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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  1. Massekhet Kiddushin: An Introduction to the Tractate

    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. A family is not created simply by having a man and a woman live together, or even if they have children together. Such relationships certainly have significance, but they do not create the singular relationship of marriage. The close relationship of marriage creates family even without any shared blood lines or genetic material – the relationship is, in some ways, even closer than that. In the words of the Bible they have become basar ehad – one flesh, a single entity (see Bereshit 2:24). The relationship of marriage comes about by means of a formal, legal act called kiddushin.

    From the perspective of halakha, kiddushin is a positive commandment whose fulfillment is dependent on the existence of the appropriate opportunity. When a man decides to marry a woman – which he must do in order to fulfill the commandment of peru u’revu (to be fruitful and multiply) – he must do so by means of kiddushin, or betrothal. (In the Torah this betrothal is called eirusin.) Massekhet Kiddushin does not focus of the mitzva involved, nor on the marriage ceremony, rather on the legal ramifications of this union.

    The relationship of kiddushin does not complete the marriage, since a second ceremony, called nisuin, is what actually allows the couple to begin their lives as a married couple. Nevertheless, the kiddushin is what establishes the basic relationships and responsibilities between the husband and wife.

    The details of kiddushin are not spelled out in the Torah, and they appear in the Gemara as oral traditions or are derived from a close reading of biblical passages. Although there are disagreements about details, most of the basic issues are agreed upon. There are four fundamental components of marriage according to Jewish law:
    The manner in which the betrothal is effected
    Intent – The agreement and expressed desire of the man and woman to marry
    Two witnesses who are present at the moment of kiddushin
    The man and woman must be people who can marry one-another

    According to the Mishna, there are three methods that can be used to create kiddushin:
    Kesef – The man offers the woman money or an object of value, stating that it is for the purpose of marriage
    Shetar – The man gives a document to the woman that indicates that he is marrying her with this paper
    Bi’ah – An act of sexual intercourse that is performed for the express purpose of consummating marriage.

    As stated, both husband and wife must enter into the relationship of marriage by their own free will. It is therefore essential that the parties must be intelligent and aware at the time of the marriage. (One exception is a case where the wife is a minor, where the Torah allows the woman’s father to arrange a marriage on her behalf.)

    The role of the witnesses at a wedding is not merely to testify that the marriage took place, rather they are essential to the act of marriage itself. Without witnesses the marriage has no meaning, even if both parties attest to the fact that they exchanged vows or presents with the intention of marrying.

    Finally, the husband and wife must be people who can marry each other. Marriage of a Jew and a non-Jew, for example, has no significance according to Jewish law. Similarly, if they are close relatives – arayot – the act of marriage has no meaning, although if they are merely forbidden to each other, even because of a Torah law (e.g. a kohen marrying a divorcee), the kiddushin will take effect, even though the couple will not be allowed to live together.

    Betrothal is an act of acquisition, similar to other types of acquisition in a number of ways. However, there are also unique halakhot that apply, and the relationship that this act of acquisition establishes is essentially non-acquisitional; rather it unifies two individuals as one new entity.

    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 2a-b: A woman is acquired in three ways

    The first perek (chapter) of Massekhet Kiddushin focuses on “acquisitions” – beginning with “acquiring” a wife, and continuing with discussion of other types of purchases. This stems from the fact that according to Jewish law, marriage is a type of kinyan, involving an act of acquisition. The Mishna teaches that a wife is “acquired” by her husband by means of three methods (the Talmud Yerushalmi makes clear that the intention is one of three methods) – kesef (money), shetar (a document) and bi’ah (sexual intercourse).

    In kesef the man offers the woman money or an object of value, stating that it is for the purpose of marriage. In shetar the man gives a document to the woman that indicates that he is marrying her with this paper. In bi’ah an act of sexual intercourse is performed for the express purpose of consummating marriage.

    According to the Rambam (Hilkhot Ishut, 1:2) it appears that only the last two methods – shetar and bi’ah – are of biblical origin, while kesef (which is the method most often used) is mi-divrei soferim – of rabbinic origin. Virtually all of the rishonim disagree, arguing that kesef is biblical, as well. Some suggest (see, for example, the Meiri) that the Rambam later changed his mind, while according to others, the Rambam does not really mean to say that kesef works only on a rabbinic level. They explain that the Rambam distinguishes between laws that are clearly written in the Torah (or are derived from a straightforward reading of the Torah) and those laws that are derived from some of the hermeneutic devices applied by the Sages. Halakhot derived in that manner are referred to by the Rambam as divrei soferim even though they have the same level of seriousness and severity as laws that are clearly learned from the Torah.

    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 3a-b: Examining the ways

    Much of the first two dapim (pages) of the Gemara in Massekhet Kiddushin deal with technical questions of language that are not the usual topics of discussion in the Gemara. In explanation of this odd dialogue, Rav Sherira Ga’on, as well as many of the rishonim explain that these pages are not part of the original Gemara , rather they are a later addition from the time of the sabora’im – the Sages who followed the amora’im of the Gemara – or, perhaps the early ge’onim.

    For example, one of the discussions is the question of the language chosen by the Mishna, which writes that ha-ishah niknet be-shalosh derakhim – that there are three ways to effect marriage – kesef (money), shetar (a document) and bi’ah (sexual intercourse). Is the word derekh (a means or manner) masculine or feminine? Our Mishna treats it as feminine – yet other Mishnayot appear to view the word as masculine. [Unlike the English language, which treats most objects as gender neutral, making use of the word “it,” many other languages – including Hebrew – apply a gender to virtually all objects.]

    Another discussion is why the Mishna chose to use the word derakhim rather than the word devarim (there are three things that can be used to effect marriage). We find both derakhim and devarim in different contexts, and the Gemara searches for a reason for choosing to use one rather than the other. An example is a discussion about the etrog, which is similar to a fruit in three ways (be-shelosha derakhim) and to a vegetable in one way (be-derekh ehad).

    The etrog (Citrus medica L.) differs in several ways from other trees common to the land of Israel in ancient times. One of them is the need for constant watering – similar to other citrus fruits – since the winter rains do not suffice for its needs. Also, it produces fruit throughout the year so that ripe fruits and developing fruits may be on the tree at the same time. Thus we find that the Sages compared the etrog to a vegetable in certain ways, in that vegetables also need constant watering and are not necessarily specific to a given growing season.

    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 4a-b: She shall go out free, without payment

    According to Jewish law, a father has the right to “sell” his daughter to a man as an amah ivriyah – a Jewish servant girl (See Shemot 21:7). From the Torah it appears clear that the purpose of such an arrangement is for the “master” to have his son (or himself) marry the girl, since the Torah concludes that if such a marriage does not take place ve-yatzah hinam, ein kasef – that she goes free without any payment being made.

    In explanation of this passage, the baraita teaches that ve-yatzah hinam, ein kasef means that she will not need to pay in order to be released either after she becomes a na’arah (at age 12) or when she becomes a bogeret (an adult, at age 12 and a half). The amora’im discuss why both statements are needed – after all, if she is released at age 12, how can there be a need to release her again at age twelve and a half? Abaye explains that this refers to the case of an ailonit – a woman who never develops to female physical maturity, who skips the stage of being a na’arah.

    From the detailed discussions in the Gemara – mainly in Massekhet Yevamot – it appears that an ailonit suffers from a genetic defect that does not allow her to have children. This is a different categorization than an akarah – a barren woman – whose physical and sexual development is ordinarily normal, but cannot have children because of some other deficiency or impediment. From those descriptions it appears that an ailonit can be recognized by certain unique physical traits, including a lack of secondary sex characteristics like pubic hairs. Furthermore, it appears from the Gemara that there are different types of ailonit, ranging from women who have an overabundance of male hormones to those who suffer from Turner syndrome, where only one X chromosome is present and fully functioning. Approximately 98% of all fetuses with Turner syndrome spontaneously abort; the incidence of Turner syndrome in live female births is believed to be about 1 in 2500.

    Within Jewish law there are many discussions about the status of an ailonit, mainly because of the lack of secondary female sex characteristics and because they develop at a relatively advanced age. Thus we find questions about when an ailonit is considered to have reached the age of adulthood, which halakha ordinarily defines as physical maturity.

    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 5a-b: Divorce and betrothal, in writing

    As we have learned, one of the methods that can be used to create a marriage is shetar – a document that states “behold you are married to me” – that is given by the man to the woman. Our Gemara searches for a source for this law, and the suggestion is raised that we learn this concept from the fact that a document – a get – can be used to end the marital relationship, so similarly it can be used to create such a relationship. In response the Gemara asks whether we should conclude that just as a marriage can be created by the transferring of money, perhaps a divorce can be done with money, as well! A number of answers are offered; Rabbi Yosei HaGelili suggests the passage sefer keritut – a written scroll of severance – that appears in reference to a divorce should be understood to mean that only a “written scroll” will effect the separation, and nothing else will. Other Sages suggest that this passage teaches a different law – that a divorce must create a total separation between the husband and the wife.

    When a man writes a get to divorce his wife, he can make the divorce conditional on a specific thing that the woman will do, but the divorce cannot allow him to retain any level of involvement in her life. Thus, if the husband makes the divorce conditional by saying “this is your get on the condition that you do not go to your father’s house for the next 30 days,” the get will be a good one, assuming that the wife fulfills the condition and does not go to her father’s house for 30 days. If, however, the condition was open-ended – the husband said that the get was conditional on her refraining from going to her father’s house forever – then the get cannot work, since the husband would still be in control of his wife’s activities even after the divorce, when their relationship must in fact be severed.

    The rishonim ask why we must view the condition keeping the wife from going to her father’s house as being open-ended. Given the fact that her father may die or the house may be destroyed we should recognize the possibility of closure in this case, when it will become clear that the woman has fulfilled the condition, allowing the divorce to take effect.

    The general attitude taken in response to this question is that the condition not to enter the house remains even after her father’s death. This is the case because of the husband’s use of the term, le-olam – forever, or because the husband’s intent was to put a prohibition on the house (his statement is understood to mean that she cannot enter the house which today is owned or occupied by her father), or because we view the house as the patriarchal home, even after the father’s death. Similarly, the possibility that the house may fall or be destroyed is hardly something that we can be certain will happen, leaving the wife in a state of limbo, which we will not allow.

