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Walking Between Dogs, Palm Trees, and Women

Question: In the Shulchan Aruch, it is stated, that two men may not allow a pig, a dog, or a woman to pass in between them; and it is prohibited to pass between two pigs, dogs or women respectively. Recently, my husband and I were walking with our Rabbi to the synagogue, and he did not seem to take any special care regarding this rule! So, what does that statement in the Shulchan Aruch mean?

Answer: Thank you for your interesting question, as it is something that most people don’t understand. The Talmud in Pesachim 111a says, “The following three things a person should neither walk between, nor let them come between him and another man: Dogs, palm trees, and women.” Obviously, if the issue was one of modesty, then there would be no problem with palm trees and dogs! However, if one studies the context of that piece of Talmud, he will see that it is talking about things that people should avoid doing so as not to expose themselves to the power of magic. Apparently, witches would be able to “do their spells” on a person who would do one of those things. Therefore, the Talmud is advising a person of the precautions they should take so as not to fall into the hands of witches.

Today, since magic is not as prevalent as it once was, it is not necessary to take these precautions. However, the Talmud in Horiyos 13b says that if a man does frequently walk between two women, this makes his “learning difficult”, and Rashi explains that it will be hard for him to understand his learning. This is probably why we find that, even today, many Torah scholars are stringent regarding this.

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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