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From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@saber.towson.edu> Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 02:38:46 -0500 (EST) Subject: A non halachik perspective on Negiah The previous few issues of Volume 29 brought some excellent technical discussions of Negiah. I would however like to supplement this discussion with a non-halachic perspective. Why do we observe negiah? It seems that there are two popular answers, both unsatisfactory. #1) We observe Negiah because it might lead to arousal which is Biblically prohibited (The trouble with this approach is that not all authorities agree that arousal is Biblical; it is almost as if someone is exagerating the prohibition to make it prohibited to us). #2) Negiah is a 'fence'. HENCE if we violate it we will start violating major Torah prohibitions of intimacy.(The trouble again with this approach is that it sounds exaggerated; certainly we see violations of Negiah every day WITHOUT corresponding violations of major prohibitions). Thus the goal of this posting is to formulate an acceptable reason for the observance of negiah. By acceptable I mean that the reason is consistent with reality and also consistent with the idea of Negiah as a fence or preventative.(Note that the following remarks are valid EVEN according to eg Rambam who holds that kissing and hugging is Biblically prohibited (because of Lev 18:6). For even the Rambam would agree that Lev 18:6 explicitly classifies Negiah as a Biblical prohibition whose goal is to prevent other Biblical prohibitions--ie Negiah is a Biblical 'fence'.) The model I propose came from a statistical study of teenage habits. This study reported that a certain percentage of (non jewish) teenagers violated negiah by a certain age. From those that violated negiah a certain percentage were doing other activities a few months later. From this group further activities were being done later. This continued till from the original population we had a certain percentage engaged in full relations. What this study implied was that the Negiah-'fence' deals with a complex 'process'. The real point behind negiah is that if you start violating it then several years down the road a certain percentage of such people will violate major Torah prohibitions. The key points to emphasize are 'a MAJOR percentage (not all) will violate' and 'they will EVENTUALLY violate (not immediately)'. Such a perspective is deep and relevant, consistent with both reality and the 'fence' notion of halacha. It also would aid us in dealing with prevention of negiah. I would like to publicly advocate that we supplement are halachic discussions of negiah with cases histories. For case histories inspire as much as legal responsum. I close with a case history I personally heard as a teenager which influenced me. Rabbi Irving Greenburg was lecturing about negiah at the college I was at. He publicly said that when he was younger he had thought the negiah prohibitions too strict. But now that he was older and he sees the consequences of it he strongly endorses it. I hope the above adds perspective and depth. Russell Jay Hendel;RHendel@Towson.edu; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/