TALMUD. The 20th Massekhet – Kiddushin

As we approach the end of Seder Nashim – the “Order of Women” in the Mishna – we conclude our discussion of the various obligations and responsibilities involved in the marital relationship with the rules and regulations relating to the act of marriage itself. Massekhet Kiddushin focuses mainly on the crucial moment when the marital relationship is formed, the first stage of the marital bond – betrothal. That is to say, it clarifies how two distinct individuals become husband and wife; how they form a new entity, that of a family.

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82 Responses to TALMUD. The 20th Massekhet – Kiddushin

  1. Kiddushin 51a-b: Betrothal and consummation

    From the perspective of Jewish law and Jewish thought one of the main points of marriage is for the husband and wife to carry on a sexual relationship that will lead to the birth of children, fulfilling God’s command to Adam and Eve of peru u’revu – to go forth and multiply. Will a betrothal that cannot lead to consummation, to a sexual relationship, referred to by the Gemara as kiddushin she-lo nimseru le-bi’ah, have any validity? The Talmudic sages Rava and Abaye disagree on this point. Abaye believes that such kiddushin will lead to marriage; according to Rava such kiddushin will have no significance. Rava’s source is a teaching that he received from bar Ahina who pointed out that the Biblical passage describing marriage states clearly that a man takes a woman and sleeps with her (see Devarim 24:1), indicating that without the potential for a sexual relationship the marriage has no meaning.

    In defining kiddushin she-lo nimseru le-bi’ah, Rashi seems to indicate that this is any situation where a sexual relationship cannot develop in this marriage. In truth, we have no sources that would preclude marriage in a situation where some physical obstacle will keep the husband and wife from engaging in sexual relations. Moreover, as many rishonim point out, if the obstacle keeping the couple from engaging in sexual relations derives from halakhic sources (e.g. when the marriage is forbidden by the Torah, like a kohen marrying a divorcee), then the kiddushin does take effect, the couple is just not allowed to live together as man and wife and must get divorced.

    Because of these questions, most of the commentaries explain that kiddushin she-lo nimseru le-bi’ah means a case where the act of kiddushin itself creates a forbidden relationship that will not allow the husband and wife to live together. It is only that case where Rava would rule that the kiddushin cannot possibly be recognized as creating a marriage, if that marriage can never be consummated. Examples of such cases are discussed in the Gemara, e.g. when a man offers kesef kiddushin (money to effect a marriage) to two sisters simultaneously. Since a man cannot be married to two sisters, the kiddushin will have no meaning.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  2. Kiddushin 52a-b: One who betrothed one of two sisters

    Our Gemara quotes a Mishna whose source is in Massekhet Yevamot (23b) where we find a most unusual case. What happens if a man betroths one of two sisters, but does not know which one he married? The Mishna teaches that in such a case the man must divorce each of them, since he cannot marry two sisters. Even after he divorces one he cannot marry the other, since she may be the sister of his divorced wife, which is also forbidden by the Torah.

    The suggestion raised in our Gemara is that the confusion in our story stemmed from the fact that the marriage somehow was done without clarity from the very beginning – perhaps a situation where both sisters appointed a single individual to act as their agent to accept marriage proposals on their behalf. Someone approached the agent and offered him kesef kiddushin, money (or a ring), to effect the marriage – and said “with this money I am marrying one of the sisters” without clarifying which one he intended.

    The Ritva suggests that if we assume yesh bereira – that we can ascertain someone’s intent retroactively, once they make a decision later on – then such a marriage may work. Still, he argues, the case might be where a person leaves the decision to someone else (e.g. “I will marry whichever woman my father decides”) and then that person disappears and cannot make the decision.

    Our Gemara brings this case in order to support Abaye’s position that we learned on yesterday’s daf (page) – that kiddushin she-lo nimseru le-biah – a marriage that could never be consummated – is still considered marriage – after all we require divorces to undo them. This proof is rejected because the case could be a situation where a marriage took place with one of the women, and afterwards there was a dispute about what happened, to the extent that no one was sure who was truly married. In this case, it is clear that a marriage took place between two people; we just cannot determine which two people they were.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  3. Kiddushin 53a-b: Betrothal by sacrifice

    According to the Mishna (52b) a portion from an animal that was brought as a sacrifice in the Temple cannot be used as kesef kiddushin (money used to betroth a woman). This is true for both kodashei kodashim – sacrifices like a sin-offering where the meat is given to the kohanim – as well as for kodashim kalim – sacrifices like a korban shelamim, where the meat is divided between the kohanim and the owner of the sacrifice.

    The Gemara explains that this rule is derived from a passage in Bamidbar (18:9) that compares the meat of the sacrifice that is given to the kohanim to fire; just as fire is only for eating, similarly the meat of the sacrifice is only for eating. This enigmatic statement is explained by Rashi to mean that the portion given to the kohen is paralleled to the portion placed on the altar to be burned. Just as the portion belonging to the altar must be “eaten” – i.e. burned – so the portion given to the kohanim must be eaten, and it cannot be used for any other purpose.

    Rashi appears to expand the rule of the Mishna not only to kohanim, but also to the owners of the sacrifice. That is to say, the owner of the korban would not be able to marry a woman with his portion of the korban that is given to him to eat. Others disagree with Rashi, arguing that the Mishna only restricts use of the sacrifice to kohanim, but that the owner of a sacrifice would be able to make use of his portion. The Talmud Yerushalmi raises the question of whether the restrictions apply only to someone who wants to use the meat itself for kiddushin, or would it also apply to someone who attempts to use the value of the meat to effect the kiddushin, giving the meat to a woman who can then sell it to a kohen and receive money in exchange. Tosafot, who assume that even the value of the meat cannot be used, explain that since the meat from a sacrifice is seen as being a divine present (mi-shulhan gavo’ah ka-zakhu), even its value cannot be used for mundane purposes.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  4. Kiddushin 54a-b: Betrothal by priestly garments

    When kohanim perform the avoda (sacrificial service) in the Temple, they are required to wear bigdei kehuna (priestly garments). In the context of the discussion in the Mishna (52b) about a person who attempts to betroth a woman by giving her something that belonged to the Temple, our Gemara inquires as to the status of these bigdei kehuna. Are they considered holy or not? According to our Gemara, a person is allowed to derive personal benefit from kutnot kehuna – priestly tunics – since lo nitnah Torah le-malakhei ha-sharet (the Torah was not given to angels, but to human beings). This expression is understood to mean that since a kohen cannot possibly refrain from deriving personal benefit from clothing that he wears, such benefit must be permitted. The Meiri explains that even though the benefit was permitted only to kohanim, nevertheless it is difficult to say that something is not considered holy for just one group of people. Thus, there is no me’ila (deriving forbidden benefit from the Temple treasury) in making use of such clothing.

