Chaya Soro 2019: Hymens, Intact and Broken

| November 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
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Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Hymens, Intact and Broken:

Back on  November 7, an article written by Michael Bryce-Saddler and published in the Washington Post began with this sentence: Rapper T. I. Takes his teenage daughter to the gynecologist each year to check if her hymen is “still intact,” he said during a podcast released Tuesday that has since been deleted. Click here to read it in its entirety. Is the hymen mentioned in the heylige Toirah? In our parsha? Indeed it is! And elsewhere. We will be discussing the role it played, or did not, while Eliezer was on a mission to find a suitable wife for his master’s son. If  Rashi and a number of others saw fit to discuss the hymen, it’s zicher good enough for the Oisvorfer. We’ll get to them soon, ober let’s instead begin here.

The proper understanding and observance of many commandments we have been given in the heylige Toirah requires that we also read many –dozens at least- different seforim and opinions. Why? Because proper mitzvah observance and what they really mean is quite often hotly debated. Why so? Because in many instances, the RBSO left us guessing and it was up to our rabbis of yore to argue, discuss and debate what the RBSO really meant and wanted of us. Though the heylige Toirah records in very flowery details and with very rich storylines how two of our forefathers came to meet their wives,  yearly as parshas Chaya Soro rolls around, one of the great debates centers around  Rivka’s age at the time she met and married her bashert, Yitzchok. In fact, 62 pisukim of this week’s parsha deal with one topic: the mission and saga of finding a suitable wife for Yitzchok, a young man of somewhere between 37 and 40 years old.  Why at that age, Yitzchok required the services of a shadchan (matchmaker), ver veyst?

Though the words Chayei Soro -literally translated- mean the life of Soro, our parsha begins by telling us how old Soro was when she passed away and then continues by dedicating 59 % of the parsha to the story of Rivka’s marriage to Yitzchok. Although we hear how old Soro was when she passed away (127) as well as how old she was when she gave birth to Yitzchok (90), the heylige Torah only records Rivka’s birth but doesn’t ever mention her age. We do know that Yitzchok got married at 40 and became a father at 60. Why aren’t we told how old Soro was? The bottom line: it’s seemingly none of our business. If the RBSO wanted us to know, He could easily have told us. Efsher what He really wanted and did seemingly get, was debate. Efsher He wanted us to hurrriveh (toil) over each word and especially those missing words. Why? Ver veyst. And why the fascination with her real age at the time of her introduction to, and subsequent marriage to Yitzchok? Would she not have qualified to be his wife were she any older or younger? Was three or twelve or fourteen any different than 18, 20 or even older? What’s pshat? Why were our rabbis hung up on her age? It so happens that our forefathers were attracted too much younger women, is that giferlich? And the answer raboyseyee is azoy: the very words of the heylige Toirah “Vi’hanara toivas mareh meoid, bisulah, v’ish loi yi’do’uh…”, “The maiden was very good looking, a virgin, no man had known her” got them all thinking and debating. From this sentence we can deduce that she was a young woman, but we still don’t know her age. We see that although Rivka’s age was not listed in the text, our sages valiantly tried to figure out how old she was. Let’s what a few had to say.

Two things are zicher: she was young and also a virgin, so the heylige Toirah tells us. Was she but three as many including the future Oisvorfer were taught in yeshiva? Or, was she efsher over twelve, perhaps as old as fourteen as the adjectives used to describe her virtues might lead us to believe? The bottom line: this dispute was never resolved and mistama is the forerunner of yet another minhag yisroel (custom) practiced by many women, Jewish and not; as they get older; many don’t disclose their real age. Did Rivka then set the precedent for being somewhat coy about age? Veyter. We have previously covered this topic, ober this year we are back with a new look and new midrashic exegesis on age, virginity, broken hymens, and more. Shoin, now that we have your attention, let us begin.

Why did the RBSO davka want us to know these little factoids about our foremother Rivka? Does the heylige Toirah mention virtues including beauty, virginity and that no man had known her when describing or discussing our other foremothers? It does and does not. It does mention beauty when describing Rochel and very good looks when describing Yoisef, ober there is no mention regarding virginity. On the other hand, we do find some mention of virginity in this week’s haftoirah where we read about a young maiden by the name of Avishag, a person of interest we discussed last week as being all of  twelve when she was already a skilled bed-warmer, if you chap,  for an aging Dovid Hamelech.

