Do "Negiah" and Yichud Violate Bal Tosif?

Q. Your article says “A man shall not draw near to any forbidden relationship… (Leviticus 18:6).” This is NOT mentioned in Leviticus. Men and women CAN have platonic touch and be in the same room together without an issue. These actions DO NOT go against the Torah.

A. Thanks for your message. The quote from Leviticus is what Lev. 18:6 says; what you're disagreeing with is the interpretation of the verse. This series (i.e., The OU’s Taryag) is based on the writings of Maimonides and, accordingly, the article reflects the opinion of Maimonides. Maimonides says that the prohibition against men and women touching is a Biblical law, while Nachmanides says that it's a rabbinic enactment; sequestering with members of the opposite sex is certainly a rabbinic enactment. So you may agree with Nachmanides that these laws are not Biblical in origin but they are in fact proscribed under Jewish law according to all opinions.

Q. Nowhere in Leviticus does it say what is quoted on your website. Deut. 4:2 does clearly say though, that the laws should not be added to or subtracted from. The interpretation you have in quotes is adding to the Torah, which is clearly not allowed under Torah law, which supersedes Maimonides’ interpretation. Any Torah-observant rabbi would agree.

A. It says exactly that: ...אִישׁ אִישׁ אֶל כָּל שְׁאֵר בְּשָׂרוֹ לֹא תִקְרְבוּ. Since you feel that Torah law “supersedes” Maimonides’ interpretation (as if an interpretation of a law somehow contradicts the law rather than explaining it), I refer you to another verse in Deuteronomy:

עַל פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ וְעַל הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ לְךָ תַּעֲשֶׂה לֹא תָסוּר מִן הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ יָמִין וּשְׂמֹא

“According to the law that they will teach you, and according to the judgment that they will tell you, so shall you do. You shall not deviate from the matter that they tell you, neither right nor left” (Deut. 17:11).

So listening to the authorities’ explanations of the laws is literally itself a law.

Not adding to the law doesn't mean that rabbinic laws could not be instituted. We see throughout the Bible canon that new laws were made as necessary or appropriate. An easy example is in the Book of Esther, when they instituted the holiday of Purim. Clearly there's no problem with instituting laws since the Biblical books after the Torah show them creating holidays, instituting fasts and crafting laws for the protection of the Sabbath.

I don't know what "Torah-observant rabbis" you have in mind, but if they celebrate Chanukah, fast on Tisha b'Av or have Shabbos candles in their homes – which I assume they do – then they are observing laws that were instituted by the Rabbis, not the Torah.

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