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|Tuesday, April 5th, 2016|
|Monday, March 21st, 2016|
Kiddushin 10 – Betrothal by relations
A woman can be betrothed by having relations with her, and there are two different ways to derive this, one from the words, “Woman who cohabited with her husband
,” and another – from “If a man marries a woman or possesses her
Is there a practical difference between these theoretical derivations? – Imagine that ten men cohabited anally with a betrothed girl who is a virgin. According to the first way of learning, she is still a virgin after each act, since only the husband makes her a non-virgin with annal cohabitation, Therefore each man is to be punished by stoning, specified for violating a betrothed virgin. According to the second approach though, she is a non-virgin after the first act, and the next nine men are subject to a lighter punishment of strangulation.
Exactly what stage of cohabitation achieves kiddushin? Normally, for matters of infidelity and prohibited relations, the first stage of relations, member touching (discussed in another place
) is considered the act. However, for kiddushin it is different. Since the man's intent is for complete penetration, he achieves kiddushin only when this is done. Practical difference? – Can he inherit his wife, or can he bury her if he is a Kohen.
Since there are two stages in a marriage, betrothal (dedication) and chuppah (bringing the bride into the husband's domain), a question may be asked: if one does betrothal through cohabitation, does it also effect the second stage of marriage – that is, is the second cohabitation or a chuppah still needed? After multiple arguments back and forth, it is concluded that cohabitation only accomplished betrothal, but a chuppah is still required.
Art: Wedding at the Photographer's by Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret
|Sunday, March 20th, 2016|
Kiddushin 9 – Betrothal in earnest
In order to become betrothed (which is considered like complete marriage, except that a chuppah is needed before the couple begins to live together), the woman has to accept a valuable proffered by the groom and tell him that with this she agrees to become his bride. Let us look at some marginal cases.
If a woman on a cruise takes the betrothal money (a hundred zuz, about $5,000) from the man but immediately throws it overboard the ship, she is not betrothed. But we just said it!? – You might think that – since she would be obligated to return the money if she does not get married – she actually means to accept, but tests the husband in his anger management. So the teacher had to tell us that she is not betrothed, because she did not voice an agreement.
Another example: a man was drinking in a bar, and a woman came over and said, “Give me a drink.” He said, “If I do, will you become betrothed to me?” She replied, “Do pour a drink!” – Here too she is not betrothed, since she agreed to the drink, not to the marriage.
In addition to money or valuables, a man can betroth a woman with a document, where he writes, “With this document you become betrothed to me.” This is derived from other laws of sales, and it applies even if the paper on which it is written is not worth anything. Just like a bill of divorce, this document must be written with her in mind.
Finally, one can engage a woman by having relations with her – provided that he announces to the witnesses that this is his intent, and then secludes himself with her. This is derived from the words, “who cohabited with her husband
Art: Woman Drinking with Sleeping Soldier by Gerard Ter Borch
|Wednesday, March 16th, 2016|
Kiddushin 4 – When a man takes a wife
Earlier we saw
one way to derive that marriage can be effected by giving the bride-to-be a ring or another object of value. However, it was based on taking the extra word “money” from a different place in the Torah, and applying it to our context.
A more direct way is to take the phrase “When a man takes a woman and has relations with her... if later he does not like her, he can divorce
.” This clearly describes the situation of marriage, and uses the word “take”. The same word “take
” is found when Abraham buys a field from Efron and says, “I gave you the money for the field, take it from me.
” We thus see that “take” has a meaning of acquiring with money.
Now this calls for some logical acrobatics. Look at a Jewish female slave, who cannot be acquired by having relations with her and who is acquired only with money; a wife, who is acquired by relations, is surely acquired with money! Therefore, we don’t need the derivation above at all!!
No, because a yebamah case disproves this. Look at yebamah (one’s dead brother’s wife), whom the remaining brother has to marry. She is acquired by cohabitation – and nevertheless she is not acquired with money. So the above logic breaks: someone who is acquired with relations is nevertheless not acquired with money.
However, we can deflect this attack: the yebamah has an inherent weakness in that she is not acquired with a document, whereas a wife is
acquired with a document of intent to marry.
Thus, we saw an attack, deflection of this attack, and then a deflection of this deflection. We see at least why the proof based on the word “take” helps.