    The Meiri notes that the discussion of whether or not there is a prohibition involved with making use of bigdei kehuna would not apply to the avnet, the belt worn by kohanim, since it is made out of kilayim – a forbidden mixture of fabrics – and could only be worn during the Temple service itself. Some point out that our Gemara seems to support this position, since it does not use the term bigdei kehuna, rather kutnot kehuna which does not refer to all of the priestly garments, but only to the kutonet, the outer garment.

    Based on this understanding, the Meiri asks why a person could not use kutnot kehuna to betroth a woman – after all, we have established that they are not intrinsically holy!? He answers that there is no blanket permission to use these kutnot kehuna for any purpose; they can be used only for normal purposes, which would not include marriage.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  5. Kiddushin 55a-b: Misuse of consecrated property

    In the Gemara’s continuing discussion of the Mishna (52b) about a person who attempts to betroth a woman by giving her something that belonged to the Temple, a Mishna from Massekhet Me’ila (19b) is quoted. According to that Mishna, once someone has been mo’el be-hekdesh (has made inappropriate use of an object that belonged to the Temple), subsequent use of that object by someone else does not carry with it any negative ramifications. The exception to this rule is an animal (that is to be brought as a sacrifice) and klei sharet (utensils used in the Temple service). Thus, if a person rode an animal that was set aside for sacrifice and then a second and third person did the same, all of them would be liable for having been mo’el be-hekdesh. Similarly, if someone drinks from a keli sharet and then a second and a third person do the same, they are all liable. The simple explanation for this is that the sacrifice and the utensil have intrinsic holiness that does not disappear simply because it was used. This stands in contrast to kodashei bedek ha-bayit – objects that were consecrated to be used by the treasurer of the Temple in the Temple – which in any case can be redeemed, and used for mundane purposes. With regard to those objects, if they were used outside of the Temple, the object is removed from its former status of hekdesh and is rendered hol – ordinary.

    The Rambam offers a different approach. According to the Rambam the difference between an animal and klei sharet on the one hand and other objects owned by the Temple on the other hand is not based on the question of whether or not there is intrinsic holiness attached to it, rather it is a question of whether the object will be damaged or diminished by its use. An animal (according to the Rambam’s approach this is true whether or not it will be used as a sacrifice) and a keli sharet can be used over and over without loss of value, so they retain their holiness, and therefore several people can do me’ila. Other objects, which suffer wear and tear after a single use, will immediately become hol and only the first person would be liable for me’ila.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  6. Kiddushin 56a-b: Betrothal by forbidden object

    As we have learned in the very first Mishna in Massekhet Kiddushin, one method of creating a betrothal is for a man to transfer an object of value to a woman, saying to her harei at mekudeshet li be-kesef zo ke-dat Moshe ve-Yisra’el – “behold you are betrothed to me with this money according to the laws of Moses and the Jewish people.” For the marriage to take effect, the object that is transferred must have some minimal value – a peruta (the smallest denomination coin in the time of the Mishna). Our Mishna discusses whether objects that appear to have value, but whose use is forbidden by Jewish law, can be used for kiddushin.

    The Mishna lists several examples of issurei hana’a – objects from which someone cannot derive any benefit – which are considered valueless, and therefore cannot be used for kiddushin. Among them are –

    Orla – fruit that grows during the first three years after a tree is planted.

    Kil’ei ha-kerem – when grain is grown in a vineyard in a forbidden manner

    Shor ha-niskal – an ox that is waiting to be killed by the order of the beit din (e.g. an ox that killed a person)

    Basar be-halav – meat and milk that were cooked together.

    The Mishna concludes that if, in violation of Jewish law, someone were to sell any of these objects, the proceeds could be used for kiddushin, since the prohibition does not transfer to the money that was received in exchange for it.

    Rabbeinu Yehonatan writes that the rule presented in this Mishna is obvious, since it makes no sense that kiddushin can be completed with the exchange of an object that has no halakhic value. He suggests that the Mishna needed to teach this rule mainly for the last line, which permits the use of money that was received in exchange for one of these objects, and allows the betrothal to take place.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  7. Kiddushin 57a-b: The prohibition of meat cooked in milk

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (page), objects that appear to have value, but whose use is forbidden by Jewish law, cannot be used for kiddushin, which can only take effect if the object that is transferred from the husband to his wife has some minimal value. The Gemara on our daf examines each of the examples cited in the Mishna as being assur be-hana’a – objects from which someone cannot derive any benefit – and searches for a source for them.

    When examining basar be-halav – the forbidden combination of meat and milk – the Gemara quotes a baraita taught in Rabbi Yishmael’s yeshiva that the Torah states the prohibition against cooking meat and milk together three times (lo tevashel gedi ba-halev imo – see Shemot 23:19; 34:26 and Devarim 14:21). One teaches that they cannot be eaten together, one teaches that they cannot be cooked together and one teaches that we cannot derive benefit from their combination.

    The Ritva points out that even though there are three separate prohibitions derived from these three passages, nevertheless they are all expressed the same way in the text – lo tevashel – do not cook them together. He suggests that it must be taught this way in the Torah because on a Torah level meat and milk are only forbidden together if they are cooked. Our tradition of separating meat and milk even when cold and raw is a relatively new tradition.

    The Gemara mentions that there is a dissenting opinion on this matter. Rabbi Shimon ben Yehuda believes that meat and milk that are cooked together cannot be eaten, but you can derive benefit from them. His source for this is the use of parallel language in the case of meat and milk which is introduced with the words – ki am kadosh ata la-Shem Elokekha, lo tevashel gedi ba-halev imo – “For you are a holy nation to God, do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk,” which is similar to the passage about not eating an animal that was killed by violence (tereifa) – va-anshe kodesh tihiyun li, u’basar ba-sadeh tereifa lo tokhelu, la-kelev tashlikhun oto – “Holy people you will be to me, and meat that is found in the field as tereifa you should not eat, rather you should throw it to the dog.”

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  8. Kiddushin 58a-b: Betrothal by agent

    The third perek (chapter) of Massekhet Kiddushin begins on our daf (page). The first Mishna presents us with a case of someone who was appointed as an agent by his friend to betroth a certain woman. The Mishna teaches that if the man goes to that woman and offers her kesef kiddushin (money that will create the betrothal) for himself, she will be betrothed to him and not to the first man.

    The question that is raised by the rishonim is why the Mishna needs to teach us this halakha. It would appear to be obvious that if the woman accepted the money and agreed to marry him, she is betrothed to him and not to another! Several suggestions are raised to explain this case.

    Tosafot Ri”d suggests that we may have thought that the messenger was not serious in his proposal since we do not suspect that a Jewish person would behave in such an uncouth manner (see Zephaniah 3:13). The Mishna therefore needs to tell us that such a betrothal is a serious one.

    The Ramban suggests that we may have thought that this case should be ruled kiddushei ta’ut – a mistaken betrothal – since had the woman known that there was another man who wanted to marry her, perhaps she would not have agreed.

    According to Tosafot, the case may be where the messenger first told her that he was representing someone else, but then said harei at mekudeshet li – “behold you are betrothed to me.” The Mishna teaches that we do not assume that he was still acting as an agent if he says that.

