Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 3:5
[in the previous Halakhah, Rambam stated that matters of sanctity
-i.e. words of Torah - may not be said in a bathhouse or Beit
haKissei, even in another language...]
5. It is permissible to speak about mundane matters in *Lashon
haKodesh* (the Holy Tongue - Hebrew) in a Beit haKissei.
Similarly,one may say *kinnuyim* (cognomens for God), such as
*Rahum* (Merciful One) and *Hanun* (Gracious One) and *Ne'eman*
(Trustworthy One) in a Beit haKissei.
However, it is forbidden to say those unique Names - which are
the Names which are not to be erased - in a Beit haKissei or in
an old (already used) bathhouse.
However, if a situation arose where he had to prevent his fellow
from violating a prohibition in a bathhouse or Beit haKissei, he
does so, even in Lashon haKodesh and even [by saying] holy
[RABD: We never find the name *Rachum* except in reference to the
Creator, and [therefore] it is forbidden to say it in a Beit
The Tosefta in Berakhot (2:21) states:
If somone enters a bathhouse:
(a) In that section where people are generally dressed, one may
read [Scripture], say Tefillah and - it goes without saying -
greet each other (*She'ilat Shalom* - lit. "inquiring about one's
welfare"); he may put on Tefillin and - it goes without saying -
he does not need to take them off.
(b) In that section where [some] people are dressed and [some]
undressed, there is *She'ilat Shalom*, however it is forbidden to
read [Scripture] or to say Tefillah; he does not need to take off
his Tefillin but he does not put them on, either.
(c) In that section where people are [exclusively] undressed,
there is no *She'ilat Shalom* and - it goes without saying - it
is forbidden to read [Scripture] or to say Tefillah; he must take
off his Tefillin and - it goes without saying - he does not put
(There are quite a few interesting points raised in this Tosefta
- besides the formulation - which will be addressed in Hilkhot
The Gemara in Shabbat takes note of the inclusion of *She'ilat
Shalom* among those things which are forbidden in a bathhouse,
"...this supports R. Hamnuna's teaching in the name of 'Ulla, who
said: It is forbidden to "give *Shalom*" to a fellow in a
bathhouse, since it says: "[Then Gideon built an altar there to
YHVH,] and called it, YHVH is peace (*YHVH Shalom*)..." (Shoftim
[Judges] 6:24). If so, it should also be forbidden to mention
"faith" in a Beit haKissei [note the seamless shift from
bathhouse to outhouse], as it says: "[Know therefore that YHVH
your God is God,] the faithful God [who maintains covenant
loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a
thousand generations] (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 7:9). And if you
say, that is also true (that it is forbidden to mention "faith"
there), but Rava b. Mahs'ya said in the name of R. Hamma b. Guria
in the name of Rav: It is permissible to mention "faith" in a
Beit haKissei! There [in the case of "faith"], the Name is not
itself called that, as we translate: "The God of faith"; here [in
the case of "Shalom"], the Name itself is called Shalom, as it
says: "and he called it, YHVH Shalom."
In this discussion, we are introduced to the distinction between
a "Name" for God and an "Adjective" for God. Since Gid'on called
his altar "YHVH Shalom", we understand this to mean that "Shalom"
is another name for God. Conversely, although God is described
in the Torah as a "Faithful God", this doesn't imply that
"Faithful" is a Name; rather, it is an altogether appropriate
adjective for Him. The upshot of this is that if we identify a
Name for God, that may not be said in the bathroom; however, an
adjective which is associated with God isn't included in that
Tosafot (Shabbat 10b s.v. d'M'targ'minan) raises an objection to
this distinction: Just as the Gemara justifies permitting "Faith"
in the Beit haKissei because the verse is translated "the God of
faith"; similarly, we translate the verse in Shoftim "the God who
makes peace" - so "Shalom" is also a modifier and not a Name!
Tosafot's answer is based upon the wording of Gid'on: "YHVH
Shalom" - and, if Gid'on only meant to say "God is the one who
makes peace", he would have said "YHVH Sh'lomo" (lit. "YHVH who
is [the cause of] his peace"). Rosh (Teshuvot 3:15) offers a
similar response. However, Tosafot first explains that Gid'on
called God "Shalom" because He makes peace. The distinction
between this and "faithful God" requires clarification. This will
be addressed below in section III.
