Posted on April 5, 2011 by Pious Antic
Last year, my chevruta and I were in the Beit Midrash, studying a section of Gemara dealing with the obligations of a husband to his wife when we came across the phrase משמשין מטותיהן. In a hurry to finish the section before our next class, my chevruta quickly translated the phrase as “Sweet Apricots”. This seemed odd, but the Gemara had been saying something about Persian customs, and they have apricots in Persia, so it sounded good to me.
“Sweet Apricots!” we both crowed, perhaps a little too loudly for the dignity of the Beit Midrash. Without a second’s pause, the voice of Yaffa, our teacher, called back from across the room. “No! Not sweet apricots!”
The phrase actually means “using their beds” (i.e., having sex), something that at least according to one Rav Yosef in the Gemara, the Persians were in the habit of doing with their clothes on, and that Jews have to do naked.