Art: The Innkeepers Daughter by Charles Cope West
|Monday, March 14th, 2016|
Kiddushin 3 – Who searches for whom?
It is the way of a man to search after a wife, and not the other way around. This is similar to a person who lost a precious stone on a beach. Who searches after whom? Obviously, the one that lost his possession searches for it.
We mentioned that betrothal can be done with money. Why is that so? Furthermore, there is a related law that a father can give his daughter away in marriage when she is young, and in that case the money that the groom pays goes to the father.
Both questions have the same, if non-trivial answer. This is derived from the law of a Jewish slave-girl, here is how. The father can sell his daughter as a servant. In this case, it is understood that when she grows up the buyer will take her as a wife, or designate her for her son. If none of these happen, then she goes out free, and the Torah adds, “no money!” We already know that “free” means “no money”. So we understand that it is in this case that there is no money, but in another related case there is money. And when is it? When a woman gets married, or when the father gives her away in marriage.
That is exactly what we wanted to demonstrate, that the betrothal which will lead to marriage (chuppah) can be done with money.
Today both events happen under the chuppah in close succession: first the groom gives money (or a ring) to the bride, then the ceremony is concluded under the chuppah, which symbolizes the new home.
Art: Man in a Smock by Gustave Caillebotte
|Sunday, March 13th, 2016|
Kiddushin 2 - Three ways to acquire a woman
A wife can be acquired in one of three ways and she acquires herself back in one of two ways.
She may be acquired through money, document of betrothal, or cohabitation. Two witnesses are needed to testify in case of money and document. In case of acquisition by cohabitation (which is not encouraged) the witnesses testify to the declared intention and to the seclusion.
She acquires herself back through a Get or through the death of her husband.
Passive use of “she is acquired” as opposed to “he acquires” teaches that a woman can only be acquired willingly, and not against her will.
Art: Jan Josef Horemans the Elder - Marriage Contract
|Thursday, March 10th, 2016|
Gittin 60 – “I say, I have come, it was written about me in the Torah scroll”
Some say that the Torah was written and given to Jews scroll by scroll, and later glued together. The proof comes from the words of David, “I say, I have come, it was written about me in the Torah scroll
”. What does David mean?
Initially David had doubts if he could be a king, since he was a descendant of Ruth, a Moabite, and the Torah said that “Moav should not enter the Jewish people
.” The loophole was that “Moav” was male, so females of Moav, that is Ruth, could enter – but not everyone agreed to it. However, later he found a hint in the worlds of the angel, who says to Lot, “Take the daughters found with you
.” About David himself God says, “I have found David, my servant
”. So David found a hint to himself in the Torah. But since he calls it a “scroll”, it means that it was written and given to Jews scroll by scroll.
Others say that it was written as a whole, since God tells Moses, “Take this book of the Torah
”. What about the “scroll” proof? – The whole Torah is also called a scroll. But what about “this book” proof? – That is after it was glued together.
Furthermore, even though the Torah was written down, a larger body of knowledge was only taught from teacher to student and never written down. What is the proof? “Write for yourself these words” means that some words are to be written down, but “On the basis of these words” alludes to portions that are to be guarded and transmitted orally. Later on it was too hard for the people to remember everything, and even oral teaching were written down – and this it the Talmud.
Art: King David by Juan Correa de Vivar
|Tuesday, March 8th, 2016|
Gittin 59 – For peaceful co-existence
Young orphans may be hard-pressed to find sustenance. They may try to sell some of their land. But since all know that these children are not legally adults, and that when they grow up, they may retract and demand their field back, people may be unwilling to buy orphans' fields. Therefore the Sages changed the law here and allowed such sales to stand, even when the orphans grow up. At what age do young children acquire this right? -- Between six and ten, depending on their maturity.
In the synagogue on Shabbat seven people are called to read the Torah, and the first one should be the most learned. This law, however ancient and just, could lead to quarrel, and a new rule was adopted: the first one to read is a Kohen, and following him is a Levi. Afterwards a regular “Israel” Jews are called. In this way, people don't argue and peace prevails.
