Please provide Torah insights into Sugya (Yoma daf 18b) discussing measures certain Amoraim took to maintain their level of purity while traveling.
Sites Rav & Rav Nachman would arrange for a temporary marriage while away from home.
Mark May Ra'anana
(Please forgive the delay in response. Technical problems prevented the mailing of a number of responses.)
1) The Gemara states that Rav and Rav Nachman married these women so that they should possess "Pas b'Salo" -- "bread in his basket." This is because if someone has bread in his basket (in other words, he is married), the Yetzer ha'Ra does not take hold over him.
2) Another example of this idea, in a different area of Halachah, may be found in the Mishnah and Gemara later (67a), where we learn that the person sent out into the wilderness on Yom Kippur with the Azazel goat was told periodically that if he needs to eat there is food and water available for him. The Gemara says that nobody ever had to resort to this, but rather once the person had the "bread in his basket" (the possibility to eat if he so desired), this automatically made him feel secure and he did not feel a need to eat.
3) The Talmud Yerushalmi on the above Mishnah (6:4) explains further that the Yetzer ha'Ra rules over something which is forbidden to a person. The Gemara relates another account to illustrate this phenomenon. Rebbi Mana went to visit Rebbi Chagai who was feeling weak on Yom Kippur. Rebbi Chagai told Rebbi Mana that he was thirsty, and Rebbi Mana replied that he should take a drink. Rebbi Mana left and returned later and asked Rebbi Chagai how his thirst was. Rebbi Chagai replied that at the moment that Rebbi Mana permitted him to drink, his thirst disappeared.
4) Similarly, in our Gemara, as soon as the Amora'im possesed these temporary wives, they no longer had any bad thoughts, so this is why these temporary marriages took place.
5) The Ben Yehoyada, written by the author of Ben Ish Chai, gives a different explanation for our Gemara. He writes that there was a special problem in the places that Rav and Rav Nachman visited, Darshish and Shachnetziv. Many local men were delaying marriage until the age of 30 or 40. (The Ben Yehoyada writes that a similar problem existed in his times, in 19th century Kurdistan, and some parts of Europe. The Ben Yehoyada himself was in Baghdad.)
6) To provide a vivid lesson to the people of Darshish and Shachnetziv, Rav and Rav Nachman showed them how important it is to get married and save oneself from sin. Even these great Amora'im, who were on such a high spiritual level, did not rely on themselves and made sure that they should not come to any bad thoughts with women who were not their own wives. This was a practical way of teaching the ordinary people in Darshish and Shachnetziv the importance of marrying at a young age to ensure the holiness of the Jewish people.
Thank you for the response.
As a teacher and frequent guest speaker requiring days and on occasion weeks away from my love of my life, I understand the feelings and thoughts discribed in your response.
Man to man , I fail see how acquiring "bread in the basket" served to protect them from natural thoughts. On the contrary, am I wrong to think that a legal convenient wife for travel would help dampen the appetite without tempting the evil inclination.
I would have thought that Rav and Rav Nachman would have been more exemplary of Torah teaching by demonstrating their high spiritual level of mind control and not resort to any need for a substitute.
I realize this may be a sensative issue but I was encouraged to ask questions to get closer to Hash-m.
Rabbi thank you for allowing me to probe for deeper insights.
Mark May Raanana
1) We can understand a little more about the conduct of Rav and Rav Nachman if we look at the Gemara in Sukah (end of 52a) which tells us an important insight: "the greater a person is, the greater his Yetzer ha'Ra is." This is very different from the misconception that some people have, that people on a high spiritaul level were just born like that and it all comes automatically. On the contrary, these great Tzadikim had to work very hard to reach and maintain their level, and are constantly fighting any inroads made by the evil impulse.
2) The Gemara (earlier on the same page) tells us that in the next world, Hash-m will slaughter the Yetzer ha'Ra in the presence of the Tzadikim and the Resha'im. To the Tzadikim the Yetzer ha'Ra will seem like a high mountain that they had to toil to overcome, but to the Resha'im it will seem like a strand of hair that they failed to overcome. Both the Tzadikim and the Resha'im will cry. The Tzadikim will cry out of joy, and the Resha'im will cry out of anguish. The Tzadikim will weep for joy because now they see how great their Yetzer ha'Ra was and what a tremendous achievement it was to overcome it.
3) So, on the contrary, Rav and Rav Nachman were teaching the people how one constantly must fight the Yetzer ha'Ra. They did not assume or pretend that they possessed no Yetzer ha'Ra, but rather they taught that everyone has a Yetzer ha'Ra but he should find ways (which are permitted according to Halachah) of defeating it.