 

Though her age is not revealed, the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 24:16) does throw us a hint and a curve ball when it tells us azoy: “וְהַנַּעֲרָה טֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד בְּתוּלָה וְאִישׁ לֹא יְדָעָהּ”. And in English: The maiden (Rivka) was very beautiful, a virgin, whom no man had known. Ok, inspector Clouseau, here we go. Was Rivka’s virginal status our concern? Is her virginity germane to the storyline? Is this any of your business? And if she wasn’t, what’s the big deal? Why make an issue over a shtikel protective tissue, if you chap? Where was it written that a non-virgin could not marry one of our holy forefathers? Were the men virgins? As an aside, one Rashi in parshas Vayichi does tell us that Reuvain was produced from Yaakov’s first squirt of juice (semen). How he held out until his mid-seventies, ver veyst? How he held out while sleeping in the dorm of Shaim and Ever’s yeshiva for fourteen years, is nothing short of a miracle. Shoin.

Did the heylige Toirah forbid non-virgins from marrying our forefathers? Answer: there was no Toirah in place back then. Ober didn’t our holy forefathers observe the entire not-yet- given Toirah anyway? That is a pshat you will hear from time to time but not always. Some say they did but only while in Eretz Yisroel and of course, in instances where they clearly did not, other excuses are offered up. And guess what? In any event, marrying a non virgin was not, and is still not forbidden unless you are the koihen godol (High Priest). He was forbidden from marrying a non virgin. Says the heylige Gemora (Yivomis 61b), azoy: a Koihen Godol (High Priest) must marry a “besula”, “virgin” as it says in the heylige Toirah (Vayikra 21:14): “Only a “besula” of his people may he take as his wife.”  Ober, was Yitzchok a koihen? The bottom line: Yitzchok was neither a koihen- godol, or even a regular koihen, and Rivka’s virginity or lack thereof, should not have played a role. Why then did the heylige Toirah double down and tell us that Rivka was a virgin and that no man had known her? It’s these few words which got our rabbis thinking and talking; we’ll get to their thoughts shortly.

How old is a “bisula”? She is a girl who left the category of minor, but has not reached the category of “boigeres” (more mature girl). When she is twelve years old and hits puberty, she becomes a “nearah”, a maiden.  What exactly is a bisula? In plain English: a girl with an intact hymen. Shoin, I said it!  The Toirah’s word for virgin is bisulah, which is from the same root as the hymen (besulim). The presence of the hymen is seen as evidence that the woman has not had sex. The parents of a young woman who is suspected of not being a virgin (and of having committed adultery) before the wedding, can prove that the husband is lying by producing the sheet from the bridal bed with the besulim. In plain English: she can produce the hymen-bloodied sheet as proof. More than a shtikel embarrassing, but certainly convincing. Shoin! Many pages of the heylige Gemora and other commentaries have been penned on this very topic. Got all that? Excellent!

Nu, as you can only imagine, when our sages and exegetes of yore, read the above words in the heylige Toirah, they stopped dead in their tracks and began to wonder azoy: what was the purpose of the double language? Once the Toirah told us that she was a virgin, it is, or should be plainly understood that she was unknown to any man. What’s pshat unknown? And this raboyseyee is our topic for the week, trying to chap what Rivka seemingly did not. Trying to understand pshat in these words through the lenses of other great sages, each of whom had no difficulty reducing to writing the status of Rivka’s sexuality, the sexual scene in her times, the practices of the goyim and a few tricks regarding the preservation of virginity (the hymen) even in the face of otherwise promiscuous behavior. Amongst the questions, can a person who is actively chapping, if you chap, still retain signs of virginity? Nu, imagine trying to write these medroshim in today’s times. OMG!