A similar law, established for peace in the society: if fish is caught in one's net, technically it does not belong to the owner of the net, because – if he does not hold the net – he has not acquired it in any of the accepted ways. Nevertheless, the Sages gave him the ownership, and now anyone else who takes the fish from the net is considered stealing it. Another law: gleanings in the field in Israel are left for the Jewish poor. Yet the Sages accepted the law that any poor who comes to collect them is permitted to do so – to prevent strife.
Art: The care of orphans By Jan De Bray
|Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016|
Gittin 58 – In the aftermath of destruction
After the destruction of Betar, they recovered the teffillin worn by people slain there, and the total volume of these tefillin was forty boxes, each box being the size of a small mikveh, that is, about 25 cubic feet.
Jewish boys captured by the Romans were exceedingly beautiful. Initially, Roman used to look at a signet ring with images made of best gold when engaging in conjugal relations. Now they started using Jewish boys by tyeing them to the beds and looking at them at this time. One of the boys asked another “Where is this punishment written in the Torah?” The other replied, “Even blows that are not written in this Torah scroll will God bring on you.” The boy accepted the answer, but continued, “How far was I from this place in my studies?” - “A column and a half.” The boy concluded, “Had I come to this place myself, I would have understood it without you.”
In these times, many oppressors would seize land from the Jews. If later, when law became more enforceable, another Jew wanted to buy land back from the oppressors, this was praiseworthy, because then more of the Land of Israel would be in Jewish hands. However, he needed to consider that this land previously belonged
to a fellow Jew and was taken away from him. Therefore, he had to formally acquire it from this Jew first, and then redeem it from the oppressor. If he first redeemed it from the oppressor, and then from the Jew, it did not count, because of potential intimidation of that Jew by the oppressor.
Art: The Praying Jew by Marc Chagall
|Sunday, February 28th, 2016|
Gittin 57 – The story of the rooster and the hen
The Jews of a place called Har HaMelech used to take out a rooster and a hen for the wedding, implying that the newlywed should have many children, just like the rooster and the hen. Once a band of Romans saw it and took the rooster away. Jews fell upon them and killed them, and Caesar came with his army to take revenge.
There was one of the Jews from the south who could jump a mile. He was so swift that he alone could kill all of the Roman army. The Caesar put his crown on the ground and prayed, “Master of the entire world, do not let me be shamed through a single man.” The southerner, however, said differently: “God, you have forsaken us
,” implying that he will defeat the Romans alone anyway. That was the cause of his downfall, since when he went into the toilet, and snake bit him and he died. Caesar retreated, in gratitude that God answered his prayer. The Jews misunderstood and celebrated their victory. On seeing that, Caesar came back and destroyed Har HaMelech.
The Talmud described another place where righteous Jews were killed and asks, why? It answers – because they did not mourn the destruction of Jerusalem – while one should be in joy when Jerusalem is being rebuild and mourn when it is destroyed
Art: Grief by Charles Emile Hippolyte Lecomte-Vernet
|Monday, February 15th, 2016|
Gittin 56 – The story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza
Now start the sad episodes, such that even though the Torah brings joy, and therefore one is forbidden to study it during the day of Tisha B'Av, the next two pages are permitted.
At the time of destruction, the Roman law was that anyone who can kill a Jew should do so – or else he is killed. Later, he was fined four zuz. Yet later, he was killed himself. During the first of these periods, there were no oppressors in Israel – that is, they were completely free to rob Jewish land, and there was no law for them. When law was restored, if a Jew wanted to buy land his land back from an oppressor, he had the first right to do so. If someone else wanted to redeem this land, he had to pay a quarter to the original owner, and then redeem it from the oppressor.
But how did the destruction happen? One rich person in Jerusalem was making a feast, and he invited his friend by the name of Kamtza. By mistake, the servant invited his worst enemy, Bar Kamtza. Bar Kamtza came but was requested to leave. He pleaded to stay and offered to pay, even for the whole feast – to preserve his dignity – but it did not help. He figured out that since the Sages were there and nobody stood up for him, they were all to blame. He then incited the Roman ruler to destroy Jerusalem.
The dispatched general used divination and saw, by bird's flight and by arrow's flight, that Jerusalem would indeed fall. He then asked a child what he was learning, and the child said, “I will take revenge on Edom.” The general understood that God wanted to destroy Jerusalem, but that he would later take revenge on him, so he ran away, converted, and Rabbi Meir was on of his descendants. Then came Titus and destroyed the Temple.
