Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 7:5
5. The *Muchram* (person under *Herem* - a more severe form of
ostracism) is even more [restricted] - he does not teach others,
nor do they teach him -however, he may teach himself, in order
not to forget his learning. He may not be hired, nor may he hire
others. We do not conduct business with him. We only deal with
him a little, enough for his subsistence.
Q1: Why does Rambam say that the *Muchram* may study? Isn't
YE: Not so obvious. Remember that the prohibitions of a
*Menudeh* and *Muchram* are connected to (and, perhaps, derived
from) the prohibitions of an *Avel* (mourner). A mourner is
prohibited from any Torah study - even on his own. Therefore, we
reasonably might have concluded that the same is true for the
Why indeed is it different? The Avel's avoidance of Torah study
is based upon the notion that Torah study is a source (the best
source!) of happiness. "The statutes of the Lord are straight,
_gladdening_the_heart" (Tehillim [Psalms] 19). Although the
*Muchram* acts similarly to the mourner, that is chiefly in those
activities which affect his social interaction - he isn't really
prohibited from "joyous" activities.
In addition, unlike the mourner, whose situation was thrust upon
him and who bears no direct responsibility for it - the *Muchram*
has caused his own distancing and disgrace. What better way to
become motivated to repair that disgrace than through the study
Another reason - the mourner only avoids Torah study for a week;
the *Herem* may be in effect much longer.
Q2: Why does Rambam qualify the permit for the *Muchram* to
study - "...in order not to forget his learning."?
YE: Perhaps Rambam is addressing the previous question - and
favoring the last answer (i.e. due to the potential length of the
*Herem*, he may forget his learning - which is inapplicable to a
RD (Rick Dinitz):
Here's another question about
Q3: How do we resolve the seeming contradiction between the
last two sentences? If we do not conduct business with a
muchram, how then can we deal with him a little, enough for his
YE: Perhaps it means that we do not enter into ongoing business
dealings (partnerships, major deals etc.) - but may conduct
one-time dealings which he needs for his own subsistence.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project