Although a woman may be praiseworthy if she checks herself, a man should not examine himself to see whether he has emitted seed or no – because this checking itself may lead to the waste of semen; if he does, he deserves that his hand be cut off. What is the difference between a woman and a man? A woman does not experience a titillating sensation when she examines herself, but a man does.
Rabbi Eliezer said, “Whoever grasps his organ when he urinates is as if he brings a flood upon the world,” - since the generation of the Flood wasted their seed. The Sages said to Rabbi Eliezer, “If he does not hold his organ, droplets may fall on his feet, and he will appear as one who has a cut organ – who is incapable of having children – and thus people may suspect that his children are not his own.” Rabbi Eliezer answered them, “Let him stand on a high place and urinate, but if this it not possible, better cast aspersions on his children than be bad in front of God for even a moment.”
One who wastes semen is compared to a murderer and to one who worships idols. But where is this prohibition in the Torah? Some say, it is implied in “do not commit adultery,” and some – in “be fruitful in multiply.”
Does the “hand to be cut off” mean the real law, or just a curse? The Talmud tries to find a proof from many laws and stories, but then leaves the matter unresolved.
Art: Vecellio Cesare - Portrait of a Large Family