    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 6a-b: Language of betrothal

    One of the questions that our Gemara deals with is the language that will work when creating kiddushin – when getting betrothed. As we have learned, if a man gives a woman money and there are appropriate witnesses watching the transaction, we will need the husband to make clear his intention, so that we can be certain that both he and she understand what is taking place.

    Some expressions are clearly acceptable, e.g. harei at ishti – “You are hereby my wife” or harei at arusati – “you are hereby my betrothed.” Other statements are not so clear. Among the examples offered by the Gemara are words that are used in the Bible, describing the creation of Adam’s wife, Havah, e.g. harei at ezrati – “you are hereby my helper” or harei at tzalati – “you are hereby my rib.”

    There is one expression – harei at harufati – that, according to the Gemara’s conclusion – will only work in Yehuda (the southern part of Israel) since in Yehuda it was common practice to refer to an engaged woman as a harufa. The expression harufa has a biblical source (see Vayikra 19:20) where the word certainly means a woman who is engaged to be married. Nevertheless, the biblical commentaries have great difficulty in offering a true definition of the word.

    Some of the commentaries ask why an expression that is specific to a certain place can be used, since in other areas of Jewish law no such accommodation is made. Several different answers are offered in response to this question.
    •Yehuda is a large and significant area and can have its own recognized expressions
    •This particular expression has a source in the Torah
    •We recognize that not every community will speak Hebrew, and foreign languages are also acceptable in situations like these. This expression is no worse than a foreign language.

    In fact, the Talmud mentions on more than one occasion that the people of Yehuda spoke a more pure form of Hebrew than was spoken in other parts of the country.

    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 7a-b: Betrothal to half a man

    Rava raises an apparent oddity in a situation of marriage. According to Rava, if a man says to a woman “Be betrothed to half of me” the marriage takes effect; if he says to her, however, “half of you is betrothed to me” the marriage does not work. In response to Abaye’s objection that the Torah describes marriage in the words ki yikah ish ishah – when a man takes a woman as his wife – indicating that both husband and wife are full and complete, Rava explains that since according to the letter of the law a man can marry more than one woman, therefore the statement “you are betrothed to half of me” has meaning. A woman can be married to one man only, so saying “half of you is betrothed to me” has no meaning whatsoever.

    One question raised by the commentaries is why the man would need to make a statement that he retains the right to marry an additional woman (the interpretation given by Rava to his statement that only half of him will be married to her). Biblical law allows him to marry a second wife, so there should be no reason to include such a statement as a condition of the marriage!

    Tosafot R”i HaZaken points out that ordinarily a person can only take a second wife if he has the means to support both. Making such a condition allows him to marry a second wife under all situations. The Ritva essentially agrees with this approach, adding that stating the condition will at least protect the husband from his first wife’s objections to a second marriage, or it might allow him to marry a second time even in communities where such a practice was not accepted.

    A student of the Rashba argues that this statement is not necessary; the point of the Gemara is to teach us that even a lashon geru’ah – a weak expression of marriage – will, nevertheless create a full marital relationship as long as the statement does not detract from the marriage itself.

    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 8a-b: An invalid betrothal

    As we have learned, when ruling about issues of marriage, it is essential that the statements of the man and the woman be clearly understood – to both each other and to those witnessing the event. The Gemara on our daf (page) presents a series of cases where it appears that the woman is accepting kiddushin from the man, but upon closer examination of the case, she may be rejecting it.

    For example, if a man hands a woman a coin and says hitkadshi li be-maneh – marry me with this coin – and she takes it from him and throws it into the ocean or into a fire, we interpret her actions to mean that she is rejecting his offer of marriage. The Gemara explains that we need to state this clearly lest someone argue that she had accepted the money, and is now simply testing her husband’s ability to deal with anger. The Meiri explains that in all such cases we must rely on the understanding of the witnesses and the interpretation of the events made by the court.

    In a similar case, the Gemara says that a man who offers a woman a loaf of bread, if she says “give it to the dog” we understand that she is rejecting the offer of marriage. If, however, the dog belonged to her, then the betrothal takes effect.

    A case presented by the Gemara that ends with a different conclusion is when the woman responds to the offer of a loaf of bread by saying “give it to that poor person.” In this case, the poor person was someone who she regularly supported. The Gemara explains that in the case of a poor person, since the man is as obligated to support him as the woman is, her directive does not indicate acquiescence.

    The Talmud Yerushalmi offers a similar case with a different conclusion. If a man offers a sela (a fairly large coin) to a woman, and she instructs him to give it to a poor person, the kiddushin does take effect. Most of the commentaries point to this as an example of disagreements between the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi. Others suggest that we must distinguish between a loaf of bread, which is a small thing and a valuable sela, which would not ordinarily be given to a poor person as charity.

    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 9a-b: A document of betrothal written for her sake

    As we learned in the first Mishna (2a), a wife is “acquired” by her husband by means of one of three methods – kesef (money), shetar (a document) and bi’ah (sexual intercourse). The Gemara on our daf (page) examines the rules and regulations surrounding marriage done by use of a shetar. Unlike kesef, which must have some minimal value, the importance of the shetar lies in the words that appear on the document. Thus, the focus of discussion is on what the document must say.

    Reish Lakish presents one dilemma – must the document be written with a particular man and woman in mind, or can the scribe produce generic shetarot that can be used by anyone? The discussion in the Gemara revolves around the question of comparison. Should a shetar kiddushin be seen as parallel to kesef kiddushin, and just as money can be used for marriage without any special requirements, so a document can simply say “with this document I wed thee” or should it be seen as being similar to a get – a divorce document – which must be written with a specific husband and wife in mind? The Gemara states that Reish Lakish eventually answered his own question by noting the passage in Devarim (24:2) that juxtaposes marriage and divorce. From this he concludes that the shetar must be written lishmah, for her sake – with the specific man and woman in mind.

    Even with this conclusion, the rishonim discuss whether the names of the couple getting married must be written into the shetar. The Ramban compares the shetar kiddushin to the get, arguing that we must follow the rules of gittin. Since he concludes that a get requires the names of the two parties, a shetar kiddushin will, as well. The Ritva points out that there is no mention of any such requirement in our Gemara, and the Meiri quotes the Talmud Yerushalmi that offers a standard form for a shetar kiddushin that does not appear to require the names of the husband and wife.

    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 10a-b: Betrothal and teruma

    Anyone who pays attention to a contemporary Jewish marriage ceremony will notice that there are two distinct parts to it:

    1. kiddushin (betrothal), where the husband offers a wedding band to his wife, asking her to marry him, and

    2. nisuin (marriage), when the husband and wife become a family by entering their home, symbolized by the huppa (wedding canopy) under which they stand.

    These two parts of the ceremony are usually symbolically separated from one another by a speech and/or the reading of the ketuba.

    The discussion that we have seen in Massekhet Kiddushin up to this point deals only with the first part of marriage. During Talmudic times, it was common practice to separate these two elements of marriage by several months, during which time both the bride and the groom would have time to prepare for the wedding and the marriage. During that time they are considered by halakha to be a married couple, even as they continue to live separately from each other. Are they considered married to the extent that she can begin to eat teruma (tithes that are permitted only to kohanim and members of their families)?

    The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that the ruling of the Mishna in Ketubot permitting a woman to being to eat teruma when the time for the wedding has arrived is a mishna emtza’it – a “middle mishna.” This means that over time the ruling with regard to a betrothed woman eating teruma changed a number of times. The original ruling (mishna rishona) allowed a woman who receives kiddushin from a kohen to begin to eat teruma immediately, since they are considered by the halakha to be a fully married couple at that time. The ruling of the second historical stage, allowed her to eat teruma only after it became the husband’s responsibility to feed her, i.e. a year after the original kiddushin. The final conclusion (mishna aharona) allows her to eat teruma only after the nisuin.

    Two reasons are suggested by the Gemara for changes in this ruling. Ulla suggests that it is due to our concern that while she is living in her parents’ home we fear that she may share the teruma with her siblings who are not allowed to eat it. According to Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yehuda it is because of simfon – an annulling factor. The specific concern is that an issue may arise that will lead the marriage agreement to be annulled, and we will discover that the bride was eating forbidden teruma since there was no 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.

  11. Kiddushin 11a-b: If one betroths a woman with money

    According to the Mishna, when a man marries a woman by means of money, the minimum amount is, according to Beit Hillel, a peruta and according to Beit Shammai, a dinar. While Beit Hillel’s position is fairly easy to understand – a peruta is the smallest standard denomination coin, Beit Shammai’s position demands some explanation, and it is discussed on our daf (page).

    Rabbi Zeira suggests that Beit Shammai is simply looking out for the honor of Jewish women, who demand more than a small denomination coin. Rav Yosef suggests that the need for a dinar is based on the teaching of Rav Yehuda quoting Rav Asi, who rules that money required by the Torah is kesef tzuri (Tyrian coinage) while money required by the rabbinic Sages is kesef medina (provincial coinage).

    Generally speaking, during the time of the Talmud there were two types of coins. Matbe’ah tzuri was a silver-based coin that was viewed as being biblical money. Kesef medina were coins that had the same names as the more valuable matbe’ah tzuri, but were made of cheaper metals and were worth one-eighth the value of kesef tzuri. Different values for coins with identical names were not uncommon in the ancient world and this phenomenon still exists in some places today, where paper money may have the same name as a gold coin, for example, but is worth significantly less. It is therefore essential to determine which coin is being discussed.

    According to Beit Shammai, since we are dealing with a biblical law, we look for the smallest coin that was used in kesef tzuri, which was the equivalent of a dinar.

    The dinar – whose source is the Latin denarius, which originally meant “ten,” representing the fact that a dinar was worth ten issarim – discussed in the Mishna was a silver coin, popular in the Roman Empire. It weighed about 3.9 grams, although in later times the pure silver was mixed with copper and it became devalued. Popular figures on a Roman dinar were Nero and Vespasian.

    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 12a-b: Betrothal in the marketplace

    As we have learned, according to Jewish law there are three methods for creating kiddushin – a betrothal – kesef (payment of money), shetar (a formal marriage document) or bi’ah (sexual relations performed with the intention of effecting marriage). The Gemara on our daf (page) describes a man who handed a woman a hadas – a myrtle branch – in the marketplace and asked her to marry him. Rav Yosef ruled that we must treat it like a marriage based on Shmuel’s ruling (that even something of little value may create a marriage, since it might be worth a peruta in another place), and we will give the man lashes, based on Rav’s ruling.