    Another approach argues that on occasion the rabbinic Sages rule that someone who behaves improperly loses his right by law – and that perhaps the Sages would have negated the marriage retroactively in response to his inappropriate behavior.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  9. Kiddushin 59a-b: The land of the Sages

    Our Gemara tells the story of Rav Giddel who was negotiating on the purchase of a piece of land, but before he reached a final agreement Rabbi Abba came and bought it. Rav Giddel complained about Rabbi Abba’s behavior to Rabbi Zeira, who passed on the information to Rabbi Yitzhak Nappaha, who said that he would investigate the matter when Rabbi Abba came during the holidays.

    Upon seeing him, Rabbi Yitzhak Nappaha asked Rabbi Abba what he thought of someone who sees a poor person finding a loaf of bread and takes it for himself before the poor man can take possession of it. Rabbi Abba responded that such a person would be declared a rasha – an evil person. Rabbi Yitzhak Nappaha then demanded an explanation of why Rabbi Abba himself had behaved in that manner towards Rav Giddel in purchasing the land. Rabbi Abba replied that he was unaware that Rav Giddel was negotiating for the same parcel of land. When Rabbi Yitzhak Nappaha suggested that Rabbi Abba sell the land to Rab Giddel, Rabbi Abba refused to do so, saying that it was the first land he had ever purchased and he felt that it would be a bad omen to be forced to sell it. He was willing, however, to allow Rav Giddel to take it as a present. In the end, Rav Giddel declined to accept a gift – invoking the passage in Mishlei that discourages taking presents (see Mishlei 15:27) – and Rabbi Abba refused to tend the land, since he did not want to benefit from having purchased land that someone else wanted. With neither of them claiming the land as their own, it became known as “the land of the Sages.”

    The Meiri explains that the land was not really considered ownerless, but it was left available to be used by the Sages as a place of recreation.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  10. Kiddushin 60a-b: Betrothal by condition

    The Mishnayot on today’s daf (page) give examples of kiddushin al tenai – a marriage proposal that is based on the fulfillment of a condition.

    If a man says to a woman, “Behold you are betrothed to me on the condition that I…

    …give you two hundred zuz,” or

    …give you two hundred zuz within the next 30 days,” or

    …have two hundred zuz,” or

    …will show you two hundred zuz,”

    the marriage will take place if the man fulfills the condition as stated. In the last case, it would not be enough to show her money that is on the money-changer’s table, since it was implicit in the condition that he was suggesting that the money belonged to him.

    Our Gemara brings a disagreement about the first case of the Mishna. When a man states his desire to marry a woman and makes it conditional on giving her a sum of money, Rav Yehuda rules that only when he gives her the money and fulfills the condition, will the betrothal take effect. According to Rav Huna, the betrothal will take effect retroactively once he gives her the money as promised.

    The Ritva quotes the Talmud Yerushalmi, which suggests that according to Rav Huna the betrothal will take effect immediately and he is obligated to give her the money. Given Rav Huna’s belief that giving the money as promised would activate the betrothal retroactively, if we allow the condition to remain unfulfilled it would leave the woman connected to the man forever without them actually being married. This is a situation that cannot be allowed, so we force the man to fulfill the condition that he made. The Ritva argues that since we do not see any indication that the Talmud Bavli disagrees with this, we must assume that this is the halakha. Nevertheless, from the other rishonim it appears that they do not believe that he is obligated to fulfill the condition.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  11. Kiddushin 61a-b: A double condition

    We have been discussing situations where an offer of marriage includes a condition (see daf, or page, 60). The Mishna on our daf brings the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who requires a set of rules according to which the condition must be made in order for it to be effective. Turning to a conditional agreement that appears in the Torah, Rabbi Meir argues that any condition that is made that does not follow the rules of the agreement between the tribes of Re’uven and Gad with Moshe, has no effect on the agreement. Thus, a condition must be stated so that it is –
    •a tenai kaful – a “double condition” that spells out what happens if the condition is fulfilled and what happens if it is not fulfilled
    •hen kodem le-lav – the first statement must explain what happens if the condition is fulfilled, only afterwards should there be a statement that explains what happens if the condition is not fulfilled
    •tenai kodem le-ma’aseh – the condition must be stated before its effect is stated.

    Rabbi Hanina ben Gamliel disagrees with Rabbi Meir arguing that only in the specific case of the tribes of Re’uven and Gad was there a need to go into clear detail; in most cases there is no need to do so.

    The case of the tribes of Re’uven and Gad appears in Sefer Bamidbar (chapter 32). These two tribes approach Moshe and suggest to him that they remain on the eastern bank of the Jordan River rather than crossing into the Land of Israel proper. After some discussion, Moshe agrees to their request, conditional on their joining the rest of the tribes in conquering the land. Moshe clearly states that they will receive their request if they fulfill the condition, but that if they do not fulfill the condition they will receive their inheritance on the western side of the Jordan together with everyone else. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamliel’s argument is that Moshe had to clarify that failing to fulfill the condition would not make them lose their inheritance; they would receive their inheritance on one side of the Jordan or the other. This would not be necessary in other situations, however.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  12. Kiddushin 62a-b: A secret intent

    In the context of Rabbi Hanina ben Gamliel’s position in the Mishna on yesterday’s daf (page) that there is no need for a carefully crafted statement that delineates exactly what will happen in the event that a condition is fulfilled or left unfulfilled, the Mishna on our daf makes it clear that expectations still must be stated clearly in order for them to be considered seriously.

    According to our Mishna, if a man says that he had certain expectations about the woman that he betrothed (e.g. that she was from a family of kohanim or levi’im, or that she was wealthy) and that he now wants the betrothal dissolved since he discovered that his assumptions were in error, we do not take his argument seriously, since she did not trick him. Some of the commentaries point out that by saying that “she did not trick him” the Mishna is implying that if she had misled him and had actually given him misinformation, then we might take his argument seriously and would consider annulling the betrothal, since it took place under a misimpression.

    The operating principle in this case is devarim she-ba-lev – “thoughts in one’s heart” – and the question is whether or not they are to be taken seriously.

    The question of devarim she-ba-lev applies not only to marriage, but to other areas of halakha, as well. The apparent conclusion of our Gemara is that devarim she-ba-lev einam devarim – that we cannot consider unexpressed intentions. Rabbeinu Tam objects to this ruling based on the laws of korbanot (sacrifices) where we find that in a case where a person intends to declare a specific animal or object to be hekdesh (sanctified for use in the Temple), but inadvertently points to a different one, it is the intended one that become holy, not the one that was chosen accidentally. Rabbeinu Tam argues that this clearly shows that devarim she-ba-lev are taken into account by the halakha.

    The Ramban responds by distinguishing between an accidental statement and a secret intent. The case where a person made a statement by accident would be considered an ones – something that happened that was beyond the person’s control – where we would not hold the person responsible. However, a person cannot simply come and claim that he had a secret intent or condition that must be taken into account after the fact.