Art: Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez
Gittin 55 – More decrees to help society
After the destruction of the Temple and a big national defeat, the Sages were given a chance to formulate the new way of life, that would last for the next two millenniums, in Yavneh. Rabbi Yochanan ben Gudgeda testified there about some laws that he remembered. Some of them dealt with the benefit of society.
For example, a deaf-mute girl, whom her father gave in marriage, can be divorced with a Get – even though she is not legally competent to accept it. This is true because a woman could be divorced against her will (until the Sages decreed otherwise).
Rava derived from here that if a man prepares a Get, tells a witness in secret that he is going to divorce his wife - but then tells his wife that it is a loan document that he wants her to accept – she is nevertheless divorced. But this is obvious!? – Rava had to tell this to us, because otherwise we could think that the man annuls the Get by calling it a “loan document” – so Rava tells us that he is doing this out of embarrassment.
Another enactment: if someone stole a beam and made it part of his house, then by right he should disassemble the house and return the beam. Yet the Sages decreed that he can just return the cost. Why did they do it? – To make it easier for those who want to repent of their previous theft.
Art: The secret by Edmund Blair Leighton
|Sunday, February 14th, 2016|
Gittin 54 – To punish or not to punish
Earlier we saw that the Sages sometimes added and at other times removed penalties
. However, the logic depended on a particular situation. For example, if one plants a tree on Shabbat, then if he did it on purpose, he should uproot this tree, but if he did it by mistake, he can keep it. Compare this to planting on a Shmita year, when planting in Israel is generally forbidden: whether he does it on purpose or by mistake, if he plants a tree on Shmita, he has to uproot it.
Why the difference? – Jews were not suspected of violating Shabbat, so he who did it was probably a brazen violator, who would not try to claim that he did it by mistake. Thus, there was no reason to penalize those who did it by mistake. Shmita was different: too many people regarded it lightly and violated it, and would then claim that they did it by mistake; therefore the Sages decreed that even he who plants a tree on Shmita by mistake must still uproot it.
Continuing with invisible damage, a Kohen who brings a sacrifice can easily ruin it with his thought: if he thinks, while doing the slaughter (shechitah), or while accepting blood, that he plans to eat it at the wrong time, the sacrifice is immediately invalid. This is similar to the cases discussed just above, and the rule is that if he did it on purpose, he is liable to repay the cost of the sacrifice. The Talmud then discusses why we believe the Kohen who says that he ruined the sacrifice.
Art: Rabbi by Rembrandt Van Rijn
|Friday, February 12th, 2016|
Gittin 53 – Invisible damage
If one has made his fellow's wine ritually impure, it cannot be used for previous purpose, and he has caused a loss. Likewise, he may cause loss by adding the Kohen's portion to his fellows wine – so that now only Kohanim can drink it. Finally, he can pour of this wine to the idols.
The three cases are all similar in that the damage is not perceptible. In this case, does the perpetrator have to pay? – The answer is that if he did it by mistake, he is free, but if he did not on purpose, then he is liable. Why such a distinction?
In truth, he did real damage and should be liable in both cases, However, the Sages decreed, for the benefit of the society, that one who does it by mistake is not penalized. This will encourage him to tell of this deed to the owner, and the owner will not transgress by using this wine. However, if he did it on purpose, there is not point in encouraging him to confess – he will not tell in any case.
Others say that just the opposite, invisible damage is not real, and one is not liable in either case. Now, why is the one who does it on purpose still have to pay? – The Sages decreed so, for otherwise everyone can inflict damage on his fellow's property by these actions that leave no visible trace.
The Talmud discusses why each case had to be mentioned specifically, and how it cannot be derived from the other two.
Art: A Woman Offering a Glass of Wine to a Man by Gabriël Metsu
|Wednesday, February 10th, 2016|
Gittin 52 – Caretaker for the orphans
If the father dies, someone may have to care of the children. The owner of the house in which they live may take it on himself, or the father may appoint him or her. This administrator has rules of what he can and cannot do. He is required to take tithes on their foods. Once they grow up and can take care of themselves, the administrator will have to formally take an oath that he did not misappropriate anything of theirs.