What taka happens in a case where a woman has had sex, but was somehow able to keep her hymen intact? Is this possible? It is! Is she still considered a virgin davka because her intact hymen testifies to her virginal state? Can a hymen talk and testify? Who knew?  And what about the case where she did not have sex but is still –for other reasons- hymen-less? Is she still considered a bisulah/virgin? Is the presence of the hymen absolute proof of here virtuosity? And does the lack of her hymen render her unfit in any way? Nu, thank the RBSO, our sages understandings of the heylige Toirah ran deep, if you chap, they were also experts in  Mishnayis and Gemora; hec, they reduced to writing the entire oral tradition. They seemingly also had unique expertise in hymens, both broken and intact. The bottom line: there are cases where the lack of a hymen, or a broken one, can financially impact a woman. The hymen has monetary value, not on eBay, ober in real life. The bottom line: There are chiefly two areas in halacha where it matters if a woman is a virgin – whether her kesuvah, marriage contract, is the full amount, 200 zuz, or only half that, 100 zuz, and whether she can marry a Koihen Godol.  Let’s go back and see how the heylige Toirah described our foremother Rivka. We read of two separate virtues she possessed: she was a virgin,  and no man had known her. The redundancy according to many- seemingly teaches us that besides being a virgin mamish –no sexual intercourse prior to marriage- she had also not engaged in other forms of sexual activity that would have possibly ruptured her hymen. In other words: there are activities other than sex, which can break the hymen. Mamish?

Says Rashi: This leaves open the question of whether a woman who has had sex, but has her hymen intact, or has not had sex but does not have her hymen, would be considered a bisulah/virgin. And Rashi had these questions why? From the very words of the Toirah which tells us with great specificity that Rivka was virtuous on both fronts, and, as we will see just below, and also from behind, if you chap. Rashi, quoting the medrish makes it abundantly clear: Rivka was pure on both ends. She had not engaged in any form of sexual activity; no vaginal, or rear entry. Nor was she involved in any other activity that might have caused a tear or rupture to her hymen. Did she patchke (play) around but was lucky enough to maintain an intact hymen? In other words: was she efsher fondled by anyone? And before you fly off the handle and suggest that the Oisvorfer is mamish off the rails with this disgusting question regarding one of matriarchs, let’s quickly look at what no lesser a giant than the Rashbam had to say. We quote verbatim.  And no man knew her –“Even in regards to sexual fondling, for she was a modest woman. And no man knew her” Shoin!

Says the Midrash Rabbah (60:5) azoy: Rebbe Yoichanan answers that “no man had known her” means that no man had ever even approached her and asked her to know him, as scripture states, “For the staff of the wicked will not rest on the lot of the righteous” (Tehillim 125:3). Is the quoted verse referring to a staff mamish as in the shtekin (male organ) at times used by the wicked and others? Why else quote that verse?

Says the Nezer Hakoidesh: Rivka was very beautiful and the people of her country were immoral, and thus one would have expected that some of them would have approached her. However, Rivka was righteous and they were wicked, and it is the nature of wicked people to hate righteous people and stay far away from them. Wicked people have no pleasure from being close to righteous people. That is the meaning of the verse, “For the staff of the wicked will not rest on the lot of the righteous.” In this case, the staff zicher referring to a man’s shtekin, if you chap.

 

The medrish (ibid) records a machloikes (dispute) between Reb Meir and the Chachomim (Sages) found in the heylige Gemora (Yivomis 59a) over whether a bisulah for kesuva  purposes is defined as a woman who did not have sex, or a woman with her hymen intact. The question is whether the words “bisulah” and “a man did not know her” are seen as synonymous or not. Let’s look at the words of that posik (Bereishis 24:16) one more time. “The maiden was very fair to look upon, a virgin, and no man had known her.” Says the Mishneh (Kesuvis 1:3), azoy: We taught “A mukat eitz (lit, “wounded by a stick,” is a woman whose hymen has been torn but not through intercourse. Says Rebbe Meir: her kesuvah is 200 zuz (the amount for a virgin), and the Chachomim say that a mukat eitz has a kesuvah of 100 zuz (the amount for a non-virgin).“  Rebbe Avahu in the name of Rebbe Eliezer said: the basis of Rabbi Meir’s opinion is derived from the words “and a man did not know her” – which implies that [being a virgin means not having had sex, thus] if she is a mukat eitz she is a virgin. The Chachomim’s logic goes like this: the words “a virgin, bisulah” indicate that if she had been penetrated by a piece of wood, she is not a bisulah (since the word bisulah is from the same root as besulim, hymen). Penetration by any form of wood, if you chap, resulting in a broken hymen results in a devaluation and translates to less money (to her) when her kisuvah is paid out.