    In explanation of this idea, the Gemara brings the ruling of Rav who would punish people who agreed to have kiddushin by means of a sexual encounter, even though this is one of the three methods of which the Mishna approves. Similarly, Rav punished people who agreed to kiddushin in the marketplace or without a properly arranged shiddukh.

    The reason behind all of Rav’s punishments is that, notwithstanding the letter of the law which permits a sexual act to solidify a marriage agreement, such behavior shows a lack of respect for privacy and modesty, which are the very foundations of marriage. Furthermore, agreeing to marry when standing in the marketplace or without proper preparations indicates that this is seen as happenstance and is reminiscent of a “one-night stand” rather than a true marriage.

    The idea of shiddukh that appears in the Gemara is originally an Aramaic word whose meaning appears to be “to calm” or “to quiet.” This led to the meaning of appeasing others so as to reach an agreement, specifically with regard to a marriage agreement.

    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 13a-b: Betrothal by stolen property

    The most common method of kiddushin – betrothal – is the use of kesef kiddushin, where an object of value is given by a man to a woman with an agreement made between them that she accepts it for the purposes of marriage. What if the money that he had was money that he stole? Can stolen money be used for kiddushin?

    The Gemara on our daf (page) tells of a woman who was selling varshekhei. A man came and snatched some of the varshekhei. When she demanded that he return them he said “if I return them will you marry me?” She took them back from him without saying anything. Rav Nahman ruled that there was no marriage in this case, since the woman can claim that she was taking something that in any case belonged to her. In response to Rav Nahman’s ruling Rava points to a baraita that clearly rules that a man can marry a woman with money that he stole, and even if he snatched a coin from her hand and then returned it to her, the kiddushin takes effect! Rav Nahman explains that the ruling of the baraita would be true only if they had discussed – and agreed – to marriage beforehand. In our case, where no such discussion took place, the attempt at kiddushin will not work.

    Several explanations are offered for the case in the baraita. The Rashba, for example, argues that the kiddushin does not work because of the value of the coin that he gives her, since it is her coin. Rather, she agrees to marry him based on the satisfaction that she receives in having her object returned to her (that satisfaction is considered as having a monetary value).

    Regarding the varshekhei that are at the center of the discussion in our Gemara, they are apparently belts, based on a similar word in Middle Persian. Rashi defines them as being ribbons of some sort. Rabbeinu Gershom suggests that they are scarves, while Rabbeinu Hananel translates the word to mean pearls.

    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 14a-b: The mitzva of levirate marriage

    The Mishna that opens Massekhet Kiddushin (2a) discusses not only a normal situation of marriage, but also the case of yibbum – levirate marriage. On a biblical level, yibbum can only be done with bi’ah – sexual relations between the widow and her brother-in-law.

    The passage in the Torah that is the source for the mitzva of yibbum is found in Sefer Devarim (25:5), which describes how, in the event that a man dies with no children, his widow should not marry an outsider, but rather yevamah yavo aleha, u-lekahah lo le-isha, ve-yibmah – the surviving brother should come upon her, and take her as a wife, fulfilling the mitzva of yibbum with her.

    Our Gemara brings a number of derashot – derivations of halakha – from this passage, learning that the yevama is different than an ordinary woman, in that only bi’ah will create the marriage.

    Examples of laws that are derived from this passage include:
    •that the performance of yibbum is the fulfillment of a mitzva
    •that the sexual act will accomplish yibbum, whether or not it was done with intent
    •that any sexual act, whether “natural” or “unnatural,” will complete the yibbum.

    Based on the first principle mentioned above, several poskim rule that the yavam (the surviving brother) should make a blessing before performing yibbum, since the performance of every mitzva requires a berakha beforehand (see Shulhan Arukh, Even HaEzer 166).

    In answer to the question of why we need a specific teaching for the idea that any sexual act whether “natural” or “unnatural” will complete the yibbum, given the general principle that halakha always treats any act of sexual intercourse as having halakhic significance, the Ramban suggests that we may have thought that yibbum should be an exception to that rule. Given that yibbum focuses on continuing the name of the brother who had passed away, we may have thought that only a sexual act that potentially could have led to pregnancy would have been significant. Thus we need to be taught that even in the case of yibbum any sexual act will suffice to fulfill the mitzva.

    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 15a-b: Acquiring a Hebrew slave

    The second Mishna in Massekhet Kiddushin (14b) leaves the realm of marriage and focuses on the status of an eved ivri – a Hebrew slave – and specifically on how such slaves are acquired and how they are granted their freedom. Ordinarily, a male Hebrew slave is acquired by means of kesef (money) or shetar (a contract), and leaves slavery after six years of work, or when the yovel (the Jubilee year) arrives or by paying back the value of his remaining years.

    Although the common perception today is that slavery is inhumane, the situation of an eved ivri is more similar to a long-term contract, in that the slave must be treated with great respect. The Gemara understands from the passage ki tov lo imakh – that some slaves choose to remain beyond their assigned years because they find their situation to be a good one (see Shemot 21:5) – that the master is obligated to ensure that the slave join him in eating and his drinking. At the same time, the eved ivri is a slave who is obligated to work at his assigned tasks. The baraita even requires him to work day and night, and Rabbi Yitzhak explains that his work at night would be to sleep with a non-Hebrew female slave and that the offspring that would be produced from this relationship would belong to the master.

    The Meiri explains Rabbi Yitzhak’s teaching as follows. Since it is impossible to accept the fact that a Hebrew slave should really be obligated to work a 24-hour day, we must find a service that he can perform for his master at night that does not involve labor or toil. Thus we conclude that he must perform this service, which he will be obligated to do in his position as an eved.

    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 16a-b: A Hebrew maidservant acquires herself

    As we have seen, the second Mishna in Massekhet Kiddushin (14b) leaves the realm of marriage and focuses on the status of an eved ivri – a Hebrew slave – and specifically on how such slaves are acquired and how they are granted their freedom. While a male Hebrew slave is freed from his status as an eved ivri after completing six years of work, or when the yovel (the Jubilee year) arrives or by paying back the value of his remaining years, an amah ivriyah – a Hebrew maidservant – will also be released upon reaching physical maturity.

    When discussing physical maturity, the Gemara uses the expression simanim – has the young woman shown “signs,” that is to say, signs of physical maturity. Generally speaking, this refers to the appearance of pubic hairs (in the terminology of the Gemara, shetay sa’arot – at least two hairs). Obviously, every child differs in his or her physical development and there is no precise time when these simanim will appear. The age that they appear depends on many factors, including their family genetic history, issues of climate and nutrition. Nevertheless, there are average times that we anticipate the appearance of simanim, and, as the Gemara points out, if they appear years earlier they will not be seen as a true indicator of physical maturity.

    The reason an amah ivriyah leaves her master’s house with the appearance of simanim is because the true purpose of such an arrangement is for the “master” to have his son (or himself) marry the girl. If the betrothal has not taken place by the time she is old enough to be married – in a society where marriages were expected to take place at a young age, the Torah concludes that ve-yatzah hinam, ein kasef – that she goes free without any payment being made (see Shemot 21:7).

    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 17a-b: The convert and the inheritance

    The Torah has extensive laws that deal with inheritance (see Bamidbar 27:5-11). Our Gemara discusses whether a man who owns an eved ivri – a Hebrew slave – will pass him to his son or daughter as an inheritance in the event that he dies. This discussion leads to a more general survey of the laws of inheritance, including the perspective that Jewish law has towards non-Jews, what they own, and how they bequeath it.

    Rava teaches that Jewish law recognizes – on a Torah level – a non-Jew’s ownership of property and his ability to pass it to his son as an inheritance. The fact that a convert to Judaism will also receive an inheritance from his father is presented by Rava as a law of rabbinic origin. This is based on the fact that Jewish law views a convert as a newborn, who has severed all ties with his biological family. Nevertheless, the Mishna (Demai 6:10) teaches that we allow him to receive his father’s inheritance, lest he feel that it is to his advantage to return to his non-Jewish life, and choose to leave Judaism.

    The idea that Jewish law views a convert as a newborn, who has severed all ties with his biological family is emphasized by the ruling presented in a Mishna (Shevi’it 10:9) that a person who borrows money from a convert whose sons converted with him, should not return it to the convert’s children (in the event that he dies). Since, according to the halakha they are not truly related to their biological father, who has died. Even if the borrower wanted to do it on his own accord, returning the money to the children is discouraged by the Sages.

    Although Rashi understands this ruling to indicate a lack of interest by the Sages in this case, and that it is left to the discretion of the borrower, other rishonim believe that the Sages actively discouraged paying back the children of a convert. They explain it as a rabbinic enactment whose purpose is to make it clear to people that the laws regarding converts are not identical with those of Jews from birth with regard to certain halakhot.

    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 18a-b: Designating a maidservant for betrothal

    As we have learned, the true purpose for which the Torah allows a father to “sell” his daughter as an amah ivriyah is for the “master” to have his son (or himself) marry the girl. In this case the marriage is called yi’ud (see Shemot 21:9). Rabba bar Avuh raises the following question about yi’ud – is it nisuin (a complete marriage) or is it eirusin (betrothal, i.e. the first stage of marriage, which will need to be completed with nisuin)? The Gemara points out that the practical differences between these two possibilities will be whether he has the ability to be mefer her nedarim (can he nullify vows that she made – see Nedarim daf 67), Furthermore, in the event that she dies, will the husband inherit her property, or, if he is a kohen, will he be obligated to participate in her burial.

    Several explanations are offered to explain why yi’ud may effectively complete the marriage. The Meiri quotes the Ra’avad as comparing the case of amah ivriyah to a case of maser ha-av le-sheluhei ha-ba’al – when, in a regular case of a marriage arranged by the father, the father transfers his daughter into the hands of the husband’s messengers. That messirah – “handing over” – effectively moves the bride into her husband’s domain, completing the marriage. Similarly in our case, the amah ivriyah has been moved into her husband’s domain, and the nisuin is complete. The Pnei Yehoshua suggests that since the amah ivriyah is living in the same house as her betrothed, who can consummate the marriage at any time, we could conceivably view her as having had nisuin.