How can he take the tithe when the produce does not belong to him, if the Torah said, “You will tithe your grain
” – and not someone else? – Indeed he is only allowed to tithe what is needed for food, but anything that is stored for later – they will tithe when they grow up.
There was an administrator in the neighborhood of Rabbi Meir, who was trying to sell land of the orphans, but the rule is that administrators should not impoverish the orphans – so Rabbi Meir was not letting him. Rabbi Meir was then told in his dream, “I (God) am trying to destroy them, and you are trying to save?!” – But Rabbi Meir still did not allow it, because “one does not take actions based on dreams.”
The administrator takes an oath that he did not steal – this was decreed by Sages to protect the orphans. Since the administrator is most likely returning a favor, he will not refrain from being administrator just because he will have to swear. Abba Shaul gives the opposite reason: administrator is just being nice, and if you put an oath on him, he will eschew the obligation; if a court appoints him – then he gets a benefit of people trusting him, and therefore will not refuse – and the logic of Abba Shaul was accepted.
Art: Приезд гувернантки в купеческий дом, Василий Перов (Caretaker's coming to a rich house)
|Monday, February 8th, 2016|
Gittin 51 – Limit people's desires
Imagine that someone (Shimon) bought land, worked it, has crop coming, and now it is found out that the land was stolen. The one from whom the land was originally stolen comes and reclaims the land, together with the crop, and Shimon is left with nothing. So he goes to the seller of the land (who is, as it turned out, a thief) and wants to collect his money from him. But the seller has no cash; and his fields have meanwhile been sold as well. Shimon then goes and collects from the purchasers of the thief's land. By right, he should be able to collect the price of the field and the crops.
However, the Sages limited his collection rights, for the benefit of the world. For if someone can always come and collect not only a field, but also unexpected and unlimited amounts for the crops, people would be so nervous to buy fields that commerce would stop.
An oath is a serious thing, and there is only one money-related oath in the Torah. It happens when someone in court admits to a part of the claim. Say the lender claims that someone owes him 200 coins, and the borrower admits that yes, indeed, he owes money, but only a 100 coins. In that case, the Torah says that the court can require an oath from the borrower. Why is that? The borrower can rationalize and say, “I will return the money, but later, so now, to avoid being a bad guy, I will just say that I only owe a part.” With the oath, he won't say it.
By right, the same oath would apply if someone returns a wallet with a 100 coins, and the owner claims that there were really 200. However, the Sages canceled the oath in that case, or else people would never return lost objects.
Art: Harvest in Provence by Vincent Van Gogh
|Sunday, February 7th, 2016|
Gittin 50 – Credit obligations
When someone guarantees the payment of the Ketubah, he incurs no obligation. If the husband later defaults and does not pay the Ketubah to his wife, our guarantor is off the hook. Why is that? The guarantor relies primarily on the husband to pay the Ketubah and reasons that most likely he will never have to pay. Moreover, in encouraging the pair to marry, he is simply doing a mitzvah! That is why we can assume that he does not seriously obligate himself.We mentioned earlier
that a debt, if one cannot pay it, is collected from his lands of medium quality. Why is that? In truth, he could even give his worst land. The Torah said that the lender “Cannot come into the house to take a deposit, but must wait outside till the debtor will bring him something
.” What will the debtor bring? – Of course, the worst. However, the Sages raised the obligations of the borrower, for otherwise nobody would want to loan money to his fellow.
However, when a man dies and a creditor comes to collect the debt, now he can collect only from the worst. This is so because he collects not from the borrower but from the orphans that he left. If they are minors, they surely need protection, and even if they are adults, they likely did not pay attention to their father's loans, and can be easily fooled. Here the Sages left the Torah law intact, because lenders seldom consider the possibility of death of the borrower and would give out loans anyway.
Art: La Mariée - The Bride - by Marc Chagall
|Friday, February 5th, 2016|
Gittin 49 – Why does land quality matter?
“If one's animal damage his fellow's field, he must pay with the best of his field
” tells us that there damage payments. However, we started discussing
that it is not clear what “his field” means.