Ober what has all this hymen talk to do with Rivka? Was she hymen-less, chas v’sholom, say it’s not so please? Said Reish Lokish as paraphrased by Rashi: because the daughters of the goyim (gentiles) would protect themselves in the place of their “testimony” (the hymen, which would testify to their virginal status), and would make themselves available to have sex in the other place (anally)…. but this one (Rivka) was a bisulah, virgin, from the place of the besulim, the hymen, and “a man did not know her,” from the other place. Shoin and now you know why certain people love to learn the heylige Gemora; why buy a magazine when you can read all about hymens and anal sex under the guise of chinuch (education)? The assumption is explicit in Rashi: the women back then were promiscuous in unnatural ways, ober Rivka was pure end to end. As an aside, in 2018, efsher after reading the Gemora and various medroshim on this topic,  T.C. Perrin wrote a book titled 50 Ways to Lose your virginity.

Said Reb Yoichanan – we can infer from the fact that it says “a virgin” that “a man did not know her,” that a man did not even proposition her, to fulfill the verse, “Therefore the rod of the wicked will not rest upon the lot of the righteous.” Again, the word rod used here, staff elsewhere, and shtekin, all referring to inappropriate contact with the hymen.

Ober, says the Nitziv that pshat is simple and found no deeper than the words of the posik. We are to read them literally only. None of the shepherds even knew her (i.e. לא ידעה ) because she had never come to the well before. When Avrohom’ s servant saw that the shepherds knew all the other girls but not Rivka, he understood that she had good parentage and/or that she was a tzenuah (very modest), and thus did not hang out with the men at the well, unlike the other girls. This, says the Nitziv,  is one of the reasons the servant chose Rivka.

Yet another medrish tells us why it was necessary to test Rivka and see if she truly was virtuous like Soro who despite visits to two different King’s palaces and boudoirs, and despite at least one King’s desire to show off his royal scepter, maintained her virtues. Says the medrish: Avrohom cautioned Yitzchok to suspect Eliezer. Another tells us that Yitzchok suspected Eliezer of sleeping with Rivka on the way, and Eliezer needed to defend himself to his master. Was Eliezer then standing accused both by Avrohom and Yitzchok of sleeping with a youngish Rivka sometime during that three-hour return trip while accompanied with maids and servants? Oy vey? Ober why were they suspicious? Had Rivka somehow lost her besulim (the sign of her virginity)? Was her hymen gone? Let’s see how the medrish solved the mystery.

Rivka came to the rescue of Eliezer when she stated: “Heaven Forbid! Eliezer did not sleep with me, but in falling from the camel I lost the sign of my virginity. Let us travel to that place where I fell, and perhaps the RBSO will perform a miracle and we will find there the blood of virginity.” Want more? “And so did they do; they went and discovered the blood on the tree such that she was a mukat eitz {one who had lost her virginity as a result of impact}. And this blood, {the angel} Gabriel guarded so that no bird or wild animal consumed it.” Got to love the medrish! But wait, there’s even more, there is a happy ending to this myseh (not what you think, chazir that you are). The medrish closes with this, “And since he (Yitzchok) suspected Eliezer where he had done nothing wrong, and he had faithfully performed the task set by Avrohom, he merited to enter Gan Eden alive.” And we no longer hear of Eliezer. Is that gishmak or what?

The bottom line:  Rashi tells us that though Rivka grew up in a generation of deplorables, she remained pure. That is taka a virtue. And the good news: there is no requirement for a woman to marry a “virgin man.”

As to Rivka’s age, we can kler azoy. Efsher (perhaps) the heylige Toirah only disclosed the ages of Avrohom and Soro because they got married late in life. And the same for Yaakov. Ober when a Toirah personality married young (think 3, 14  or even 15 -as was seemingly the custom back then, age wasn’t particularly Toirah newsworthy.  Ober, given that Rivka was called a “nearah” and “besula” she is thought to be older than twelve years old. Says Toisfis on that Gemora, azoy: if you do the mathematical calculations based on everyone else’s ages, then Rivka would have been 14 years old when she married Yitzchok. The Vilna Gaon and the Seder Olam both adduce that Rivka was 14. Others are stuck on 3. The bottom line, neither her age nor her passing is recorded in the Toirah. Not all women like to reveal their age!

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman

 

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