Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 2:4
4: Someone who is unmarried should not teach children, on account
of their mothers who come to their children. A woman should not
teach children on account of their fathers who come to their
Q1: Why distinguish between men and women this way; that all
women may not teach, because of the fathers, but married men may
YE: The source of this Halakha is the Mishna at the end of
Kiddushin: "A bachlor should not teach, nor should a woman teach;
R. Elazar says: even someone who has no wife should not teach"
(the Gemara explains that this refers to a man who is married but
whose wife is away at the time). Gemara: (82a) "What is the
reason (for this prohibition)? - a bachelor, on account of the
mothers of the children (Rashi: the children's mothers are
frequently in his company, as they bring their children to the
school); and a woman on account of the fathers of the children."
The problem is *Yichud* - the prohibition of being in seclusion
with a (sexually) prohibited member of the opposite sex. Some of
the *Nos'ei Keilim* (commentaries on the MT) indicate that R only
allows the man to teach if his wife is with him - in which case,
the parallel case would be for the woman to teach while her
husband is with her at home - which raises the question: why
would anyone think that this is prohibited?
By the way, the Rosh (Rabbenu Asher b. Yechiel, d. 1327, Toledo,
Spain) indicates (Kitzur Piskei haRosh, Kiddushin 4:26) that this
law is equal for women - only unmarried women may not teach.
Q2: Shouldn't this Halakha be more properly placed in Hilkhot
Issurei Biah (Laws of Forbidden Sexual Liaisons), chapter 21,
where all of the sex-separation laws are mentioned?
YE: Indeed, it is found there! (22:13) with a bit more detail. R,
however, also codifies it here because this is the definition of
"who may teach" - just as in the previous Halakha, he indicated
the need to have a God-fearing and sharp teacher; here he is
adding one more component to the job description.
By the way, Jay Bailey's posting (found in archives: 2:2), about
the differences between the functions of the educational system
then and now are relevant here: Clearly, there was no "school
building" in today's sense, as much as a private house (which
will be discussed at greater length in TT 2:7) - which is why
these problems of *yichud* arise.
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