Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ben Azzai

Rav Yitzchak bar Yosef said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan (Daf Yomi: Sotah 4b): All of these Tannaim figured out the length of a seclusion based upon their own experience (how long it took each of them to perform the initial act of cohabitation with their own wife).

The Gemora asks: But Ben Azzai never got married (based upon the Gemora in Yevamos 63b, where Ben Azzai explained why he did not marry: “What should I do? My soul desires the Torah. The world can survive through other people.”)?

The Gemora answers: You could say that he got married and later divorced.

Alternatively, you can say that he heard this opinion from his teacher.

And if you prefer, you can say that “The secrets of Hashem are revealed to those that fear him.”

Rabbeinu Avraham min Ha’har explains that due to Ben Azzai’s tremendous desire to study Torah, he did not experience any unclean thoughts, and was therefore not obligated to get married.

Reb Elchanan Wasserman states that Ben Azzai was exempt from the mitzvah of marrying, for he was unable to cease studying Torah even for one moment.

Reb Yosef Engel writes that Ben Azzai discharged his obligation of procreation through his new insights in Torah. This is based upon the Gemora in Brochos (47b), which states that two torah scholars studying together can be regarded as three with respect to the laws of Birchas Hamazon (they could make a mezumen, even though the halacha is that three people are needed). The Rosh explains that the Torah that they are studying is regarded as the third person.