    Most of the rishonim accept the approach of Rabbeinu Hananel who ruled that devarim she-ba-lev einam devarim, but that if circumstantial evidence points to the fact that the person meant to include a condition, it will be taken into account. Thus, for example, were someone to give away his estate, unaware that he would recover from his illness, we would recognize that his presents were made under mistaken assumptions and he could negate the gifts upon recovery.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  13. Kiddushin 63a-b: Betrothal by service

    As we have learned, in order to create a marriage, a man must give a woman an object of value and say harei at mekudeshet li be-kesef zo ke-dat Moshe ve-Yisra’el – “behold with this money you are betrothed to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” What if he offered to provide the woman a service that had value? Would that suffice to act as money?

    From a simple reading of our Mishna, it would appear that services performed on the woman’s behalf can be used for marriage. The Mishna teaches that if a man says harei at mekudeshet li al menat she-adaber alayikh la-shilton – “behold you are betrothed to me on the condition that I will speak in your favor to the authorities” – the betrothal will take place. This assumes, of course that he fulfills the condition. The Rambam says that simply speaking to the authorities is not enough; he must successfully petition the authorities on her behalf. The Rosh argues that all he agreed to do was to argue her case, implying that if he did so properly the marriage would come into being, since representing her has value (i.e. she would have had to pay someone to do it) even if he is unsuccessful.

    This halakha notwithstanding, Reish Lakish limits the rule of the Mishna to a case where the man not only performed the service, but also gave the woman money separately. He argues that the author of the Mishna does not believe that payment for a service is due only at the end, rather he believes that payment is essentially due from the beginning of the service until the end, so that when the service is completed the person who contracted the service – who really should have been paying throughout – has a standing debt to the person who performed the service. Since we have learned (see Kiddushin 47) that a man cannot marry a woman simply by forgiving a debt that she owed him, the kiddushin will not work unless he actually gives her something of value.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  14. Kiddushin 64a-b: Acts of forbidden intercourse

    Of great concern to the Torah is keeping up the honor and purity of the Jewish home. Thus, in two places, the Torah lists forbidden sexual relationships (see Vayikra chapter 18 and chapter 20:10-24), most of which are incestuous relationships. For these relationships, the punishment will be either karet (being “cut off” from the community, i.e. a symbolic death sentence) or mitat beit din (a capital offense). The people on this list (e.g. a parent and a child, siblings, etc.) cannot marry one another, and offspring born to such relationships are considered to be mamzerim (literally “bastards,” in the Gemara and halakhic literature this refers to children who are born from such forbidden relationships and cannot marry within the Jewish community – see Devarim 23:3). This is the opinion of Shimon HaTeimani in a Mishna in Massekhet Yevamot (49a), which is accepted as the halakha.

    Our Gemara presents the rejected position of Rabbi Akiva, who disagrees with Shimon HaTemani and rules that any sexual relationship that is forbidden by the Torah – even a simple prohibition that will not carry with it the punishment of karet or mitat beit din – will preclude the possibility of marriage (i.e. not only is marriage forbidden, but if it is attempted it will have no meaning or significance – like a brother who tries to marry his sister – and there will be no need to end the marriage with a divorce) and children born from such a relationship would be mamzerim.

    There are exceptions to these rules as interpreted by Shimon HaTeimani and Rabbi Akiva. One of the forbidden sexual relationships that appears in the lists in Vayikra is sleeping with a nidda – a menstruating woman. In the Gemara in Yevamot we find that Abaye teaches that all agree that the child of such a relationship would not be a mamzer; his proof is the fact that marriage is possible when a woman is a nidda. The rishonim point out that it is obvious that nidda is different than all of the other cases of forbidden relationships, since in the course of every marriage the woman becomes a nidda without it affecting the couple’s marital status.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  15. Kiddushin 65a-b: He said, she said

    The Mishna on our daf (page) discusses cases where someone claims to have married another person and the alleged spouse denies that the marriage had taken place. In cases where it is one person’s word against the other, the ruling is that the person who claims that the marriage took place cannot marry any of the other person’s immediate relatives (e.g. their alleged brother-in-law or sister-in-law), while the person who denies that the marriage took place can marry anyone – including immediate relatives of the alleged spouse.

    The simple reason for this is because a Jewish marriage can only take place if there are appropriate witnesses who watch the exchange of money or contract that creates the marriage. Thus, even if both the husband and the wife agree that there was an exchange of a ring and that the woman accepted it with the full intention of getting married, according to Jewish law nothing of significance has taken place.

    The reason for this is because halakha recognizes two distinct types of witnesses –
    1.an ordinary situation where the witnesses come to offer the information that they are privy to, and
    2.a unique situation, like marriage, where the witnesses are integral to the event.

    Our Gemara does suggest that if there is a single witness and both parties agree that a marriage had taken place, that there is room to suggest that we must treat the kiddushin as marriage. The explanation for this possibility is that we do view business laws as one of the sources from which we derive the laws of marriage. In cases of business, a single witness is not ignored totally – as is the case in criminal law – in fact, while a single witness will not be relied upon to force someone to pay, his testimony will be enough to force the defendant to take an oath that he is telling the truth.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  16. Kiddushin 66a-b: An incident occurred with King Yannai

    Our Gemara relates a story about King Yannai, who, during the second Temple period returned from a successful war and called to the Sages of the Mishna to join him in a celebratory feast. During that banquet, someone named Elazar ben Po’ira stepped forward and told King Yannai that the Sages were not really his supporters, suggesting to him that he appear clothed as the High Priest (as one of the Hasmonean kings, Yannai came from priestly lineage) by adorning himself with the tzitz (the head-plate) when he came before them. When he appeared wearing the tzitz, one of the Sages called out to him that his position as king should suffice, and that he should not claim the High Priesthood as well. This claim was made based on an unsubstantiated rumor that Yannai’s mother had been a captive in the siege in Modi’in and that he was not truly a kohen.

    The celebration ended with tension on both sides, and Elazar ben Po’ira continued his attack on the Sages, goading King Yannai into having them killed for their attack on the king’s honor. (The Gemara reports that in response to the king’s question “with the Sages gone, who will teach Torah to the masses?” Elazar ben Po’ira responded that the Torah was available to anyone who was interested in opening it and studying, an answer that may have satisfied the need to study the written Torah but not the oral Torah.) According to the Gemara, with the murder of the Sages, Torah study came to a standstill until Shimon ben Shatah – whose sister, who was married to Yannai, helped him hide from the massacre – returned to activity and reestablished Torah study.