Rabbi Ishmael says, “His field was damaged, and his field is now used to measure the quality.” That is, the damaged party's best field determines the quality of the land to be collected. Rabbi Akiva says, “He must pay with the best of his field” clearly tells that the one who pays is the one whose field we are talking about.
But why all this talk about best land, medium or bad one? Rabbi Shimon, who was the only one who explained reasons behind Torah laws, said: why does the damager pay from his best land? – So that people would think thus: “What's the point of robbing or stealing? Tomorrow the courts will take it all away from me, and moreover, they will do it by taking my best land!”
Now, why is a debt repaid with a medium quality land? So that a rich person would not think thus: “I will advance a loan to this fellow of mine, and then, when he cannot repay, I will collect his best vineyard!” But according to this logic, he should collect the worst land!? – If you do this, people will refrain from giving loans altogether?
Finally, the Ketubah of a woman (after all, we are studying divorces) is paid from the worst land of the husband, why is that? – Because the various advantages that a woman derives from marriage are significant, and women will not refrain from getting married just because they know that their Ketubah payment will be paid from bad quality land.
Art: Le prêteur et sa femme (The moneylender and his wife) by Quentin METSYS
|Thursday, February 4th, 2016|
Gittin 48 – When to give the best land
In discussing the sale of the land in Israel, the Talmud asks: if one sells just the trees, for their crops, is it considered as if the land is sold with them, or not? Rabbi Yochanan says that the land is considered as sold with the trees, and Rabbi Asi comments that he better say this, or else “Rabbi Yochanan will not find his hands and feet in the study hall.”
Why is this? Because in another place the same Rabbi Yochanan said that brothers who inherit land from their father are considered as buyers of land from each other. In those times when the Jubilee year was observed, the land would return to the owners every fifty years. Unless the land went with the fruit, nobody would ever own land in the true sense of the word, and nobody would ever bring first fruit!
Continuing with the laws promulgated “for the benefit of the world,” the next one is this: if one harms his neighbor, he pays for it, “with the best of his land.” We are talking about material damagers here, and if the tortfeasor (let's call him “damager”) has cash, he should simply pay cash. However, if he does not, then he may have land, and the courts collect from his land. The amount they collect is equal to the damage. But the quality of the land is up to the court, and the rule is “take the best.”
But why is it called a “decree of the Sages?” It is Torah law that everyone already knows
?! – Actually, yes. However, it would be only according to Rabbi Ishmael, who understands the "best field "differently. The best field, but of whom? – Of the damaged party! A rich damager would just give some bad land, because it would be like the best of the poor damaged party. The Sages prevented this by requiring that the damager gives of his best.
Art: Still Life with a Basket of Fruit by Balthasar Van Der Ast
|Sunday, January 31st, 2016|
Gittin 47 – What to leave in a will
If one sells himself and his children as slaves to idolaters, the community should redeem him. However, if he keeps doing this repeatedly, they refrain. After the father's death, the community should redeem his children. While the father was alive, he watched over them, but now they should not be taught the wrong way of life.
There was a village near the city of Lod whose residents were occasional cannibals. A man sold himself to them, and asked Rabbi Ami to command the community to redeem him. Rabbi Ami quoted the above rule and said that it should apply, especially here, where the man's life was in danger. They told Rabbi Ami, “He eats forbidden foods!” He answered, “Maybe there was nothing else?” They told him, “No, he did it on purpose.” Rabbi Ami said to the man, “Sorry, they don't let me redeem you.”
Resh Lakish heard of this and sold himself to the people near Lod. As a last wish, he asked to be permitted to sit them down, tie them, and give them a light blow with his backpack. Inside the backpack was a stone, and in this way he killed them.
Resh Lakish worked hard but spent his earnings liberally and kindheartedly. All he left as inheritance was a quart of safflower oil, but he was still upset, quoting “They left their possessions to strangers
.” A man should not amass wealth and pass it to his descendants, since they may be unworthy.
When an non-Jew buys land in Israel, does he own it ritually, so that even tithes need not be given? Some say no, because “I (God) own the land
.“ Others says yes, because it says, “Take tithe of your grain
” (and not of grain owned by non-Jew). Either way, the Sages established that the seller should keep buying first fruit from this land and bringing it to the Temple. This was done to discourage such sales.
Art: The Money Lender by Dutch School