directing our attention to it, and has debarred us from everything that leads only to excessive desire and lust. This is an important thing included in the objects of our Law.

This idea seems to be present in this law here in the Mishna Torah as well. The Rambam tells us that G-D forbids pleasures that lead us astray. The laws of the Torah are there to guide us to the proper path of life. Not only so that we can merit the world to come, but also so we can enhance our enjoyment and life in this world. They help us curb hatred, lust (like cheating on spouses) and other despicable acts. This is why, when there is no benefit derived from these forbidden things, they are allowed, because if there is no pleasure or benefit, one will not come to perform these forbidden acts, or consume these forbidden objects. However, Klai Hakerem and milk mixed with meat are two things that their PREPARATION are forbidden and that is why even if there is no benefit or pleasure from them while eating them, they are still forbidden. However, a deathly ill person overrides all other commandments except the big three sins.

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