    Josephus recounts a similar story in Antiquities (Book XIII: Chapter 10) where it is told about John Hyrcanus (although the Talmudic Sages often refer to John Hyrcanus as Yannai) as the explanation of the break in the relationship between the king and the Sages. According to Josephus, at the party the king suggested that anyone who had a critique or comment about the monarchy should share it. Someone named Elazar rose to say that there were rumors that he could not serve as High Priest because his mother had been taken captive by the Greek King Antiochus. When the rumor was checked and found to be untrue the Sages punished the man who suggested it with lashes, but that was seen as a mild punishment and the king was encouraged to believe that the Sages played a role in the incident. This led to a breakdown in the relationship between the king and the Sages.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  17. Kiddushin 67a-b: The status of the child

    The Mishna (66b) offers guidelines for determining the family and legal status of a child. If a child is born from a union of two people who can marry each other, the child’s status follows the father (e.g. if he is a kohen or a levi). If the relationship that produced the child is a forbidden relationship, sometimes the child is defined by the relationship itself (e.g. a kohen who marries a divorcee, where the child is a halal – he is not a kohen and cannot marry into a priestly family), sometimes it follows the status of the mother (e.g. a shifha kena’anit – a non-Jewish maidservant’s child would be a slave), and sometimes the child is a mamzer.

    The case of a mamzer, according to the Mishna occurs when a normal Jewish woman, who could have married any Jewish person, has sexual relations with one of the people forbidden by the Torah in parashat arayot (see Vayikra chapter 18) – i.e. incestuous relationships. A mamzer is not allowed to marry into the normative Jewish community.

    Our Gemara asks for a source for the fact that incestuous relationships are the ones that create the status of mamzerut, and launches into a lengthy search to prove this halakha based on pesukim (verses). Tosafot ask why the Gemara needs to find a source for the connection between arayot and mamzerut, arguing that it seems to be obvious and self-explanatory that forbidden sexual relationships that do not even allow for marriage to take place – as opposed to relationships that are forbidden, but if they are done, halakha recognizes their existence (e.g. a kohen who marries a divorcee) – would produce offspring who are mamzerim.

    Tosafot answer that this Gemara follows the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua who believes that only some of the arayot will produce mamzerim. He distinguishes between those sexual relationships that are capital crimes, punished by the courts and those whose punishment is karet – a heavenly punishment, even though he agrees that halakha will not recognize marriages in either of these kinds of cases.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  18. Kiddushin 68a-b: Forbidden relationships

    We have already seen the position taken by Rabbi Akiva (see daf, or page, 64) who rules that any sexual relationship that is forbidden by the Torah – even a simple prohibition that will not carry with it the punishment of karet or mitat beit din – will preclude the possibility of marriage (i.e. not only is marriage forbidden, but if it is attempted it will have no meaning or significance – like a brother who tries to marry his sister – and there will be no need to end the marriage with a divorce) and children born from such a relationship would be mamzerim. Rabbi Akiva’s position is not accepted as the halakha, and we distinguish between the more serious cases of incest and adultery, where the punishment is karet or mitat beit din and a simple prohibition (e.g. a kohen who marries a divorcee), where the couple is recognized by the halakha as being married, and the children will not be mamzerim.

    The source offered by Rav Pappa for the rule that people who are not allowed to get married because of a lav (a simple prohibition) will still have their marriage recognized by the halakha is a passage that deals with inheritance laws. The pasuk (verse) says (Devarim 21:15) that if a man has two wives, one who is loved and one who is hated, and that each have sons, the man cannot offer a preferred inheritance to the son of the beloved wife, passing over the unloved wife’s son if he is the first-born. Our Gemara notes that the wives are referred to as “loved” and “hated.” Since the Torah cannot possibly assume that God loves one wife more than the other, it must mean that one wife is from a permitted relationship and one is from a forbidden relationship. Nevertheless, the Torah views them both as being married to the man.

    The obvious problem with this source is that the simple meaning of the Torah is that the wives are ahuvah – “loved” – and senu’ah – “hated” by their husband, not by God. Rashi explains that we would not have thought that the husband could change the laws of inheritance based on his own preferences, so the only explanation is that this is a reference to a status based on some outside factor. The She’iltot suggests that it is the Torah’s use of ahuvah and senu’ah without reference to the husband that indicates that there is something objectively different about the wives having nothing to do with their husband’s likes or dislikes.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  19. Kiddushin 69a-b: Purifying a mamzer

    The previous Mishna (66b) taught that a mamzer – a child born as the result of an incestuous or adulterous relationship – is not allowed to marry into the normative Jewish community, and that furthermore, any child born to a mamzer will also have that same status. This leads Rabbi Tarfon in the Mishna on our daf (page) to teach that there is a way for a mamzer to arrange that his children will not be mamzerim. Rabbi Tarfon suggests that a mamzer can purchase a shifhah kena’anit – a non-Jewish maidservant – and marry her. In such a case, the children will get her status and will be considered avadim kena’anim – non-Jewish slaves. At that point he can release them to freedom and they will become full-fledged members of the Jewish community without the stigma (and concomitant personal halakhic problems) of being a mamzer.

    According to the conclusion of the Gemara, this arrangement works not only ex-post facto, but it is recommended as a valid plan for someone who finds that he is a mamzer. This leads rishonim to question how Rabbi Tarfon can permit a mamzer to marry a shifhah kena’anit – after all, despite his difficult marital situation, a mamzer is considered by Jewish law to be obligated in all the commandments. How can we permit him to marry a non-Jewish slave girl?

    Tosafot Ri”d suggests that we must distinguish between the prohibition against marrying a non-Jewish woman, whose source ve-lo tit’haten bam (Devarim 7:3) is a general prohibition for all Jews, and the source forbidding marriage to a shifhah kena’anit – ve-lo yehiyeh kadesh be-venei yisra’el (Devarim 23:18) – which is understood to forbid sexual promiscuity among the Jewish people. This may not apply to someone who was, himself, the product of a promiscuous, forbidden relationship.

    Some suggest that according to those opinions (e.g. the Rambam) who view marriage with a shifhah kena’anit as being forbidden only on a Rabbinic level, the Sages permitted the mamzer to disregard that law in order to save his children from being mamzerim. That position is disputed, however, by Rashi, Tosafot and other rishonim.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  20. Kiddushin 70a-b: From a family of slaves

    The fourth chapter of Massekhet Kiddushin, Perek (chapter) Asarah Yuhasin, began on daf (page) 69a with a Mishna that discussed the levels and characteristics of the families that returned to Israel from Bavel at the beginning of the second Temple period. Specifically, the Mishna focused on which types of families were permitted to marry other families, and which were limited regarding the families that they were allowed to marry.

    Our daf tells a lengthy story that describes an incident where someone from Neharde’a who was visiting Pumbedita acted in an inappropriate manner, insulting Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel, who excommunicated him. Upon hearing that the visitor also habitually accused others of being from a family of slaves, Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel ruled that that person should be given the status of a slave. Following this incident, the man from Neharde’a invited Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel to a din Torah – a court hearing – in the court of Rav Nahman in Neharde’a.

    After some introductory conversation, Rav Nahman asked Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel to explain why he had declared this man to be an eved (slave). Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel explained that it was a teaching of Shmuel that kol haposel, be-mumo posel, that someone who disqualifies others by stating their lineage is flawed, disqualifies himself with his own flaw. Rav Nahman objected that Shmuel only said that as a matter of psychology and suspicion; he did not mean that the person should be declared as such.