The topic of Kinnuyim has ramifications far beyond the
prohibitions associated with bathhouses and outhouses. In every
area of Halakhah where God's Name plays a role, the issue of
Kinnuyim must be addressed. When is a descriptive of God
considered a "Name"?
One of the central areas of Halakhah where the issues of
Name/Kinnuy comes up is Sh'vu'ot - Oaths. We will look at one
sugya in Sh'vu'ot which will (hopefully) illuminate our way here.
[Brief intro: There are generally two types of Shavu'ot:
(a) a voluntary Sh'vua'h in which the Nishba' takes upon himself
some obligation OR makes a claim about the past; and
(b) administered Sh'vu'ot which either the court or a litigant
impose upon someone for one of several reasons.]
Although the scope of this Halakhah is subject to debate (see MT
Sh'vu'ot 2:3 and RABD there), it is clear that a mention of God
is necessary in [at least] some types of Sh'vu'ot. This is
rooted, according to some Rishonim in the Biblical Mitzvah:
*uviSh'mo Tishave'a'* - "And by His Name you shall swear"
(Devarim 6:13, 10:20). (see MT Sh'vu'ot 11:1; see also Sefer
haMitzvot l'Rambam, Mitzvat Aseh #7 and comments of RABD and
Ramban ad loc. See also Ramban on Devarim 6:13)
Regarding this Halakhah, what constitutes "His Name"?
The Mishnah in Sh'vu'ot (4:13, referring to Sh'vu'at haEdut -
foreswearing a reluctant witness) states: [If the litigant says:]
"I am foreswearing you, [or] commanding you, [or] forbidding
you," they [the witnesses] are culpable [if they actually have
testimony and refuse to testify on his behalf.]. "*Bashamayim
uva'Aretz* (lit. "by the heavens and earth")" - they are
exempt..."by *Adonai*, [or] by *YHVH*, [or] by *Shaddai*, [or] by
*Tz'va'ot*, [or] by *Hanun v'Rahum*, [or] by *Erekh Apayim*, [or]
by *Rav Hesed* or by any of the Kinnuyim, they are culpable...
[*Shaddai* and *Tz'va'ot* are considered "Names" of God -
however, see Rashi (Sanhedrin 66a s.v. K'lalam) who considers
them kinnuyim. The kinnuyim mentioned here, *Hanun v'Rachum,
Erekh Apayim, Rav Hesed* are taken directly from the 13
attributes of mercy - (Shemot [Exodus] 34:6) and mean,
respectively, "Gracious and Compassionate", "Long-Suffering",
"Abundant in Kindness".]
The Gemara (Sh'vu'ot 35a-b) notes the inclusion of *Hanun
v'Rahum* with other "Names" for God:
Shall we say that *Hanun v'Rahum* are Names? We raise a
contradiction as follows: There are some Names which may be
erased and some which may not be erased...these are the Name
which may not be erased: for instance *El*, *Elohekha*, *Elohim*,
*Eloheikhem*, *Eh'yeh Asher Eh'yeh*, *Adonai*, *YHVH*,
*Shaddai*, *Tz'va'ot* - these may not be erased...however,
*haGadol* (= the Great One), *haGibbor (= the Powerful One),
*haNora* (the Awe-Inspiring One)...*Hanun v'Rahum*...these may be
Abaye explained: [the intent of our the oath in our Mishnah is]
"by He Who is Gracious" or "by He Who is Compassionate".
Rava responded: If so, "by heaven and earth" should also be
[understood to mean] "by He to Whom heaven and earth belong"!
Let us consider: since nothing else is called *Rahum v'Hanun*, he
certainly meant to say "by _He_Who_is Compassionate"; however,
since there _are_ heavens and earth [as independent existents],
he meant "by heaven and earth."
Before analyzing the ramifications of this sugya, it is important
to note a variant manuscript, read by Rabbenu Hannanel. Instead
of Abaye's explanation being: *b'Mi sheHu Hanun* - "by He Who is
Gracious", he reads *b'Mi sheSh'mo Hanun* - "by He Whose Name is
Gracious". This variation will become significant when we
discuss our dispute between Rambam and RABD.