    The Rambam (Hilkhot Avadim 4:9) rules that yi’ud only accomplishes eirusin, so the marriage will only be completed with appropriate nisuin – the symbolic huppa (wedding canopy) that will bring her into his home as his wife.

    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 19a-b: The details of designation

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (page), the point of allowing a father to “sell” his daughter as an amah ivriyah is to promote the possibility of an arranged marriage between the girl and the “master” or his son through a process known as yi’ud (designation). Our daf discusses a number of laws connected with yi’ud. According to our Gemara, yi’ud takes place when the “master” says to the amah ivriyah “harei at mekuddeshet li” or “harei at me’oreset li” (normal expressions of marriage) before two witnesses, and begins to treat her like a wife rather than like a servant girl. The Shitta Mekubbetzet points out that the Torah has already obligated the new husband to treat the amah ivriyah as he would a regular wife once they are married. Nevertheless there are some immediate changes that take place that distinguish the newly married woman from her previous position as an amah ivriyah. One example is that as an amah ivriyah the girl was obligated to accept any work, and perform to the best of her ability. The husband-wife relationship requires only certain specific jobs to be done by the wife.

    Given the fact that yi’ud is the ultimate goal of “selling” a girl as an amah ivriyah, would a father be permitted to include a condition in the “sale” that yi’ud should not take place? In a baraita quoted on our daf, Rabbi Meir allows such a condition to be attached to the sale, while the Hakhamim rule that such a condition carries no weight, and that the master can choose to do yi’ud anyway. The position of the Hakhamim is based on the fact that they see yi’ud as being essential to the whole concept of an amah ivriyah, and by making this condition the father is matneh al mah she-katuv ba-Torah, ve-khol ha-matneh al mah shekatuv ba-Torah tena’o batel (he is stipulating a condition that negates a Torah law, and such a condition has no effect).

    The Talmud Yerushalmi points out that Rabbi Meir agrees to the idea that ha-matneh al mah shekatuv ba-Torah tena’o batel, but only in cases where the condition would negate a Torah obligation. Yi’ud, while recommended, may not take place, since it is left to the discretion of the master.

    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 20a-b: Because he fares well with you

    Although the common perception today is that slavery is inhumane, the situation of an eved ivri is more similar to a long-term contract, in that the slave must be treated with great respect. The Gemara understands from the passage ki tov lo imakh (“because he fares well with you”) – that some slaves choose to remain beyond their assigned years because they find their situation to be a good one (see Shemot 21:16) – that the master is obligated to ensure that the slave join him in eating and drinking. According to the baraita on our daf (page), the master cannot eat fine bread and feed his eved ivri poor bread; he cannot drink aged wine and have his eved ivri drink poorer quality wine; he cannot sleep on bedding made from soft sheets and have his eved ivri sleeping on straw. The baraita concludes with the expression kol ha-koneh eved, koneh adon le-atzmo – anyone who acquires a Hebrew slave is like one who has acquired a master for himself.

    The Meiri writes that these obligations on the master should be seen as recommendations – as good deeds. They are not monetary obligations that the master owes to his eved ivri, so the eved ivri could not, for example, take his master to court and sue him demanding a higher standard of living. Furthermore, the Meiri argues that even today, when we no longer have the concept of slavery, this attitude should inform contemporary relationships with workers, who should be housed, clothed and fed in a manner similar to that of the master. This is certainly true according to the opinion of Tosafot (15a) who bring a prooftext to this rule from the passage ke-sahir ketoshav ya’avod imakh (Vayikra 25:40) – that an eved ivri should be treated like a hired servant. The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that Rabbi Yohanan treated all who worked for him this way – even his non-Jewish 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 21a-b: And he shall serve him forever

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (page), far from being a life of pain and submission, a Hebrew slave was reputed to be a “master” to his owner, and was well-treated. Recognizing that this situation may encourage an eved ivri to choose to remain with his master, the Torah allowed for such a possibility (Shemot 21:5). According to the Torah, such an eved can choose to have his ear pierced with an awl (Shemot 21:6), at which time he will serve his master “forever.”

    Our Gemara focuses on the eved ivri who chooses to remain with his master. Will he remain with the master’s son after the master’s death? How long is “forever”? How must the technical application of the law that requires the eved ivri to have his ear pierced be applied? Must it be done with an awl?

    Based on a close reading of the pesukim (verses), the Gemara concludes that the eved nirtzah – the slave who has had his ear pierced – is only obligated to work for the master, and not his son. The term “forever” means until the yovel – the Jubilee year. With regard to the ear piercing itself, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi rules that it can be done with any metal implement, while Rabbi Yosei b’Rabbi Yehuda allows it to be done with other sharp objects, including a sol (a sharp thorn), a sira (a thorn), a mahat (needle), and anything that is held in one’s hand.

    The biblical sira is identified with the contemporary Sarcopoterium spinosum, a member of the Rosaceae family. Commonly referred to as thorny burnet, this plant is a low growing shrub that is very common in Israel, particularly in the hilly areas north of Be’er Sheva where it covers large areas near cultivated fields. Its branches are wooden, ending in branched thorns. The leaves are compound and pinnate; winter leaves are relatively large compared to the smaller summer leaves. Flowering season is from March to April. Its fruit is round with a brown-red color. Due to its thorns and intertwined leaves, objects can enter the shrub easily, but it is very difficult to remove them.

    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 22a-b: The slave’s wife and children

    As we have seen on the previous dapim (pages), the life of an eved ivri, a Hebrew slave, was regulated by the Torah and the Sages so that it was not true slavery, to the extent that kol ha-koneh eved, koneh adon le-atzmo – anyone who purchases a slave has bought a master for himself.

    Our Gemara focuses on the intent of the Torah when it instructs the master to set the eved ivri free at the end of his term of service together with his wife and children (see Shemot 21:2-3 and Vayikra 25:41). Although we have learned that the master must treat his eved ivri with great consideration, must he also support the slave’s wife and children? Why are they living in the master’s house, as well? The baraita concludes that the Torah, in fact, requires the master to support the eved ivri’s family, as well.

    The general approach to this law – which does not appear at first glance to have a source in the Torah, since even a husband and father may only be obligated to support his family on a Rabbinic level – is that it is the natural consequence of taking on the responsibilities of the person who was purchased. Since it is expected that the head of the household will support his family, that responsibility now falls on the master.

    We find that there is a disagreement among the rishonim about the responsibility that the eved ivri’s wife and children have towards the master. According to the Ramban (in his commentary to the Torah) and the Ritva, since they are being supported by the master, any income that they make belongs to him. The Rambam – basing himself on the Mekhilta – rules that they remain the charges of their husband and father, and that any income that they acquire would belong to the eved ivri.

    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 23a-b: The slave and ownership

    The Mishna (22b) discusses how non-Jewish slaves can be purchased or be freed. Such slaves can be bought with money, a document of purchase (shetar) or an act that symbolizes ownership (hazakah). There is a difference of opinion regarding methods that can be used allowing them to take possession of themselves (i.e., be freed from slavery). According to Rabbi Meir, someone else can purchase them, although they cannot purchase themselves; the Hakhamim allow a slave to purchase his own freedom, as long as the money that he uses belongs to someone else.

    Various suggestions are raised in the Gemara to explain these positions. The underlying issue is how the non-Jewish slave can own money with which to free himself, given the rule that anything he owns automatically belongs to his master. For example, Rabba quotes Rav Sheshet as explaining that the case is when someone else gives him money, saying that it is given on the condition that his master does not have rights to it. Rabbi Meir believes that the condition does not take effect and the money that was meant for the slave is taken by the master, while the Hakhamim rule that the condition works, and the money can be used to purchase the slave’s freedom.

    Why does Rabbi Meir reject the condition?

    The Ramban and Rashba argue that the person who makes such a condition is matneh al meh she-katuv ba-Torah – that his condition negates a biblical law, since as soon as the slave takes possession of anything, it immediately belongs to the master. The Ritva offers a different approach, arguing that this case is not a normal condition. Ordinarily a person may attach certain conditions to the recipient of a gift. In this case the condition is an attempt to limit the gift itself; to offer only limited ownership of the money that is being given. Such an attempt to retain rights to money that is being given as a gift has no legal basis.

    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 24a-b: A tooth and an eye

    As we saw on yesterday’s daf (page), our Gemara is dealing with the legal status of a non-Jewish slave. Aside from purchasing himself to gain his freedom, a non-Jewish slave goes free if his master knocks out a tooth or an eye (see Shemot 21:26-27) – or, as the Gemara teaches, if the master does other permanent damage to his other limbs.

    Our Gemara discusses this rule, and distinguishes between a case where the master physically injured his slave, causing him to become blind or deaf – in which case the slave would go free – and cases where he did not actually hit his eye or his ear, but the trauma of a near-miss causes the slave to lose his sight or his hearing, in which case he would not go free. The Gemara explains that even though we find that damage caused by indirect force is significant (e.g., the owner of a crowing rooster who succeeds in breaking a glass vessel with sound waves would be responsible for the damage), that would not apply to a person, since the damage is not caused by a physical blow, rather because he became frightened – a process that he is responsible for, and his master is not.

    The Gemara appears to be describing a hysterical reaction to an event, something that we know can bring about blindness or hearing loss. In such cases, even though there is no physical damage whatsoever, the psychological/emotional trauma does not allow the individual to make use of those senses, and he is effectively blind or deaf. As serious as those situations may be, they still do not meet the requirements of shen ve-ayin (the loss of a tooth or an eye) which would allow the slave to go free.

    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 25a-b: Hot and cold fish

    Aside from straightforward discussions of halakha we also find that the Gemara includes true-to-life experiences of how certain questions of Jewish law are decided both inside and outside of the study hall. In the course of discussing the laws about freeing a non-Jewish slave whose master injures him, the Gemara relates the following story:

    The elders of the city of Nezonya (according to Rabbeinu Hananel, a small city in Bavel, near Sura and near Rav Hisda’s hometown) did not attend Rav Hisda’s lecture. Rav Hisda instructed Rav Hamnuna to ostracize them for acting disrespectfully. When Rav Hamnuna inquired into their absence, the elders explained that they no longer show respect to Rav Hisda since he refused to respond to one of their questions. Rav Hamnuna offered to listen to their question and respond, but upon hearing it he could not come up with an answer. Our Gemara relates that the elders mocked him, saying “your name is not Hamnuna, but Karnuna!”