    At that point, the person himself announced that his ancestry was impeccable – he was from the family of the Hasmonean kings! At that point, Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel declared that he was certainly a slave, since Shmuel’s tradition was that all who claimed to be descendants of the Hasmonean dynasty were slaves.

    King Herod, who married Miriam the Hasmonean, was himself from a family of slaves. He murdered all of the other Hasmoneans (and eventually Miriam, as well) so that he would have no challengers to the throne. While Herod’s grandson, King Agrippas also married a woman from the Hasmonean family, his children either intermarried, or married within the family, leading to the tradition that all descendants of the Hasmoneans were slaves.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  21. Kiddushin 71a-b: Unflawed lineage

    How can someone tell if their perspective husband or wife is from a Jewish family?

    That is the focus of today’s daf (page). Somewhat surprisingly, the Sages considered the families in Bavel to have the most reliable ancestry, and everyone was accepted to be from a Jewish family unless proven otherwise, while in Israel it depended on what was known about each specific family, and in other countries families were expected to show proof that they were Jewish.

    Based on this, the Gemara tells stories about rabbinic figures who refused to marry into the families of other Sages, apparently because they did not consider their family ancestry reliable enough. The Gemara relates that Ze’eiri, who came to study in Israel from Bavel, would try to avoid Rabbi Yohanan – who headed the academy in Israel – because he knew that Rabbi Yohanan wanted him to marry his daughter. After he showed him great honor (nearing a large puddle, Ze’eiri put Rabbi Yohanan on his shoulders and carried him across), Rabbi Yohanan asked him why he honored the Torah of Israel but not the daughters of Israel, claiming that there were families of questionable background in both Bavel and Israel and that all families should be considered equally reliable or suspect.

    While the Gemara responds that Rabbi Yohanan had apparently forgotten the teaching of Rabbi Elazar that Ezra the Scribe had “sifted” the families in Bavel until they were “fine flour” (i.e. that Bavel’s Jewish community really was more “pure” as far as family background was concerned), the conclusion of the Gemara is that the most reliable indicator of Jewish ancestry is the behavior of a family. According to the Gemara, a family that is known to be a quiet family that does not get involved in quarrels is likely a Jewish family. Rashi explains that a problematic family probably honed their talents in verbal battles defending themselves against accusations against their backgrounds.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  22. Kiddushin 72a-b: Mamzerim in Messianic times

    As we have learned, the fourth perek (chapter) of Massekhet Kiddushin focuses on family history, and discusses which communities had more reliable traditions of lineage. The Gemara taught that the Jewish community in Bavel was more reliable than the community in Israel or in other places in the Diaspora. On our daf (page) Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that these attitudes are only the opinion of Rabbi Meir, but that the Hakhamim argue and rule that all Jewish communities, wherever they are found, are assumed to be reliably Jewish.

    In a similar statement, the Gemara brings a baraita that discusses the status of mamzerim (children born from an incestuous or adulterous relationship) le-atid la-vo

    (literally “in the future” but in this context it refers to Messianic times). According to Rabbi Yosei, with the arrival of the Messiah mamzerim will become purified; Rabbi Meir disagrees and states that they will remain in their status as mamzerim.

    The rishonim argue about the specific ruling about which Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yosei disagree. According to some (the Ritva quoting the Ra’ah, the Ran’s understanding of the Rambam, and others) it is dealing only with cases where there is a safek mamzerut – where it is not clear whether a given family had this problem. Even though the Messiah is supposed to clarify unknown issues, Rabbi Yosei believes that he will not declare which families are truly problematic. The Ramban, Rashba and others suggest that Rabbi Yosei believes that the Messiah will really release mamzerim from their status.

    The Ramban explains that this is done as a hora’at sha’ah – a one-time ruling made for a specific purpose – which is allowed by a prophet for a particular reason. After the arrival of the Messiah, however, all of the normal laws of forbidden relationships – and mamzerut – will remain in force. This is based on his view of the Messianic period as one when Israel will live in a state of peace, but that we will remain in a physical world and that all normative laws will still apply.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  23. Kiddushin 73a-b: Uncertain lineage

    The Mishna (69a) teaches that there were various types of people who traveled with Ezra the Scribe from Bavel to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period. The people divide into different groups, each of which is limited in who they can marry. Thus, for example, families that were known to reliably be kohanim, levi’im or regular yisra’elim could marry one another, but kohanim could not marry a halal (a child born from a forbidden union between a kohen and a divorcee, for example). A mamzer (someone born from an adulterous or incestuous relationship), a shetuki (literally, someone who is “quiet”) or an asufi (literally, someone who is “gathered in”), can marry one another, but they cannot marry people from families established as kohanim, levi’im or regular yisra’elim. The Mishna explained that a shetuki is someone who knows his mother, but does not know who his father is, and an asufi is a foundling, someone who was found as a newborn abandoned in the marketplace who does not know his parents.

    With regard to establishing someone as an asufi, our Gemara brings the opinion of Rava bar Rav Huna who rules that if there are indications that the child was well cared for and was not abandoned to die – e.g. if the baby had been circumcised, if he had a note attached to him, if he was placed in a position where it was clear that he would be found – then the child should not be deemed an asufi, and can marry like any regular Jewish person.

    One of the questions that the rishonim ask is how to reconcile the ruling that placement can determine the child’s status – that if he was found in the public thoroughfare he is deemed an asufi, but if he was placed carefully on the side he is not – with all of the other indications (circumcision, a note, etc.) that save the child from that status. One approach is to say that these indications will help us determine whether being left in the public place was with the intent of having the baby found, or for the purpose of being trampled and killed. Another approach is to say that if the child has been well cared for it indicates to us that the child must have been left in a more secure place and somehow was moved into the street.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  24. Kiddushin 74a-b: Identifying the firstborn

    In the context of discussing family backgrounds, our Gemara discusses how we can be certain that a child is a bekhor – the first-born child to his father – a status that would give him certain advantages with regard to inheritance, for example. Rav Nahman teaches that three people can be trusted to declare that one child is the bekhor – the midwife who delivers him, his mother and his father. The mid-wife is believed at the time of birth (if, for example, twins were born), the mother during the week after birth and the father at any point in time.

    The Gemara supplies a source for the father’s believability with regard to declaring his son a bekhor. The passage in Devarim (21:17) that forbids the father from transferring the advantage of the bekhor to the first-born of his beloved wife (if there was an older child from a different wife), requires him to acknowledge the status of the oldest son. “Acknowledging” the oldest son implies that he is believed to say who is the oldest.

    Rashi explains that the mother’s believability stems from the fact that she is in constant contact with the baby during the first week of his life. Once the baby is taken from her on the day of the brit milah – his circumcision – we can no longer be certain of her identification. The Meiri suggests that during the first week the mother makes certain to keep track of the first-born (e.g. if twins were born) in order to be sure which baby should be circumcised first, but after the brit takes place there is no longer any need to remember which child was born first.

