Last week’s Parsha (specified Torah reading) spoke a lot about priesthood, and included in that was the list of the women a Kohen (priest) is forbidden to marry. My 7 year old came home with a bunch of questions he had to answer on the parsha. One question was – name the three types of women a Kohen is not allowed to marry. The answer given was “divorced woman, zonah and challalah”. We know zonah is another word for prostitute, and challalah is the female child of a Kohen who “married” a divorced woman. Interestingly enough they were not taught that a Kohen cannot marry a female convert either.
Firstly I was a little insulted that divorced women were lumped together like that right next to a zonah. But in time I got over that. Secondly, I asked my son how his rebbe explained zonah to them. I was curious how you explain that to second graders. Unfortunately my sweet little son must have misunderstood his rebbe because he told me a zonah was a divorced woman. OUCH!!
So we explained to him that that wasn’t what it meant. But I was at a loss at how to explain to him what a zonah really is. So I asked my big boys how their Rebbeim explained it to them. (We do have the most interesting discussions at our table). The older boys are well aware what a prostitute is. They explained it correctly as a woman that sleeps with a man for money. But one of their rebbeim explained it as a woman who “shares” your house. Hmm. The sixth grader had it explained as a woman that you “marry” for money. I guess being “married” is a euphemism that is well used in yeshivot. But to an innocent second grader – who doesn’t yet know about the birds and the bees – why even bring up the subject? Why does he need to know a Kohen cannot marry a zonah if he doesn’t even know what a zonah is? I told him to go back and ask his Rebbe to explain to him what it is. Still waiting for an answer.
How would you have explained it to such a young child, or would you just have left it out of your lesson?