Friday, August 24, 2007

DEFINING A SHOTAH - Yevamos 113 - Daf Yomi

Generally the understanding of a "shoteh" in the entire Torah as one who is exempt from mitzvos is classified by the Gemora in Chagiga 3b as someone who may have a high IQ but does crazy things.

Reb Moshe (Even Haezer 1:120) has an elaborate and controversial teshuva explaining that if he does one of the crazy acts mentioned, we assume he is a shoteh until proven otherwise, but if we can prove otherwise, then he is no longer considered a shoteh (but he points out that the Rambam implies that we consider him a shoteh even if he is crazy in only one thing and nothing else, he is still exempt from mitzvos- but R' Moshe then issues a novel ruling that regarding giving a get, so long as he understands the issues, it is valid).

A man who has shoteh status cannot divorce his wife since he needs to be mentally competent, but a woman can be divorced against her will and therefore the Gemora says she can receive a get Biblically. However, the Torah requires that in order to receive a 'get', she must: 1. Be able to watch her get, which means to distinguish between the get and something else (Gittin 64b). 2. She must have enough understanding about the concept of divorce that she does not return to her husband’s house. The Gemora concludes that even one who is a shoteh for everything else, can have enough da'as to distinguish between a get and something else, and realize that she must not return. But, since people will take advantage of her and act immorally with her, Chazal do not allow him to divorce her.

Tosafos and Rashi argue about a girl who is unable to distinguish between her get and something else, and will also continue to return after the divorce, whether the father can receive the get for her. Tosafos seems to understand that the father preventing her from returning qualifies, implying that it is a practical consideration that she must be someone who will not return, rather than being an issue of da'as. Rashi seems to understand that the father preventing her from returning isn't sufficient since it is a da'as requirement and she is still missing the da'as. It is interesting to note that according to Tosafos, a woman who is sometimes a shoteh and sometimes healthy, can receive a get at a time where she has enough intellect not to return, even though she is likely to once again become a shoteh and return to her husbands house (v'dok).

Reb Moshe (Y.D. 4:29 and Even Haezer 1:164) makes a very important distinction between a shoteh and someone with a very low IQ, implying that many mentally retarded people do not halachically qualify as a shoteh. I think his approach is very meduyak in the Gemora and Rashi on the bottom of 113a that a low level intellect which thinks clearly and straight (rather than 'krum' qualifies as sufficient da'as). (Reb Avi Lebovitz; Hearos al HaDaf


Yossie said...

very interesting!
i heard a story on a tape that a down syndrome kid came to rav elyashiv saying that he wants to lein his bar mitzvah parsha (maybe only part of it) and his father doesn't let him since he cannot be motzi other people.
rav elyashiv asked him how he got to his house from bnei brak and the kid answered that he took the bus. the rav then paskened that if he knew how to do that he can lein on his bar mitzvah!

Reb Avi said...

RE: your comment,
do you think r' elyashiv would have allowed this child to lain in the shteiblech on parshas zachor?

Reb Ben said...

He shall write her a bill of divorce. . . .(Deuteronomy 24:1)

The words of the righteous can change the world. (Divrei Chassidim)

And then there was the time that the Baal Shem Tov came to visit the city of Slutsk. Many of the local inhabitants came to greet him. Among them was the aged scholar, Reb Una Noson Nata, who as a youth was known as the Ilui (genius) of Karinik.

His son Reb Shlomo had been educated by him at home, and then at the age of fourteen, left home to seek a scholarly environment - first in Vilna, then in Jorodna, and then in Cracow. There he had met a prominent scholar, Reb Menachem Aryeh, who was a hidden Tzaddik. Reb Shlomo accepted him as his disciple in the study of Chassidus on condition that their connection be kept secret
At the age of about twenty-two, Reb Shlomo returned to Slutsk. His father was overjoyed with his progress in learning, and arranged a marriage with the daughter of a leaseholder of an inn, Reb Eliyahu Moshe, who lived in a nearby village.About a half a year after their marriage, however, the young wife lost her sanity. Since she was not in a mental state to legally accept a bill of divorce, Reb Shlomo was unable to remarry.

During the Baal Shem Tov's visit to Slutsk, Reb Shlomo's father, Reb Una Noson Nata, described their sad situation to him and asked for his advice and blessing. Also, the unfortunate woman's father, Reb Eliyahu Moshe also asked the Baal Shem Tov for his advice and a blessing for her recovery.

The Baal Shem Tov invited both fathers to meet with him together. He politely asked them if either of them bore a grudge against the other. The bridegroom's father, Reb Una Nosson Nata, had nothing but praise for his mechutan, the bride's father. Despite the pressure of business, he fixed times for the study of Torah, maintained a hospitable house that was open to all corners, supported Talmudic scholars generously, and maintained his son-in-law in the most respectable manner. Since Reb Shlomo had been mentioned, Reb Eliyahu Moshe now spoke most highly of his noble character. He was clearly proud of his son-in-law, who throughout his stay in the village always found time on weekdays to conduct study circles for the simple farming folk who lived round about, teaching them Chumash with Rashi's commentary, and the moral lessons of Ayn Yaakov; and on Shabbos he would read for them from the Midrash and the Ethics of the Fathers. While teaching, he imbued them with a brotherly love for each other, explaining to them that no man's profit ever came at the expense of that which Divine Providence had destined for another. In a word, he was well loved by the villagers from all around. They were saddened by his present plight, and prayed that his young wife would be restored to complete health, and that he would return to teach them as in happier times.

The Baal Shem Tov listened carefully to them both, and then said: "With G-d's help, I will be able to help the young woman return to complete health and restore her mind to its original clarity - but only on one condition: That when this happens the young couple not live together, and when several days have passed, and she is in a fit state according to the Torah Law to accept a Get (bill of divorce), she accepts a divorce from her husband with a willing heart."