    According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the midwife is believed based on the story in Sefer Bereshit (38:28) where Tamar gives birth to twins and the midwife tied a string around the baby’s wrist saying “this one was born first.”

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  25. Kiddushin 75a-b: Samaritans and the Jews

    Among the groups of people whose lineage and connection with the Jewish people is discussed in our Gemara are Kutim.

    The term Kutim refers to the nations (not all of whom were truly Kutim, as there were people from other nations, as well) that were exiled to the Land of Israel by the kings of Assyria who were interested in populating the land after they had removed the Israelite people from it. According to Sefer Melakhim (see II Melakhim, chapter 17), these nations converted to Judaism because of their fear of lions that had begun attacking them (from which derives the term gerei arayot – “lion converts”), but they continued worshiping their gods at the same time.

    Upon the return of the Jews to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, descendants of the Kutim, were active in trying to keep the returnees from rebuilding the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Even so, there were families – including members of the kohanim – who intermarried with the Samaritans.

    During the following years there were continued tensions between the two communities, and Yohanan Hyrcanus led his troops into battle against the Samaritans and destroyed the temple that they had built on Har Gerizim. Nevertheless, there were also periods of cooperation, such as the period of the Bar Kokheva rebellion. As is clear in our Gemara, the attitude of the Sages towards them differed, although after a period of time a final conclusion was reached and they were ruled to be treated as non-Jews, due to their continued involvement with different types of idol worship.

    It is important to note that the Gemara in Yevamot concludes that while a beit din should not accept potential converts whose reason for converting is anything other than a sincere desire to join the Jewish People, nevertheless, if such a person does undergo a full conversion process they are considered Jewish according to halakha. It is possible that the Kutim did not fall into that category because they continued with their idolatrous practices even at the moment of their conversion. Nevertheless, today the community of Samaritans living in Israel are no longer idol worshipers, and there has been some level of acceptance of them into the larger Jewish community.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  26. Kiddushin 76a-b: Those of reliable lineage

    The Mishna on our daf (page) teaches that there are many families about which we can be certain that they are reliably Jewish and that there are no issues with their family histories. For example, if we trace a family tree and discover that the patriarch was a kohen who performed service in the Temple, or that the patriarch served on the Sanhedrin, there is no need to check any further, since those positions were only given to individuals who were known to be from reliable families. According to Hanina ben Antigonus, another indication of a family with a reliable history is recorded service in the army.

    The Gemara brings Rav Yehuda quoting Shmuel who explains the last case to be talking about a family whose ancestors had served in King David’s army, as the pasuk (verse) clearly indicates in I Divrei HaYamim, or Chronicles (7:40). Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as explaining the reason for this – the belief that the merit of their forefathers would put them in good stead in times of battle.

    The Gemara points out that the names of many of King David’s soldiers – e.g. Zelek the Ammonite, Uriah the Hittite, Ittai the Gittite – seem to point to their being converts, or, perhaps, non-Jewish mercenaries. Furthermore, Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as teaching that there were 400 soldiers in King David’s army who were the offspring of relations with an eshet yefat to’ar (see Devarim 21:10) who behaved like non-Jews, cutting their hair, for example, in the fashion of non-Jews, and growing a belorit. The Gemara suggests that the non-Jews were not active soldiers in the army, but played other supportive roles, specifically to keep everyone in a state of alarm.

    Many suggestions are offered to define the term belorit, but no word in Greek or Latin is a perfect match for it. The hairstyle involved allowed the hair to grow long particularly on the sides and in the back of the head, and the hair was tied and braided into different shapes. Later on, the braided hair was shaved off in a special pagan ritual ceremony.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  27. Kiddushin 77a-b: Unfit to marry into the priesthood

    The Torah forbids a kohen from marrying the following women:

    a gerusha (a divorced woman)

    a halala (the child of a relationship forbidden to a kohen, e.g. the child of a kohen and a divorced woman)

    a zona (usually translated as a harlot, in this context it means someone who has had sexual relations with a man who is forbidden to her, e.g. an incestuous relationship)

    In addition, the kohen gadol (the High Priest) cannot marry an almana (a widow).

    Our Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that if the kohen gadol marries three widows he is only liable for having transgressed one prohibition. The Gemara objects that cases similar to this one appear to hold the transgressor liable for each act separately. In response the Gemara concludes that the baraita must be talking about a case where there were not three separate women, rather the kohen gadol married a woman who was a widow from three different marriages. The baraita is teaching that although this widow is a widow three times over, she is not perceived by the halakha as a threefold widow, but simply as a widow.

    The baraita teaches that sometimes the order of the woman’s marriage will make a difference. If the kohen gadol marries a woman who was first an almana, then a gerusha, then a halala and finally a zona, he will be held liable for four separate forbidden relationships. If, however, the woman was first a zona, then a halala then a gerusha and finally an almana, he will only be seen as having one transgression. The Gemara explains this difference according to the opinion that ein issur hal al issur – that once there is an existing prohibition a new prohibition cannot be added to the first one – except in the case of an issur mosif – when the new prohibition adds an element that did not exist previously. As an example, the almana is forbidden to the kohen gadol but not to an ordinary kohen. When she becomes a gerusha, a new prohibition is added – now she cannot marry an ordinary kohen either. Thus, the add-on of the new, additional status, is significant for the kohen gadol, as well.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  28. Kiddushin 78a-b: Unfit to marry into the priesthood – II

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (page), the Torah limits a kohen in who he can marry. Specifically, a kohen cannot marry –

    a gerusha (a divorced woman)

    a halala (the child of a relationship forbidden to a kohen, e.g. the child of a kohen and a divorced woman)

    a zona (usually translated as a harlot, in this context it means someone who has had sexual relations with a man who is forbidden to her, e.g. an incestuous relationship)

    In addition, the kohen gadol (the High Priest) cannot marry an almana (a widow).

    In chapter 44 of his book, the prophet, Yehezkel, teaches that there are unique rules and regulations that a kohen must follow regarding their general deportment – the clothing they wear, the food that they eat and who they marry.

    Our Gemara quotes a pasuk (verse) in Yehezkel (44:22) that appears to offer a different set of rules than those offered by the Torah. Specifically, the navi teaches that “Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor a divorced woman; but they shall take virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that is the widow of a priest.” From here it appears that a regular kohen cannot marry a widow – a prohibition that appears to be limited to the kohen gadol according to the Torah – unless her first husband was also a kohen, a distinction never made by the Torah.

    The Gemara suggests reinterpreting the end of the pasuk, so that rather than permitting a kohen to marry the widow of another kohen, it should be understood as permitting a regular kohen to marry a widow – something that is forbidden to the kohen gadol. Thus, the first half of the pasuk is understood to be teaching the rules of a kohen gadol, while the end of the pasuk is teaching the rules of a regular kohen.

