3+ Questions about “licentiousness” (זימה)

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    QUESTION: I was wondering about זמה, licentiousness, a word that appears in this week’s torah portions for both Jews of Israel and in the Diaspora:
    1) How does it differ in meaning from זנות? (Examples where they’re both used in same verse: Leviticus 19:29, Jer 13:27, Ez 23:29, 35, 44 etc)
    2) Why is it used regarding specific forbidden relationships but not others? It is used when talking about marrying a woman and her mother (Lev 20:14), a woman and her daughter or granddaughter (ibid 18:17), living with one’s daughter-in-law (Ez 22:11), and leading one’s daughter to harlotry (Lev 19:29). (While זנה seems to be a broader term that applies to lots of other illicit unions)
    3) Most importantly, it’s curious that the etymology of זמה is linked with premeditated plans or deliberate or advised intention, like כאשר זמם conspire, or as Onkelos and Rashi translates it (there), עצת חטאין, that one’s evil inclination has “advised” him to sin.
    So my question is, don’t these illicit unions tend to happen in a fit of passion, i.e. NOT planned or premeditated. Shouldn’t another type of root been used, one that depicts spontaneity and lack of planning?
    Or does my question #3 answer my question #2? Is the Torah hinting that one normally wouldn’t have an illicit affair or encounter with one’s mother-in-law unless it was planned, and a deliberate act of licentiousness (since such lust would otherwise be so unnatural)?
    And does the same rationale apply to one’s daughter or step-daughter? And to procure one’s own daughter to prostitution?
    Any thoughts you might share (both pre-planned AND spontaneous) would be greatly appreciated!

    ANSWER Q#3: Sorry I couldn’t get to this before שבת, but I did have a מזימה to do so… I’m going to answer the questions out of order. You’ll see why. Here are some of the interpretations of the word זמם and זמה:

    1. זמם (planning) and זמה (licentiousness) both share a common root; according to Ribag and Radak: זמם, according to Menachem: זם.
    2. Ramban (Lev. 18:17) distinguishes between מזימה (legitimate planning), and זמה refers specifically to planned immorality.
    3. RSRH holds the common thread to be thought זמה refers to decadent obsession:
    רשר”ה ויקרא יח יז – זמה הוא – הוראת ‘זמם’ היא: להגות בדבר ולהרהר בו; ומכאן הוראת ‘זמה’: הרהורי עבירה – חושניות והתמסרות למחשבת זנות.
    4. Yerios Shlomo (1:9b) connects both to the word זמן, because all types of planning (positive and otherwise) require dedicating time to the scheme itself and to its execution.
    5. Hakesav Vehakabalah ([KVK] – Lev. 18:17) also believes the underlying biliteral to be זם, but has a fascinating suggestion as to the core meaning of the root, based on other words sharing those two letters: he suggests that the shared meaning of זם derivatives is closure / obstruction / delay:
    עיקר שרש ‘זמם’ הוא ‘זם’, והוראתו סגירה חתימה וסתימה, כמו: ואם זמות יד לפה (משלי ל:לב), שפרש”י: אם שמתָּ זמם על פיך וחסמת אותו. ובענין זה לדעתי: זמותי בל יעבר פי (תה’ יז:ג) – פי’ חסמתי פי בל יעבור ממני דברי תרעומת על צרותי הרבות, (זמותי אינו שם, כי טעמו מלעיל). ומזה הונח לדעתי שם ‘נזם’ ו’נזמים’ על תכשיט האוזן והאף – ע”ש הסגירה העשוי בהם לסגור חלק בחלק אחר תחיבתו בנקב האוזן בל יפלו ויאבדו. ודומה לזה: הקשֻרים (ישע’ ג:כ) – התכשיטין הנקשרים. ורבותינו ישמשו הרבה שרש ‘זמם’ על הסגירה והחסימה: זומם הבהמה (תרומ’ ט:ג) – והוא הסוגר שנותנים בפי הבהמה שלא תשוך או שלא תאכל בשדות אחרות, וכתיב”ע (בר’ כד:לב): ויפתח הגמלים דאליעזר: ושרי זממו גמליא.
    While the proof-texts he brings all point to physical impediments, the root applies in the abstract to plans –of all varieties. Namely, once a course of action and a plan are decided upon, a person’s mind thenceforth blocks out other suggestions:
    ככה יורה ‘זמם’ על סגירה רוחנית – והוא סגירת המחשבה, כי אחרי שעלו ברעיונות האדם מחשבות שונות על דבר שברצונו לעשות באיזה אופן יעשהו, ובאיזו דרך יאחז שיוליכהו לתכלית מבוקשו, אם אחר ששקל המחשבות השונות האלה יסכים לאחת מהן, בזה הוא סוגר את כח מחשבתו לבלי ישוטטו עוד רעיוניו הנה והנה.

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    ANSWER Q#1: How does it differ in meaning from זנות? (Examples where they’re both used in same verse: Leviticus 19:29, Jer 13:27, Ez 23:29, 35, 44 etc)
    A: I believe the source of the word זנות is זן, as in:
    תהלים קמד:יג – מְפִיקִים מִזַּן אֶל זַן
    Ibn Ezra on the verse comments:
    אב”ע – מזן אל זן – מין, כמו: תרגום “למינו”: “לזנוהי” וכן: וזנים מרוקחים (דה”ב טז:יד).

    Hence, the modern word for gender et al – מין. I think the basic import is haphazard, opportunistic lust for any member of the gender sought and available, as we say in the Shema:
    אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זונים.
    By the way, another “synonym” of this genre is תבל, which I examined in my article for Parshas Acharei Mot. An additional word used in this connection is תועבה, a more general word, used for abominations in general.

    Implicit in the second part of the question is “OK, smarty pants, if these words are so different, why do they appear together so often?” Hint: as Radak and the Metzudos so often say: כפל ענין במלים שונות (see e.g. Metzudos Dovid on Ez. 23:29). Literally this expression means “redundant usage in assorted terms.” I understand this to mean that while every word carries a unique nuance, repeating a single term ceaselessly is not an option, for the same reasons taught in grade school composition classes. That is, though each word bears a distinctive meaning, words also share meaning common to others of the same genre, and for literary purposes, shades of meaning are occasionally sacrificed for the sake of readability, reinforcement, comprehensibility. This applies להבדיל no less to the Tanach itself – דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם. If the student nods off while reading poorly constructed sentences or constantly repeated words – יצא שכרו בהפסדו.

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    ANSWER Q#2: Why is it used regarding specific forbidden relationships but not others? Marrying a woman and her mother (Lev 20:14), a woman and her daughter or granddaughter (ibid 18:17), consorting with one’s daughter-in-law (Ez 22:11), leading one’s daughter to harlotry (Lev 19:29). (While זנה seems to be a broader term that applies to lots of other illicit unions).
    A: Perhaps because a person instinctively realizes that engaging in such incest will lead to even worse results –especially if discovered and revealed- than comparable illicit relationships with strangers, hence requiring intense planning to avoid the consequences.

    Yehoshua (Jeremy) Steinberg

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