    Although it is likely that Rav Hamnuna’s name has its source in the Greek word for song – hymn – the city elders were playing with his name in some fashion. Some suggest that it is a reference to horns (karnayim). Rashi connects the expression with yoshvei keranot – people who sit on street corners instead of in the study hall. The Ritva takes this idea further, suggesting that Hamnuna implies trustworthiness, meaning that he is someone who can be relied upon in his learning.

    The rishonim question this approach, arguing that the fact that Rav Hamnuna could not respond to their question is not reason enough for accusations of his not being a scholar. Most rishonim follow the approach of Rabbeinu Hannanel that it is a play on words. Ham-nuna means “hot fish” – tasty fish. Kar-nuna, “cold fish” is not tasty, just as his inability to respond to their question left them disappointed.

    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 26a-b: Any amount of land

    Our Gemara quotes a Mishna in Pe’a ( 3:6), in which Rabbi Akiva taught that even a very small amount of land is obligated in pe’a (leaving a corner of the field unharvested for the poor) and bikurim (first fruits that were brought to Jerusalem) and could be used as the basis for writing a prosbol.

    According to the Torah, among other things the Sabbatical year annulled most private loans (see Devarim 15:1-3). Recognizing that lenders were reluctant to offer loans as the Sabbatical year approached – which was, itself forbidden by the Torah (see Devarim 15:9-11), Hillel HaZaken established a method that would allow the lenders to collect the debts that were owed to them, even after the Sabbatical year. His suggestion was to write a document – called a prosbol – that effectively turned the loan over to the courts, which were not constrained by the laws of shemita, since they do not apply to public debts. Thus, when the Sabbatical year was over, the court would be collecting the debt, rather than the individual. This legal fiction was viewed as a benefit for both the rich – who would not have been able to recover their loans – and the poor – who would now be able to borrow money when they needed to.

    Rashi explains the need for land as the basis for a prosbol as stemming from the fact that this law only applied to “normal” loans. In order to be considered a “normal” loan, land had to be made available as a guarantee that the loan would be repaid.

    The source for the term prosbol is Greek, although it is not entirely clear what the word refers to. One suggestion is that it means simply “an announcement delivered to the courts.” Another suggestion is that it means “the conclusion of a sale.” Other suggestions have been raised, 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.

  27. Kiddushin 27a-b: Extension of an oath

    Taking an oath in a beit din – a Jewish court of law – is considered a serious matter, one that cannot be taken lightly. It should be noted that unlike most modern-day courtrooms where the witnesses are asked to take an oath that they are telling the truth, in a beit din we ensure that the witnesses are reliable and are telling the truth in other ways. In a Jewish court an oath is imposed on the plaintiff when evidence demands that he support his claim by means of a serious, weighty statement.

    The Mishna (26a) teaches that when the beit din rules that an individual is obligated to take an oath on a specific matter, other issues that are in dispute can also be included in the oath, even if they are matters that ordinarily would not require an oath. The Gemara on our daf (page) discusses this rule, called gilgul shevua (literally “rolling over”, or extension, of an oath). Ulla teaches that the source for the concept of gilgul shevua is the law of sota – a woman whose husband suspects her of infidelity, who is brought to the Temple to be tested by drinking specially prepared “bitter waters.” We find that a sota who is required to take an oath that she did not commit adultery listens to the words of the kohen who is officiating at the ceremony and responds “Amen, Amen.” This response is interpreted by the Gemara to include not only her denial of an adulterous relationship with this specific man, but also another man and not only at this time, but at different points in her life, as well.

    According to the Rambam, it is not the kohen who initiates the gilgul shevua that requires that the oath include other situations beyond the one that she is accused of, rather he offers the option to the husband to include these, as well. According to the Rosh, however, it is the kohen – or, in our case, the beit din – who may choose to include other issues in an oath, beyond the one that is creating the obligation to take the oath.

    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 28a-b: The punishment fits the crime

    The Gemara on our daf (page) quotes a baraita that teaches:
    •If someone calls another person an eved (a slave), he is ostracized.
    •If one calls another a mamzer (the product of a forbidden sexual relationship), sofeg et ha-arba’im – he is liable to receive forty lashes.
    •If one calls another a rasha (a wicked person), yored imo le-hayyav – the insulted person can harass the accuser in all aspects of his life (i.e., the courts will not respond, but the individual who has been targeted as a rasha can take matters into his own hands).

    Rav Shmuel ben Hofni Gaon was asked why the different epithets receive such different punishments, and he answered that these were simply edicts that could not be explained. Rav Se’adya ibn Danan responded to this by arguing that such an explanation might be appropriate when dealing with a difficult-to-explain biblical law, but when discussing a rabbinic ordinance, there must be a logical explanation for their ruling.

    He suggests that each of these punishments fits the crime midah ke-neged midah – each in an appropriate fashion.

    •When someone calls his friend a slave, he is attempting to remove him from the Jewish community by means of his accusation. In response he himself is ostracized, which effectively removes the accuser from interaction with the community.
    •When someone calls his friend a mamzer, he is not impugning his Jewishness, but he is attempting to injure him personally, since, according to Jewish law, a mamzer is very limited in the people who he can marry. Therefore we punish the accuser personally by giving him malkot.
    •If someone calls his friend a rasha, that causes the slandered to lose the sympathy of others. In response we show no mercy on the accuser and allow the accused to harass him.

    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 29a-b: To study or to marry?

    What takes precedence – studying Torah or marriage?

    In discussing this question, each position is presented as the one that should be done first. Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as ruling that a person should first get married, and can study Torah later; Rabbi Yohanan objects, arguing rehayim be-tzavaro ve-ya’asok ba-Torah!? – with a millstone – i.e. the responsibilities of supporting a family – hanging from his neck, how can he study Torah!? He concludes that a person should study Torah first and get married afterwards.

    The Gemara concludes that there is really no disagreement between Rav Yehuda and Rabbi Yohanan; ha lan ve-ha lehu – the differing statements indicate the differences between the communities in Bavel and Israel. What the Gemara does not explain is which ruling is appropriate for which community and why that would be the case.

    Rashi explains Shmuel’s ruling as applying to students from Bavel who traveled to Israel to study. Since they were not at home, they were not responsible for supporting their families, and could marry first. Rabbi Yohanan was talking to Israeli students who remained at home and could not divest themselves of their responsibilities. They were, therefore, encouraged to study first and marry later.

    Tosafot do not accept Rashi’s explanation. They are disturbed by the idea that a man can choose to abandon his family in order to travel to a foreign land and study. Furthermore, the ruling that encouraged marriage before study was made at least partially to allow a man to learn Torah while having satisfied his natural sexual urges; if he leaves his wife behind in Bavel, this is not accomplished. Rabbeinu Tam suggests that Rabbi Yohanan was telling the poor students of Bavel that they should come to Israel for study before they take on the responsibilities of a family, while Shmuel was telling the wealthy Israeli students that they could marry, since they would remain at home during their studies.

    Some rishonim follow Rashi’s approach, but with a different explanation. In Bavel tradition allowed young women to work and support the family, so students who made such an arrangement could first marry. In Israel, where the entire responsibility of support was on the husband, students were told to first learn Torah and to marry later.

    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 30a-b: Torah study in three parts

    Rav Safra quotes Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananya as suggesting that the Torah’s use of ve-shinnantem as the expression used to command that parents teach their children Torah (see Devarim 6:7) should be understood to mean that Torah study should be divided into three parts, and a person should divide his years so that one third of the time is spent studying mikra (the written Torah), one third studying Mishna (oral traditions) and one third Gemara (underlying concepts and discussion of the Mishna). The Gemara objects to this suggestion, arguing that a person cannot possibly know how long he will live, and will not be able to divide up his time properly. In response the Gemara concludes that a person should divide up his days, rather than his years.

    Rashi understands the suggestion of dividing days to mean that the days of the week should be devoted to different areas of study. Tosafot disagree, and rule that every day should be divided up. This appears to be the source for the Ge’onic tradition – one that appears in our prayer books to this day – that includes korbanot, a section of readings culled from the written Torah, the Mishna and the Gemara, whose focus is on the daily sacrifices. Traditionally, people rely on a different suggestion raised by Tosafot in the name of Rabbeinu Tam, that the standard Babylonian Talmud includes a mixture of mikra, Mishna and Gemara, and its study fulfills the requirement of dividing the days between these different areas of Torah study.

    In his Likkutei Torah, Rav Shne’ur Zalman mi-Liadi suggests that the categories should be viewed more broadly, and that mikra refers not only to the written Torah, but also to the midrashim and commentaries written about it, while Mishna refers to the halakhic part of the Torah. This allows a person to keep a schedule of dividing Torah into three parts even as he develops intellectually and needs less time for “simpler” aspects of Torah study.

    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 31a-b: Greater is one who is commanded and performs

    Who gets more credit – someone who does mitzvot because he is obligated or someone who does mitzvot as a volunteer?

    Although most people’s immediate reaction is to give more credit to the volunteer who has indicated a personal desire to perform mitzvot, Rabbi Hanina rules gadol ha-mitzuveh ve-oseh me-me she-aino metzuveh ve-oseh – that someone who is commanded to perform a mitzva and does so is greater than someone who performs the commandment without being obligated to do so. The Gemara reports that upon hearing this teaching, Rabbi Yosef who was blind said that he would throw a party for the Sages who ruled against Rabbi Yehuda who says that blind people are not obligated to perform mitzvot, since he wanted to receive appropriate reward for his actions.

    Why would this be true? Several approaches are offered by the rishonim.

    Tosafot explain that a person who is commanded to perform mitzvot has a harder time doing them because his evil inclination discourages him from doing what he needs to do. A volunteer, who knows that he is not really obligated in the mitzva and can choose not to do it, does not have to resist his evil inclination when performing the mitzva. Tosafot Tokh suggests simply that there is less reward for someone who performs an action that may not be God’s will, as evidenced by the fact that he was not commanded to do it.