UNDERSTANDING ABAYE'S SOLUTION
Abaye's solution - which seems to be accepted by the Gemara - is
built on two assumptions:
(1) There is a difference between a kinnuy and a Name as far as
erasing is concerned, but not for Sh'vu'ot.
The Torah commands us to destroy all forms of idolatry, taking
apart their altars, destroying their names etc. in Eretz Yisrael
(Devarim 12:1-3) - and to avoid doing those things to God (v. 4).
That is the source for the prohibition of erasing any of God's
Names. However, this does not apply to words which could be - or
usually are - used as referents to God. Therefore, words like
*Hanun*, *Rahum* etc. may be erased (see MT Yesodei haTorah
6:1,5). The difference is that a written word only carries the
inherent meaning it bears; whereas the spoken word may be - and
often must be - judged by its context. Therefore, although we
may erase words like *Hanun* (however, read carefully Yesodei
haTorah 6:5, 8), when spoken within a context which implies God,
they may be understood that way.
(2) We interpret the referent in a Sh'vu'ah in a way that implies
God only when it is unreasonable to do otherwise within that
Within the context of an oath, the [fore]swearer is clearly
attaching his words to something of importance, value, eternity
etc. Therefore, since only God is the only One who is referred
to as *Compassionate* etc. who would reasonably be the referent,
we assign that meaning to the oath. However, since a person
might be swearing by the heavens and earth (see Rashi on Devarim
32:1), we might reasonably assign his meaning that way and omit
God from the oath (thus obviating our need to "read words" into
The upshot of the sugya in Sh'vu'ot is that referents for God
which have no other reasonable attribution are considered
kinnuyim - and *Rahum* & *Hanun* are clearly presented in that
light. So why does Rambam allow *Rahum* in the Beit haKissei?
IMPLICATION OF KINNUYIM
In Hilkhot De'ot (1:5-6) Rambam presents his ideal of the "golden
mean" (see his Shmoneh Perakim for a fuller development; see also
Marvin Fox's Interpreting Maimonides Ch. 5 for a comparative
study of the Maimonidean and Aristotelian approaches). Rambam
defines these ways (moderation) as being a fulfillment of the
command to "walk in His ways" (Devarim 28:9). In Halakhah 6, he
gives these examples: "Just as He is called *Hanun*, so you
should be Hanun. "Just as He is called *Rahum*, so you should be
The source for this idea - of imitatio dei in characteristics,
not just actions (compare Sotah 14a), is the Gemara in Shabbat
(133b): Abba Sha'ul says: *V'Anvehu* (from Shemot 15:2) - be like
Him; just as He is Hanun v'Rahum, so you, too, be Hanun v'Rahum.
Note the subtle difference in Rambam's presentation - he never
describes God as actually being compassionate, rather that He is
"called" compassionate, gracious, holy, etc. Rambam goes on to
explain (ibid) - In this manner the Nevi'im (prophets) referred
to God with all of these kinnuyim - *Erekh Apayim* *Rav Hesed*
*Tzadik v'Yashar* ...to inform us that these are good and proper
paths and a person should guide himself in them and be like Him
to the best of his powers.
Without resorting to linguistic acrobatics, Rambam seems to be
saying that God is not necessarily any of those things (this
fits, of course, with Rambam's "negative theology" - see Guide
I:58) - but that He is described in those terms because they
establish a proper model for us - our imitatio dei brings us to
the best possible characteristics. This is a bit clouded, since
at the end of that Halakhah, Rambam says that by doing this we
will be imitating Him - but the implication is still relevant for
Kinnuyim are descriptions of God's "traits" which are instructive
for us - with the ultimate goal being that we achieve those
characteristics within our own lives.
We can now return to the sugya in Sh'vu'ot and understand
Rambam's take on it: Rambam reads like Rabbenue Hannanel - "by He
Whose Name is Rahum" etc. In other words, since the person taking
the oath is saying *b'Rahum*, he must be referring to the source
of that characteristic, the One Who is called that - God. Rashi
(and, perhaps, RABD) read *b'mi sheHu Hanun* - as if to say, that
is what God really is, and any reference to Rahum must be to the
ultimate Rahum - God. Although the results are the same for the
Sh'vu'ah, when we approach our problem, the paths diverge.