    In response to the Gemara’s objection that biblical passages should not be divided up and be understood to be talking about two different circumstances, the Gemara points out that this is not uncommon in interpreting pesukim. Thus, we find that I Shmuel 3:3 “and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel lay down to sleep in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was,” cannot have Shmuel lying down to sleep in the Temple, since no one is permitted to even sit down there (with the exception of a Jewish king from the Davidic dynasty). Rather the pasuk must be understood to mean that “the lamp of God was not yet gone out … in the temple of the LORD” and that Shmuel lay down to sleep in his place.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  29. Kiddushin 79a-b: The contents of a barrel

    The Torah requires that terumot and ma’asrot – tithes given to kohanim and levi’im – be taken from produce after it is harvested. Fruits that are ordinarily processed (e.g. grapes that are made into wine or olives that are made into oil) may have the tithes taken from the final product.

    Our Gemara quotes a baraita that describes a situation where a person sets aside a barrel of wine that will be given as teruma to the kohen once the appropriate amount of wine has been used (rather than take a measure of wine for teruma each time a new batch of wine is made, this barrel was supposed to serve as a reservoir for taking tithes). If the wine in the barrel is found to have become vinegar, we can assume that it was still wine for three days after it was last checked – after that time, any wine that was tithed against this barrel must be viewed as safek (doubt) – it may not have been tithed properly and will have to be done again.

    Rashi explains that teruma on wine cannot be taken from vinegar, since they are not the same thing, and tithes must be taken from the same type of food. The Ritva argues that although vinegar and wine are considered the same, since no one would intentionally take teruma for wine from vinegar, it is considered to have been done by accident and cannot be counted.

    All wine contains traces of acid, which occasionally can turn the wine into vinegar. The speed with which oxidation occurs depends on a number of different factors – the level of alcohol in the wine, the cleanliness of the container, the surrounding temperature, and more. Sine this process can take some time, there are different stages in the development of the vinegar, from an acidic taste in wine up to a full change from wine to vinegar.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  30. Kiddushin 80a-b: Seclusion

    The Mishna on our daf (page) introduces the concept of yihud – that a man and woman who are not married to each other should not be in a secluded place together, for fear of sexual impropriety between them. According to the Tanna Kamma (first), a man should not allow himself to be alone with a woman, or even with two women; a woman cannot be alone with a single man, but if there are a number of men, then there is no problem of yihud. According to the Gemara, we fear that the two women will allow sexual relations to take place between the other man and woman, but that men would be embarrassed about engaging in relations in front of one another.

    Our Gemara quotes Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav who limits the leniency with regard to a woman being alone with a group of men to situations where the men are known to be kesheirim – “kosher,” i.e. reliable people. To support this contention Rav Yosef points out that it is not unusual for a group of men to conspire to steal something together, with no embarrassment from one another.

    In searching for a source for the halakha of yihud, the Gemara brings Rabbi Yohanan quoting Rabbi Yishmael as saying that a hint (remez) for this law can be found in a passage in Sefer Devarim (13:7) that is discussing idol worship. The pasuk (verse) warns that a person might be enticed to idol worship by his brother, the son of his mother. Why does the Torah suggest that the enticement will come from a brother from his mother rather than from his father? The implication is that brothers from the same mother can spend time together – and with her (yihud does not apply to parents and their children) – but brothers who share a father but have different mothers could not be together, since there would be a problem of yihud.

    The Talmud Yerushalmi brings the same passage as the source for yihud, but emphasizes the entire pasuk, which includes not only a brother but also a son or a daughter who entices you ba-seter – in secret – to worship idols. From here we can conclude that immediate family relatives can be together ba-seter.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  31. Kiddushin 81a-b: There’s a fire in the house!

    On yesterday’s daf (page) we learned of the Sages’ concern with private interactions between men and women lest they lead to sexual impropriety, and the laws of yihud – of forbidding a man and woman from being alone in a secluded place. Our Gemara clarifies that in circumstances where the likelihood of impropriety is small – e.g. ba’alah ba’ir (the woman’s husband is nearby) or petah patu’ah le-reshut ha-rabim (there is an open entrance to a public place) – the prohibition of yihud does not exist.

    Those exceptions notwithstanding, the Sages were well aware of the power of sexual drives, and tell stories about upstanding members of the community who were saved from sinning only at the last moment. Some of the examples include:

    A group of women who had been held captive were redeemed by the community of Neharde’a and were lodged in the home of Rav Amram Hasida (“the pious”). He arranged for them to sleep in his attic and had the ladder leading to the attic removed at night so that no one would disturb them. One of them passed by the opening to the attic, and seeing her, Rav Amram was so overwhelmed with desire for her that he lifted the heavy ladder on his own and began to climb towards the attic. Halfway up Rav Amram realized what he was doing and began to shout “there is a fire in Rav Amram’s house.” In response to his shouts, the Sages came running to help and found him in his bedclothes climbing up towards the women. Upon bringing him down he was accused of embarrassing them before the community that could plainly see what Rav Amram’s intentions were. Rav Amram responded that it is better that the members of his household should be embarrassed in this world rather than in the next world.

    The Maharsha writes that aside from the embarrassment involved, Rav Amram could not be accused of lying. When he shouted that there was a fire in Rav Amram’s house, he was telling the truth – not a fire that threatened the house physically, but the fire of his evil desire that threatened him spiritually. Rav Amram made use of the simple meaning of his shout to attract the crowd who thought that there was a “real” fire, and who would thereby “save” him from the spiritual “fire” that was burning.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  32. Kiddushin 82a-b: In accordance with one’s merit

    On the closing daf (page) of Massekhet Kiddushin we find the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Meir – a parent should teach his son a clean and easy profession, and should pray to Him to whom all wealth and property belong, since every profession has both poverty and wealth . Thus we recognize that neither poverty nor wealth stem from the profession itself, rather all is according to one’s merit (zekhuto). In response to this the Mishna quotes other opinions about the need to work and learn a profession, closing with Rabbi Nehorai who said that he put aside all worldly professions and taught his son only Torah, whose rewards allow a person to benefit from them in this world, while leaving over capital for use in the World to Come.

    Many question the meaning of Rabbi Nehorai’s teaching, since in the first perek (chapter) of Massekhet Kiddushin (29a) the Gemara quotes a baraita that a father is required to teach his son a trade, and Rabbi Yehuda comments that a father who does not do so effectively teaches him to be a thief. One approach is to recognize that Rabbi Nehorai did not present this as a general ruling, rather he described a personal choice that he made for his family, something that is possible for a small minority of people to do. The Penei Yehoshua suggests that Rabbi Nehorai’s son showed unique promise as a child, which is why his father chose to dedicate his son’s education solely to Torah.

    With regard to Rabbi Meir’s statement that an individual’s monetary success is the result of zekhuto (his merit), Tosafot argue that it cannot mean the merit of his mitzvot, since the Sages do not connect mitzvot to worldly success, rather they suggest that it depends on a person’s mazal (what we usually translate as luck). The approach of some of the Ge’onim is that in this case zekhuto should be understood to mean the effort and exertion that a person puts into his work, and that Rabbi Meir is championing the promise of hard work in making someone successful.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

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