    The Rambam concludes from this Gemara that we cannot discount the actions performed by someone who was not commanded to do a mitzva, since the Gemara states that such a person receives less of a reward, but clearly he does receive some level of reward for doing what he did. Rabbeinu Tam goes so far as to use this Gemara as a source for his ruling that women who are not obligated in mitzvot aseh she-hazman gerama – positive commandments that are time-related – should, nevertheless, recite a blessing upon performing them. This has become the accepted ruling on this matter, at least in the Ashkenazi 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.

  32. Kiddushin 32a-b: Honoring one’s parents

    Our Gemara, whose focus has been the mutual obligations of parents to their children and children to their parents, concludes that the obligation of morah – awe of one’s parents (see Vayikra 19:3) – forbids a child from sitting in his father or mother’s place, contradicting them, etc. while kibbud – honor (see Shemot 20:11) – obligates a child to feed and clothe his parents. Who must pay for this? Is the child obligated to do so, or should the funds come from the parents’ money?

    Rav Yehuda rules that the child must pay; Rav Natan bar Oshaya rules that the parent must pay.

    The latter position is accepted by most of the rishonim as the halakha, that although the child must take the responsibility to make sure that the parent has what he or she needs, the child will not have to pay for it.

    What will the halakha be in a situation where the child is wealthy and the parent cannot afford to pay for his or her basic needs? Here the rishonim are clear that the child must pay whatever is necessary to support his or her parents, and that the courts will even force the child to do so, if necessary. The source of this obligation, however, is a point of dispute. Rabbeinu Tam sees it as a basic obligation of kibbud av va-em, arguing that the discussion in our Gemara was based on the assumption that the parent had enough money to pay for his or her needs. In the event that the parent cannot pay for those needs, the child will be obligated to do so. According to most of the rishonim, the child will not be obligated to support the parent because of kibbud av va-em, rather because of the child’s obligation of tzedaka – to give charity. With regard to charity, a person is obligated to give support to those who are closest, and the courts do have the right, according to Jewish law, to force a person to give what he can afford for communal needs.

    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.

  33. Kiddushin 33a-b: You shall stand and revere

    The passage mipnei seivah takum ve-hadarta penei zaken commands us to stand up before an elderly person and revere the elder (see Vayikra 19:32). Nevertheless, the Gemara understands that honoring the zaken obligates us to stand before a Torah scholar. Isi ben Yehuda comments that the obligation to stand before the elderly applies to all old people. The Gemara records that Rabbi Yohanan who accepts Isi’s ruling made it his business to stand before elderly non-Jews, saying kamah harpatkei adu alayhu d’hani – “how many adventures this man must have experienced!”

    The expression harpatka is used in modern Hebrew to mean “adventures.” It appears to have its source in middle Persian, perhaps from the word ahraftak meaning “time” or “the experiences that come with time.” The Arukh translates the word as “time” and specifically as “difficult times.” Rabbeinu Yehonatan explains that the fact that a person succeeded in surviving to an old age, living through good times and bad, is an indication that he is loved by God and that the world has a particular need for this person – thus he is deserving of honor. The Hatam Sofer writes that the honor given to an elderly person – even to a non-Jew – stems from a source similar to that of the Torah scholar, since the life experiences of an old person are also knowledge that deserves respect.

    The Gemara continues, telling stories about Rava, Abaye and Rav Nahman, Torah scholars all, who – according to Rashi’s understanding of their behaviors – chose not to offer personal honor to elderly people who were not scholars, but chose instead to send servants or messengers to assist and honor them. While Tosafot appear to suggest that these elderly people were Jewish, most of the mefarshim (commentators) understand that this follows Isi ben Yehuda’s ruling, and that it includes non-Jewish elderly, as well. According to the Shitta Mekubbetzet the people who were being honored were hassidei umot ha-olam – righteous gentiles.

    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.

  34. Kiddushin 34a-b: Women and positive, time-bound mitzvot

    The Mishna (29b) taught that women are not obligated in mitzvot aseh she-hazman gerama – positive commandments that are dependent on time. Our Gemara asks for a source that frees women from these commandments, and presents tefillin as the archetype – just as women are not obligated to lay tefillin, similarly all mitzvot aseh she-hazman gerama are not obligatory for women.

    The Shitta Mekubbetzet asks why the Gemara asks for a source freeing women from mitzvot aseh she-hazman gerama rather than asking how we know that women are obligated to perform any mitzvot aseh at all. Anyone who studies the Torah knows that it is written in the masculine, and appears to be directing its commands to men. Furthermore, the Gemara later on (35b) feels obligated to prove that women are obligated to refrain from negative commandments (mitzvot lo ta’aseh). The Shitta Mekubbetzet answers that we know that the Gemara has sources indicating that women are obligated in certain mitzvot aseh she-hazman gerama (e.g. the commandment to eat matza on Pesah), thus it is only natural that the Gemara would seek a source for the fact that women are not obligated in other mitzvot. He also points out that the entire question is predicated on a misunderstanding of the foundation of the Torah, since it is well known that the Torah was given to the entire Jewish People – men and women – based on the passage (Shemot 19:3) ko tomar le-beit Yaakov ve-taged li-bnei Yisrael, which is understood by the Sages to mean that Moshe was obligated to teach the Torah to the women (Beit Yaakov) as well as the men (Bnei Yisrael).

    It is interesting to note that the 20th century movement of formal Torah schooling for women that was the brainchild of Sarah Schenirer, who recognized that in the modern age in order to ensure that women kept mitzvot it was essential that girls join their brothers in the study of Torah, was called Beit Yaakov based on this midrash.

    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.

  35. Kiddushin 35a-b: All prohibitions except three

    The Mishna (29a) taught that women are obligated to refrain from all mitzvot lo ta’aseh – negative commandments – with the exception of three –
    •Bal takif (not to shaving their payot – the “corners” of the hair on one’s head – see Vayikra 19:27)
    •Bal tash’hit (not to shave one’s beard – according to the Gemara, with a razor – see Vayikra 19:27)
    •Bal titmah le-metim (a kohen cannot come into contact with a dead body – see Vayikra 21:1).

    In searching for sources for these laws the Gemara points out that the commandment that kohanim refrain from ritual defilement is clearly directed to men only – “bnei Aharon,” ve-lo bnot Aharon (see Vayikra 21:1). The suggested source that excludes women from cutting their payot and beards is the juxtaposition of the hair of one’s payot with the hair of one’s beard in the passage in Vayikra (19:27) – lo takifu pe’at roshekhem ve-lo tash’hit et pe’at zekanekha. The Gemara argues that the law that applies to the beard also applies to the payot, and since women do not ordinarily have a beard, the prohibition against shaving one’s beard does not apply to them, thus the prohibition against cutting payot does not apply to them either.

    With regard to men, our Gemara concludes that since the Torah used the term lo tash’hit (do not destroy) with regard to cutting one’s beard, the prohibition regarding shaving one’s beard would only be with a razor, which is mash’hit (destructive), but mispara’im ke-en ta’ar – a scissor-like cutting action that removes hair – is permitted. Based on this, most rishonim permit shaving one’s beard if it is done using that method, but they still prohibit cutting one’s payot against the skin even mispara’im ke-en ta’ar, since regarding this halakha the Torah forbids the very act of hakafah (rounding the “corners”.) The Rambam, however, disagrees, apparently because he takes the juxtaposition of bal takif and bal tash’hit very seriously, concluding that all of the laws of one apply to the other, as well. Thus, just as one’s beard can be cut with a scissors, so one’s payot can be cut with a scissors. [Note that in a famous portrait of the Rambam he does not appear to have payot.]

    It should be noted that based on kabbalistic sources, the Ar”i forbade cutting one’s beard under all circumstances.

    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.

  36. Kiddushin 36a-b: The meal-offering of a sota and a nezira

    The Mishna on our daf (page) teaches that many of the laws that relate to bringing sacrifices in the Temple apply to men and not to women. The exceptions are the mitzva of tenufa – waving the minha (the meal-offering) – brought by a sota (a woman suspected of adultery who drinks the “bitter water” – see Bamidbar 5:11-31) and a nezira (see Bamidbar 6). The minha was brought by the person bringing the sacrifice in a basket. It was removed from the basket and placed in a keli sharet – a utensil belonging to the Temple – and was given to the woman to hold. As is generally the case with menahot, tenufa was then done, with the kohen placing his hands under the hands of the owner and lifting the minha up in the air and waving it. Afterwards it was brought to the altar and sacrificed, with the remainder given to the kohanim to eat.

    Tosafot in Yevamot (19a) bring a question that is presented by the Talmud Yerushalmi. Is there not a lack of propriety in having the kohen lift the minha up thereby touching the hands of the woman? The Yerushalmi rejects the possibility that a cloth was placed between their hands, arguing that something like that would create a hatzitza – a separation – which would not allow the requirement of tenufa to be fulfilled correctly. Rather, the Yerushalmi concludes, such a short term physical touch does not lend itself to sensuality.

    Others suggest that the kohen did not actually place his hands directly under the woman’s while he was performing tenufa with her, rather he would hold the edges of the utensil on their upper end. The Tosafot HaRosh suggests that we can reconcile the two explanations by saying that the Talmud Yerushalmi recognized that given the close proximity of the kohen and the sota, it was likely that they would come into contact with one another, and that putting them into such a situation was deemed inappropriate. The conclusion, however, was that contact for just a moment is not something that should be of concern to us.

    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.

  37. Kiddushin 37a-b: Mitzvot that are dependent on the land

    The Mishna on our daf (page) introduces the idea that some mitzvot are obligatory only in the Land of Israel. According to the Mishna, with minor exceptions, those mitzvot that are dependent on the land – teluyot ba’aretz – only apply in Israel, while those that are not dependent on the land apply both in Israel and in the Diaspora.

    The Gemara’s first suggestion of how to define the concept of mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz is that it is based on whether or not the Torah discusses the mitzvot in the context of biah – of coming into the land. This suggestion is rejected because of two mitzvot – the commandments of tefillin and peter hamor (phylacteries and redeeming a first-born donkey) – about which the Torah says ve-hayah ki yevi’aha, indicating that they become obligatory after God brings the Jewish people into the land of Israel (see Shemot 13:11), yet we know that these commandments apply in all places. The Gemara concludes that agricultural mitzvot apply only in Israel, while personal mitzvot apply in all places.

