Friday, June 23, 2006

M'shum Pritzut or the Obscenity of Public Consummation

For those who think that today's standards of sexual indecency are so low, I recommend you take a look at Kiddushin 12b. Go on, you can check it here.

Anyway, the discussion in the Gemara that I'd like to point out is where it explains how the Rabbis were not in favor of having marriage made solely through having sexual relations. The reason being because to do so would require a couple of eligible witnesses and it is obscene to have people watch you doing the dirty. In fact, the Rabbis liked it so little that they would flog those who did kiddushin in such a manner.

Ok, that's not so incredible. What I found really wacky is the Tosafot towards the bottom that begins M'shum Pritzut. R. Tam is complaining about how he agrees that having kiddushin done in such a manner is obscene, even though it is technically Halachically acceptable, but then he goes further and relates about how _public consummation_ is likewise obscene.

Public consummation? Wha?

Apparently it was common course at the time, 12th century, that marriages were consummated publically (that way the whole neighborhood could see) and some Jews took on the practice. (You know what they say, when in France...)

So do we really live in a time when pritzus is at an all time high? Hmm. How do you rate shagging in the middle of a wedding hall compared to today's standards?


josh waxman said...

here is a better link to the gemara:

I looked at that Tosafot and do not see what you see.

Rabbenu Tam is explaining the gemara that the pritzut in the gemara is that if one *were* to be mekadesh with sexual relations, one would legally need either witnesses to the actual act or else to the fact that they went into the room together for that purpose. this in order to lend legal validity to the act, just as witnesses are required for the handing over of the ring. but the entire discussion is theoretical - why it would be pritzut to appoint witnesses for such a thing.

An objection to this interpretation is raised and the Ri gives another explanation of why it was pritzut - namely, consummation as the first legal act, just as kiddushin without shidduchin is considered pritzut for similar reasons.

Nowhere is there mention that this was common practice in 12th century France. And Rabbenu Tam is not *complaining* about current practices, but explaining why the gemara considers this pritzut.

What do you see that gives you this other impression?

josh waxman said...

by the way, if in general you want good links to gemaras from e-daf, you can use my Mozilla extension called Tanach Linkify:

alas, there is an off-by-one error for Kiddushin that I need to fix, but this progra transforms plaintext references to pesukim and gemaras to a link to mechon mamre and e-daf.

in general, to get a good link from e-daf (rather than just the homepage) click on the previous amud and then copy the link to the next amud. then the link will go directly to the amud yuo want. choosing from the drop-down list does not modify the URL in the address bar.

Orthoprax said...


No, you're right. That such things were common practice is information that I gleaned from other sources. Namely - Jewish Life in the Middle Ages by Israel Abrahams.

See page 193 -,+Jewish+Life+in+the+Middle+Ages&psp=w&sig=9xCnW_RZlonohzxWlFm2slm7QCI

Look at the first footnote on the page. I only thought it natural that if such things were indeed going on and that R. Tam lived during the period, he may very well have been referring to actual events and not just theoreticals.

(Btw, isn't this internet thing amazing?! I had no idea I could find the entire book online.)

And as far as linking procedures to e-daf, duly noted, thanks.

josh waxman said...

yes, its great how many resources are online nowadays.

in terms of Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, I took a look at it and my reading of it is different. The author is talking about "transference of the bride to her husband's home," and he writes in the footnote that "this act was originally public."

NOT the act of consummation BUT the act of travelling to the husband's home. After all, the author cites as the source for this the eighth perek of Semachot, and looking there I can only see references to making the chuppah for chasanim, in the very beginning of the perek, but not to any public consummation with everyone watching.

What exactly is in the Calendar of State Sapers for Henry VIII? Did you see it inside?

Orthoprax said...


But the bridal procession is still public today, why would the author refer to it as an indelicacy? As well as earlier he refers to it as the "grosser elements" of the marriage ceremony.

I haven't been able to see what's in the Calendar of State Papers, that might solve this confusion.

josh waxman said...

I would read it as:
the indelicacy of the procession being to the apartment where they will have sex. nowadays, after the wedding, the drive back to the bride and groom's apartment and accompanying them to the door, at which point they go in and then behind closed doors have sex is not done publicly. that would indeed be an indelicacy. (the accompanying to the yichud room, though, is something of a procession, but I believe that in most instances the bride and groom do not actually have sex in the yichud room nowadays.)

indeed, te calendar of state papers might do much to solve this confusion.

kol tuv

Orthoprax said...


I've ordered the book from the library. I should get it in a week or two. When I get it I'll report back here.

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