Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

  • Hebrew
  • English
  • Espnaol
  • Francais
Menu

Ramban and Ramban on not touching

10 November, 2004

Question:

I have read that there is some dispute among Rishonim about whether the prohibition on kissing, hugging, and any touch that brings pleasure is d'Oraita or d'Rabanan. I know it makes no difference in practice, but from a historical standpoint it is interesting. Is it true that while the Rambam regarded the prohibition as d'Oraita, the Ramban regarded it as d'Rabanan? Also, if this is the Ramban's position, are there any other Rishonim or any Acharonim who follow him in this?

Thanks.


Answer:

The basic dispute is as you stated it:

The Torah's words 'lo tikrav legalot ervata' (Leviticus 18:19) mean that sexual relations with a niddah are forbidden and punishable by karet (excision). The Rambam states that a prohibition on hugging and kissing, and on touching that brings sexual pleasure, is also derived from the words 'lo tikrav' and is d'oraita (although not punished by karet). The Ramban states that only intercourse itself is forbidden by Torah law, while any other affectionate touching is forbidden by rabbinic decree. Most, but not all, rishonim (medieval authorities) rule in accordance with the Rambam, and the acharonim (later authorities) agree that the prohibition against touching is considered at least a safek d'oraita (a possible Torah prohibition). This question is discussed in the context of taking care of a sick spouse, and in modern times in the context of socially mandated contact such as a handshaking.

There are three approaches to explaining the Rambam:

  1. Any bodily contact at all is prohibited by 'lo tikrav.'
  2. Only affectionate contact is forbidden.
  3. Only contact which typically precedes sexual intercourse, such as hugging and kissing or other foreplay, is a Torah prohibition, but any contact at all between a husband and his niddah wife is rabbinically forbidden.

This internet service does not preclude, override or replace the psak of any rabbinical authority. It is the responsibility of the questioner to inform us of any previous consultation or ruling. As even slight variation in circumstances may have Halachic consequences, views expressed concerning one case may not be applied to other, seemingly similar cases. All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.

For further questions or comments: 

The Nishmat Women's Health and Halacha Site is a public service of Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. This project and others like it are made possible by contributions from people like you. If you have benefited from the service, and wish to enable us to help others, click here to donate.


Users of Internet filtering services: This site discusses sensitive subjects that some services filter without visual indication. A page that appears 100% complete might actually be missing critical Jewish-law or medical information. To ensure that you view the pages accurately, ask the filtering service to whitelist all pages under yoatzot.org.