    While the Gemara takes for granted that tefillin and peter hamor apply even in the Diaspora, it does not supply any proofs that this is the case. Rashi says simply that we know that Babylonian Talmud scholars wore tefillin, although Tosafot argue that this does not prove that there is a true obligation to wear tefillin in the Diaspora, since they may have done so on a rabbinic level. The Ramban at first echoes Rashi’s approach, but eventually concludes like the Talmud Yerushalmi that the mitzva of u-keshartam le’ot al yedkhem, commanding us to wear tefillin, appears immediately after the threat of exile (va-avadetem mehera me’al ha-aretz ha-tova – see Devarim 11:18), implying that the mitzva of tefillin remains in effect even when the Jewish people are living in exile.

    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.

  38. Kiddushin 38a-b: Agricultural mitzvot in the Diaspora

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (page) as a rule, agricultural mitzvot apply only in Israel. Our Gemara brings a number of exceptions to this rule.
    •Hadash – grain from the new harvest that cannot be eaten until after the Omer sacrifice is brought on the second day of Pesah.
    •Orla – fruit that grows during the first three years after a tree is planted
    •Kilayim – diverse kinds (forbidden mixtures) in planted fields and trees.

    The Gemara explains that each of these apply in the Diaspora for different reasons. Hadash is biblically forbidden (see Vayikra 23:9-14), orla is a halakha and kilayim is forbidden mi-divrei soferim (on a rabbinic level). In explaining the meaning of the term halakha in this context, Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as saying that it is halakha medina, while Ulla quotes Rabbi Yohanan as saying that it is a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai (an oral tradition passed on from Moses at Mount Sinai).

    The explanation brought by Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel is not very clear. Rashi suggests that it was an accepted tradition; others say that it was done following the directives of the rabbinic leaders of that time. Tosafot Hakhmei Angliya explain that it means that it was accepted in some Diaspora communities, but not in all of them.

    The rule of greatest concern here is that hadash is biblically forbidden in the Diaspora. In fact, for generations it has been common practice among Jews in the Diaspora to be lenient with regard to hadash. The Rema argues that in most cases the possibility that grain arriving in the marketplace is hadash is a sefek-sefeka – a “double doubt” situation where one can be lenient (i.e. the grain may have been from last year’s crop, and even if it is from this year’s crop, perhaps it was planted before Pesah).The Bah and the Taz both present different approaches explaining the accepted leniency, raising questions about whether we follow the position presented by our Gemara and even if we do, whether we can follow the opinions that it would only apply to grain that is grown in Jewish-owned fields.

    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.

  39. Kiddushin 39a-b: Mitzvot and their reward

    The Mishna on our daf (page) describes how even the performance of a single mitzva can bring good to a person, lengthen his days and guarantee him a share in the world to come, while failing to perform that mitzva brings about the opposite consequences. Our Gemara discusses two specific mitzvot whose performance – according to the Torah – guarantees good and a long life – shilu’ah ha-ken (chasing away a mother bird before taking her chicks – see Devarim 22:7) and kibbud av va-em (respecting one’s parents – see Devarim 5:15). Rabbi Ya’akov points out that the intention of the Torah must be to guarantee a share in the world-to-come, since he once saw a child who was sent by his father to perform the mitzva of shilu’ah ha-ken, and in the midst of performing this mitzva, the child fell down and was killed. The Gemara relates that this was the turning point for Aher (literally “the other,” but here referring to the Tanna Elisha ben Avuya), who turned away from the Jewish religion upon seeing this.

    The rishonim point out that according to the Gemara in Hagiga (daf 14), Aher’s heresy stemmed from a different incident. According to that Gemara, Aher was one of the arba she-nikhnisu la-pardes – four tanna’im who embarked on the study of esoteric secrets of the Torah. According to the Gemara (Hagiga 15), Aher peered into heaven and found the Archangel Mitatron who had received permission to sit down to write the merits of the Jewish people. From the midrashim it appears that Mitatron is the angel responsible for the entire world, and seeing him gave Aher the sense that there existed shetei reshuyot (two competing forces in heaven) – Mitatron and God – which was a common belief of Gnostic sects at that time.
    The general approach of the rishonim is that there was more than one cause to Aher’s heresy. The Iyun Ya’akov suggests that his experience in the pardes led him to question certain of his beliefs, but he still remained a practicing Jew with the hope that he would receive reward for his actions. Upon seeing the incident described in our Gemara he lost faith in heavenly reward and punishment, and rejected Judaism entirely.

    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.

  40. Kiddushin 40a-b: Desecrating the name of Heaven in public

    Rabbi Abbahu quotes Rabbi Hanina as teaching that a person should avoid sinning in a public forum, which will lead to hillul HaShem – desecration of God’s name – and should prefer to sin in private. Following this teaching, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Ilai HaZaken who rules that if a person sees that he cannot control his evil inclination he should go to a place where no one knows him, he should dress in black, i.e. in simple clothing, and do what his heart desires, rather than publicly desecrate the name of God.

    The Gemara raises an objection to this ruling by quoting a baraita that teaches that with someone who shows disrespect to God, it would have been better had he never been born – a teaching that is interpreted by Rav Yosef as referring to someone who sins in private, since by sinning privately he shows that he is more concerned about how he is perceived by his peers than by how God views him. The Gemara answers that we must distinguish between a situation where the person could control his “evil inclination” and our case, where he simply cannot.

    Regarding the ruling itself, which appears to permit sinning in private, Tosafot quotes Rabbeinu Hananel as explaining that the travel and change in dress are supposed to bring about a change in heart of the individual, and the hope is that he will be humbled and refrain from sinning. Others point out that that is not the simple flow of the Gemara, and that Rabbi Abbahu certainly did not intend to permit sinning, rather he suggests that the lesser of the two evils would be to commit the sin privately rather than publicly.

    The Meiri writes that even Rabbi Abbahu would not recommend that the person travel and sin, rather we must understand that this is discussing an act that is inappropriate, rather than one that is truly forbidden.

    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.

  41. Kiddushin 41a-b: Betrothal by agent

    The second perek (chapter) of Massekhet Kiddushin begins on today’s daf (page), and its focus is mainly on the legal relationship created by marriage. The first discussion deals with the act of marriage itself, and specifically with kiddushin that is accomplished by means of an agent (shali’ah). This discussion does not only deal with marriage but is a wide ranging investigation into the power of shelihut, where it can be used and who can appoint – or be appointed – a shali’ah.

    Rav Yosef in the Gemara is quick to note that although marriage can be accomplished by means of an agent, that is not the ideal situation, and that mitzva bo yoter mi-bi-sheluho – that it is a greater mitzva for a person to perform the act themselves, rather than have someone else perform the mitzva for him. This concept applies not only with regard to the mitzva of marriage, but to other areas of halakha, as well. The evidence brought by the Gemara to support this idea are stories of Talmudic Sages who were involved in food preparation for Shabbat, which they chose to do rather than leave it to their servants.

    Others point out that there is a specific problem with regard to having marriage performed through shelihut, since Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as ruling that a man should not marry a woman until they have met each other, lest he find something displeasing and they turn out to be incompatible. The rishonim point out that according to this approach, when the Mishna says ha-ish mekadesh bo u’bi-sheluho (a man can marry through his own efforts or through those of an agent) it does not mean to recommend that an agent carry out the marriage, rather it is teaching that if such a marriage took place it has the full halakhic ramifications of 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.

  42. Kiddushin 42a-b: There is no agency for transgression

    Our Mishna (41a) introduced us to the concept of shelihut – that a messenger can act as an agent and represent a person – to the extent that we say shali’ah shel adam ke-moto, that when the agent acts it is as though the person himself did the act.

    Is this true in all cases?

    One situation where a shali’ah must take responsibility for the action that he does is if it was a forbidden act. There the Talmudic principle ein shali’ah le-dvar aveirah applies – that no one can appoint an agent to commit a sinful act. The Gemara explains this by saying that the agent’s true obligation is to follow the directions of God, not of another person – divrei ha-rav ve-divrei ha-talmid, divrei me shom’im!

    The Talmud Yerushalmi presents a discussion on this point as to whether the concept of shelihut is true in all cases, and certain situations – like this one – are exceptions, or if we would ordinarily assume that a person cannot pass on responsibilities to another, and we need special teachings in order to permit shelihut to work. This discussion impacts on the question of a shali’ah le-dvar aveirah since according to the first approach we need to explain why shelihut will not work regarding a forbidden activity; according to the second approach it is obvious that we will not allow the creation of shelihut to do something forbidden.

    Tosafot Ri”D argues that the Gemara does not mean to suggest that we would have thought that an agent could have freed himself from responsibility for performing a forbidden act with the argument that he was only following orders. It is clear to us that an intelligent person must take responsibility for what he does. The discussion on this matter was solely to clarify whether the person who instructed the agent should also be held accountable, since he was the one who instigated the action.

    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.

  43. Kiddushin 43a-b: The agent as witness

    Rava quotes Rav Nahman as affirming the ruling that a person who is acting as a messenger can also play the role of a witness to the matter. Thus, if a man instructs two people to act as his agent and give kiddushin to a woman, when they do so and she accepts the kiddushin, they can act as the witnesses to the marriage. This would be true also where he instructed the messengers to give a get (a writ of divorce) on his behalf or in a business transaction.

    The Gemara explains that the rule allowing the messenger to act as a witness must be stated in each of these cases –
    •If it was only taught regarding marriage we may have thought that it would only apply there, where the woman would now be forbidden to all, but might not apply in the case of a divorce, where we may suspect that the messenger may be interested in marrying her;
    •If it was only taught in the case of a divorce, we may have thought that the witnesses are believed because they cannot both marry her, but in a case of business maybe we would suspect that they split the money between them.

    Thus Rava teaches that the messengers are believed to testify in all such cases.

    Based on this explanation, a number of the rishonim ask whether the messengers acting as witnesses can be believed when they were sent to deliver money as kiddushin, and the woman denies having received it from them. Perhaps in such a case we must be concerned that they split the money between them and never delivered it. In order to avoid this question, some of the rishonim suggest that we must be talking about a case where the kiddushin was done by means of a shetar – a written contract – and not money. Others argue that if the amount of money was just the minimum peruta, we do not need to be concerned that they would split such small shares between them.