If we begin by assuming that *Rahum* refers to "The One Who IS
compassionate", then the word itself is a "nickname" for God, is
clearly referring to Him and is forbidden in a bathroom. The
only way it would be permitted would be if Rahum were a term that
was commonly used to describe other people. (See Ritba, Sh'vu'ot
35b s.v. Keyvan and Rabbenu Manoach on our Halakhah for alternate
treatments of the problem.) Since it is not, it must refer to
God. We will posit that to be RABD's approach.
However, since Rambam clearly holds that Rahum is a description,
the entire goal of which is to instruct us how to become Rahum
(and Hanun and Kadosh etc.), therefore it is ideally a
description of a person. We would not assume that in an oath,
since swearing by a person (a la *Hei Pharaoh* - by the life of
Pharaoh - Beresheet [Genesis] 42:16) would only be meaningful if
that person's name was mentioned; however, to mention Rahum and
the like in a bathroom, according to Rambam, in no way is a
referent to God since, ideally, it would be referring to one of
His creatures - who has begun to imitate the Creator.
now, to the questions:
Q1: If we are not allowed to speak Divrei Torah in these
places, even in another language, why are we allowed to use
*kinnuyim* for God there?
A: See the shiur.
Q2: What is RABD's reasoning and how would Rambam respond?
A: See the shiur.
Q3: Why does this prohibition apply to any Beit haKissei but
only to an already used bathhouse?
A: See our earlier discussion about *hazmanah*, posted at K'riat
Sh'ma 3:02-03. On a side note, see also Teshuvot Rashba 7:418.
He rules that a Mikveh, used primarily for ablution of vessels
(*Tevillat Keilim*) does not consititute a problem for reciting
the necessary B'rakhah there, even though it may be a place where
people are sometimes undressed; his argument is that since the
water is cold, there is no smell (as a result of dirty bodies
washing there). This is an interesting approach which views the
entire problem of reciting God's Name in a bathhouse (in the
absence of actual nakedness) as related to bad smells - which we
will discuss later on in this chapter.
Q4: If it is forbidden to speak words of Torah in these places,
why should it be permitted in order to prevent someone from
violating a prohibition? - we generally don't violate laws in
order to keep another from his own violation (see Shabbat 4a and
Tosafot there, s.v. v'Khi Omrim)
A: We see an even more radical possibility in the Yerushalmi
(Shabbat 3:3) where, according to one opinion, we may even
inquire about Halakhot pertaining to a bathhouse in a bathhouse
and about Halakhot pertaining to a Beit haKissei in a Beit
haKissei. At least according to that opinion (attributed to R.
Yehoshua b. Levi), we can explain the general prohibition of
discussing words of Torah in those places as an affront to the
honor of Torah; however, if the Halakhic inquiry is directed to a
present situation (e.g. to prevent a violation) or to a more
easily demonstrable lesson about those Halakhot (for instance, to
point out which parts of the bathhouse present no problem for
Tefillin etc.) then that is also proper honor for the Torah (see
Berakhot 62a - *Torah hi, v'lilmod ani tzarikh* - "It is Torah
and I must learn it" - the case of students following their
teachers into private places to observe their conduct.) See also
Mishna Avodah Zarah 3:4 and the discussion in the Gemara at 44b
re: responding and debating in a bathhouse - see also Tosafot
ibid s.v. Tana.
However, from the perspective of the Bavli, only "prevention of a
violation" is allowed; we can posit several reasons for this
(a) In the same way as we explain the Yerushalmi; the greater
honor for Torah is achieved when her violations are prevented;
(b) Indeed, the prohibition of speaking words of Torah in a
bathhouse is not as "serious" as an active violation of Halakhah
and is superseded by the latter. Look carefully at the cited
sugya (Shabbat 4a) and the Rishonim there - sometimes we do
transgress a "light" violation to prevent our fellow from
transgressing a serious one.
(c) Perhaps the prohibition of speaking words of Torah in a
bathhouse relates chiefly to "engaging" in study as opposed to
operative instruction. See our posting at Talmud Torah 1:1.
See also Hiddushei Ramban Shabbat 40b s.v. l'Afrushei - he points
out that if the "instructor" were merely to say "don't do that",
it might be understood just to be his own interest (e.g. "I don't
want that hot water now") and the fact of the prohibition in
question would not be transmitted.
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