The two fathers were stunned! The aged father of Reb Shlomo proposed various legal objections to such a divorce, and Reb Eliyahu Moshe argued that his daughter would be grieved by such a procedure, since she respected her husband highly. He was certain that his son-in-law would likewise be distressed. He himself was prepared to contribute an enormous sum to charity - in the merit of which he begged the Baal Shem Tov to pray for her recovery, but to allow the young couple to rejoin each other in the love and harmony to which they were accustomed. The Baal Shem Tov answered unequivocally - that if they did not agree to the condition that he had stipulated, he would not be able to help them.

A few days later they called on the Baal Shem Tov together with the young Reb Shlomo, and told him that they accepted his condition - though of course they could not guarantee that the young woman would agree. The Baal Shem Tov heard their reply, and told Reb Eliyahu Moshe to go home and tell his sick ailing daughter that the Baal Shem Tov had come to Slutsk and had asked her to come to speak with him about a matter of importance.

The two fathers looked at each other in amazement. "But for the last six years," Reb Eliyahu Moshe questioned, "she has not uttered a syllable! She has sat herself between the stove and the wall, and can barely be fed. In a word, the poor young woman is utterly out of her mind. How can I possibly speak to her?"

But the Baal Shem Tov did not reply.

Making his way homeward with a heavy heart, Reb Eliyahu Moshe remarked to his mechutan that if the Baal Shem Tov had seen the state in which his daughter was to be found, he would not have spoken as he had. And from the very depths of his heart, Reb Una Nosson Nata sighed in sympathy with the sufferers from all sides.

Not so his son, Reb Shlomo. For when before his marriage he had been a disciple of Reb Menachem Aryeh, he had been introduced to teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Now that he had met him, and had heard his teachings, he became attached to him with all his heart. He therefore told his father-in-law that he thought that they should follow the instructions of the Baal Shem Tov implicitly. Reb Una Nosson Nata added that since they had already accepted a far more difficult condition, they should certainly proceed to carry out the instruction that they attempt to speak to the young woman.

Opening the door to his house, Reb Eliyahu Moshe found his daughter sitting in her accustomed corner behind the stove. He told his wife all that the Baal Shem Tov had said, adding that he was widely reputed as a great Tzaddik. To their amazement, their daughter suddenly rose from her place as soon as she heard her father's words. She approached her mother and father quietly, and in a voice they had not heard for six years, asked who was this person who worked wonders. They told her that the man about whom they were speaking was named the Baal Shem Tov, a renowned Tzaddik. She answered that before hearing any more, she first wanted to immerse herself in a mikveh for purification.

After going to the mikveh, the young woman began eating, speaking and sleeping as if completely normal, though she felt very weak. On the third day, she had a high fever and in her delirium spoke about the Baal Shem Tov. When her father heard her crying and asking to be taken to the wonder-worker, he was suddenly reminded of what this turn of events made him forget - that the Baal Shem Tov had asked to see her. He told her of the Baal Shem Tov's request and she was visibly happy to receive the message. On the very next day, accompanied her parents, she made the journey to Slutsk.

Reb Shlomo had heard by now of his wife's recovery, for his father-in-law had sent a special messenger with the news. He now began to speak with his father about the principles of Chassidus taught by the Baal Shem Tov. He explained the emphasis which the Baal Shem Tov gave to the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah; the workings of Divine Providence not only for man, but even regarding all created things; the intrinsic holiness and worth of even the simplest fellow Jew; the importance and obligation of ahavas Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew); serving G-d with a joyful heart, and so on.

The aged scholar pondered these matters all day and throughout the following night. On the next day, he set out to tell the Baal Shem Tov what his son had told him of his teachings, and added that he desired to become his disciple. At the same meeting, he told the Baal Shem Tov of the good news that had just reached his son.

The Baal Shem Tov replied that on that same day the young woman was again unwell, but that when her father would carry out his mission she would recover and come to see him.
When the young woman and her parents arrived at Slutsk, she and her husband entered the room of the Baal Shem Tov, who told them that they would have to divorce. With bitter tears, the unfortunate young woman told the Baal Shem Tov how highly she respected her husband for his refined character. If, however he decreed that they should divorce, he must surely know that she was unworthy of such a righteous husband, and felt it her duty to comply.

Reb Shlomo, likewise moved, told the Baal Shem Tov that his wife exemplified all the noble attributes by which the Sages define a good wife. If, however, the Baal Shem Tov ordered that they divorce, he too would be agreeable.

The Baal Shem Tov arranged to see them in four days; he would then arrange the legalities required. For the next three days the young couple and their parents fasted and prayed. When on the fourth day, with heavy heats, they made their way to the Tzaddik. They found a Rav, a scribe and two witnesses already waiting. The Baal Shem Tov asked them if they agreed wholeheartedly to the divorce. They answered that they believed that whatever the Baal Shem Tov told them would be for the best, and since they loved each other, each of them was willing to proceed with the divorce - for the sake of each other. The Baal Shem Tov retired to another room and stayed there for some time.

When he returned he related the following: "Six years ago a threat of terrible suffering hung over your lives because of accusations of the Heavenly Prosecuting Angel. The Heavenly Court's verdict was that you should both undergo the troubles that you have experienced these last six years. But now you have shown great faith in my words. Even to the extent that you were both willing to proceed with a divorce. This very faith has freed you from the decree of the Heavenly Court. The charge against you has been annulled. Live on happily together as man and wife. May you be blessed with a home filled with sons, daughters and many grandchildren, and may you both live to a ripe old age."

And so it was.