    In truth, the Talmud Yerushalmi considers this question and rejects it; since the man relied upon them to fulfill their shelihut, we do not worry that they may do such a thing.

    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.

  44. Kiddushin 44a-b: Betrothal and divorce of a young woman

    The Gemara on yesterday’s daf (page) quotes a Mishna in Massekhet Gittin (64b) that teaches that in the case of a na’ara, that is, a young woman between the ages of 12 and twelve-and-a-half, both she and her father have the ability to accept a get – a writ of divorce – for her. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees, arguing that only the father has the ability to do so. All agree that a basic principle is that for a get to work the woman receiving it must understand the significance of the get and recognize the need to guard the document properly.

    Does this same disagreement apply to kiddushin – betrothal – as well as to gittin? Reish Lakish believes that it does, but according to Rabbi Yohanan there is no argument with regard to the status of a na’ara accepting kiddushin; all agree that only the father can accept kiddushin for a na’ara.

    After a lengthy discussion of this subject, the Gemara rules on the argument between Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan by relating a story. One day Rav Asi did not attend classes in the study hall, so he inquired from Rabbi Zeira to find out what had been discussed. Rabbi Zeira replied that he also had missed that day, but that Rabbi Avin who was there reported the entire student body had accepted Rabbi Yohanan’s opinion, leading Reish Lakish to shout like a kerukhya – pointing to the passage that paralleled marriage to divorce (Devarim 24:2), indicating that the rules should be the same – yet no one paid any attention to him.

    A kerukhya is a Common Crane (Grus grus), also known as the Eurasian Crane, which is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes. The crane migrates between Europe and Africa, invariably stopping in Israel during its migrations. Its larynx is long and twisted, which allows it to produce a deep throaty sound that is heard over long distances.

    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.

  45. Kiddushin 45a-b: Betrothal of an underage girl

    According to biblical law, the father has the right to accept kiddushin on behalf of his daughter while she is underage (a ketana – less than 12 years old) and she will be married according to the halakha. Once she is a bogeret (she is 12-and-a-half years old) she makes her own decisions regarding marriage. What if a ketana accepts a marriage proposal? Must we be concerned that the father agrees and that the girl is married, or, perhaps the actions of a ketana have no halakhic significance?

    This question is a matter of dispute in the Gemara, and a number of cases are presented by the Gemara in an attempt to clarify the matter, as well as similar cases.

    The Gemara tells of a man who approached a young girl in the marketplace and asked her to marry him, offering her a bundle of vegetables. Ravina argues that in this case all would agree that the marriage does not take effect, since it was done derekh bizayon – in a degrading, inappropriate manner. The Gemara concludes that both aspects of the attempted marriage – both offering a bundle of vegetables and doing so in the marketplace – would be considered inappropriate and either of them would preclude any possibility of suggesting that the father might agree to the marriage.

    Another story that appears in the Gemara is that of two men who were sitting, and one offered the other a cup of wine, saying that with this cup of wine the other man’s daughter should marry his son. In this case the Gemara rejects the possibility of a marriage because even if we suggest that the father might agree to his daughter’s choice in marriage, we do not make the same suggestion with regard to a son accepting his father’s choice.

    The Maharshal explains that the father simply has no power over his son with regard to issues of marriage, so his actions in this case have no meaning. Therefore even if we suggest that the father’s later agreement would approve his daughter’s marriage retroactively, there is no possibility that we would apply that reasoning in the case of his son.

    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.

  46. Kiddushin 46a-b: Be betrothed to me with this date

    The very first Mishna in Massekhet Kiddushin taught that if marriage is to be carried out by an exchange of money (or an object of value), it must minimally be worth a peruta (the smallest denomination coin in the time of the Mishna). The Mishna on our daf (page) teaches that if a person hands a woman a date and says “be betrothed to me with this date” and then hands her a second date and, again, says “be betrothed to me with this date,” the marriage will take effect if either of the dates was worth a peruta. If neither one of them was worth a peruta – even if their combined value was a peruta – the kiddushin still does not work, since the husband’s statement separated each date from the other. On the other hand, if he said to her “be betrothed to me with this date and this one and this one,” we will add up the value of all three, since his statement appears to refer to the combined value of the dates. The Mishna continues that even in the second case, if she ate each one when she received it then we cannot view them as a single entity, and the marriage will only work if one of them was worth a full peruta.

    The Gemara explains that in the last case kiddushin will only work if the last date is worth a peruta on its own. This is because we view each of the dates that the woman received and ate as loans (because if he were to retract his proposal before giving her all the dates, she would have to return them to him), and a person cannot marry a woman on the basis of a loan. Given that the marriage will not take effect until the end of this process, it will only work if the date she is holding is worth a peruta, since the rest of the dates are no longer extant – thus they are simply money that she owes him, which cannot be used as kesef kiddushin.

    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.

  47. Kiddushin 47a-b: Betrothals and loans

    Rav teaches that ha-mekadesh be-milveh, einah mekudeshet – a marriage cannot be accomplished by means of a loan. This means that if a man lends money to a woman, he cannot tell her that instead of paying back she can simply keep the money if she agrees to marry him. The explanation offered by the Gemara for this rule is that milveh lehotza’ah nitnah – a loan is meant to be spent by the borrower. The simple meaning for this phrase is that when a loan is given, the assumption is that borrower will spend the money and will pay back different money (albeit of an equal sum) in return. Looking at it this way, once the loan is made, the money does not belong to the lender, and will not become his again until the loan is repaid. Therefore we can well understand that a man (the lender) cannot marry a woman (the borrower) with a loan, since the money that he would like to use to effect the marriage does not belong to him – it is now in her possession to do with as she pleases.

    The opposing opinion brought in the Gemara, (which rules that a loan can be used to create kiddushin) believes that milveh lav lehotza’ah nitnah – loans are not made to be spent. Rashi explains that according to this opinion, a loan is made for a specific purpose, and the lender still maintains a certain level of control over the money, since the borrower cannot use it for whatever he wants.

    Tosefot Ri”d, emphasizing a point made in Rashi, argues that the disagreement raised in the Gemara regarding the issue of milveh lehotza’ah nitnah only applies to where the loan is still in the possession of the borrower (i.e. the woman). If, however, the money was actually spent already, all would agree that the loan could not be used for kiddushin, since there is no money actually in existence at the time of the kiddushin.

    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.

  48. Kiddushin 48a-b: Misleading betrothals

    The Mishna on our daf (page) deals with cases where a man offers to marry a woman, but he misleads her, either about the value of what he is offering her at the time of the marriage, or even about himself. Thus, in situations where a person says “marry me with this gold coin” and it turns out to be silver, or “marry me on the condition that I am a wealthy man” and it turns out that he is a poor man, the marriage will not take place. According to the Tanna Kamma (first) this is true even if the misleading statement hides something of even greater value than was promised, e.g. if he assures her that he is poor, when he is really wealthy or he offers her silver and it turns out to be gold. Rabbi Shimon disagrees with that last ruling.

    In explaining the reasoning behind the Tanna Kamma’s ruling that even if what the prospective husband gave was better than what he promised the kiddushin will not work, the Gemara refers to a parallel case where a person offers to sell someone vinegar and it turns out to be wine. In such a case the sale is invalid because the purchaser may prefer vinegar to wine. Similarly in our case, perhaps the woman prefers silver to gold.

    Tosafot Ri”d raises a question that disturbs many of the commentaries – if someone is unhappy with gold and prefers silver, they can certainly arrange for an exchange. Why would that present an obstacle to the marriage? The simple answer is that we are not interested in the value and possibilities for exchange as much as we are interested in the immediate possibilities of use. According to many of the rishonim, silver is more easily used for purchase and exchange than is gold.

    Rav Yaakov Emden suggests a different concern, namely that gold is more often counterfeited than is silver, and that is the woman’s concern.

    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.

  49. Kiddushin 49a-b: Ten measures descended to the world

    In an aggadic passage, our Gemara lists specific traits that are stereotypically associated with different communities. In each case the Gemara states that ten measures of a given attribute were given to the world, and a certain city or community received nine of them. Here are some examples:

    •Ten measures of wisdom (hokhmah) were given to the world; the Land of Israel received nine while the rest of the world received one.
    •Ten measures of beauty (yofi) were given to the world; Jerusalem received nine while the rest of the world received one.
    •Ten measures of wealth (osher) were given to the world; Rome received nine while the rest of the world received one.
    •Ten measures of poverty (aniyut) were given to the world; Babylonia received nine while the rest of the world received one.
    •Ten measures of witchcraft (keshafim) were given to the world; Egypt received nine while the rest of the world received one.

    At its height, the Roman Empire collected large sums of money in taxes from all of the countries that were subject to its rule. Among other things, these monies were used to provide food for the citizens of the city, for public entertainment and for building huge government buildings. People who were in the position to do so often received shares of those monies, as well, which allowed them to live lives of luxury, which gave the impression of great wealth in the city.

    Regarding Babylonian poverty, the reference is probably to the Jewish community in Bavel, which was known to be poor. Most members of the Jewish community worked in agriculture, and since few of them owned their own lands, they were forced to pay rent or to work as sharecroppers. Those Jews who were independent craftsmen also were not doing well financially, and apparently there were few successful businessmen in the 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.

  50. Kiddushin 50a-b: An unspoken matter

    When a person enters into an agreement with another and raises specific conditions upon which the agreement is based, must we follow the specific statements that he makes, or should we accept his claim that his intent was something else? One example presented in the Gemara was the man who sold his possessions with the intent of moving to Israel. In the end, his aliya was unsuccessful and he returned to his original home. Can he have the sale cancelled with the argument that he was not able to settle in Israel, or were the sales final?

    This case – together with similar ones discussed in the Gemara – is a category referred to as devarim she-ba-lev – “thoughts in one’s heart” – and the question is whether they are to be taken seriously or not.

    The question of devarim she-ba-lev applies not only to monetary matters, but to other areas of halakha, as well, and the rishonim and aharonim who discuss it bring many sources that do not appear in our Gemara. The apparent conclusion of our Gemara is that devarim she-ba-lev einam devarim – unspoken matters that remain in the heart are not significant matters. Rabbeinu Tam objects to that 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 becomes 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. Nevertheless, a person cannot simply come and claim that he had a secret intent 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.

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