Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mentioning Evil First

Rava stated: Let us see; where do we derive the rule for conditions? It is from the condition mentioned in the Torah regarding the Tribes of Reuven and Gad. Therefore, just as there, the positive feature (they will receive the land if they fulfill the condition) comes before the negative (if they do not fight together with the rest of Klal Yisroel, they will not receive that land), so too, it should be in all cases.

It is written [Bamidbar 16:29 - 30]: If these men die as all men die and the fate of all men will be visited upon them, then Hashem has not sent me. But if Hashem creates a creation, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked Hashem.

The Haflaah in Panim Yafos asks: Shouldn’t Moshe have stated the positive feature before the negative?

He answers: Our Gemora (Gittin 75) states that a man does not want to begin with a mention of evil for himself, and therefore he will say, “If I do not die” before stating, “If I will die.” So too, Moshe did not want to begin with mentioning evil even for these wicked people, and therefore, he worded the stipulation in a manner that the mention of this horrific type of death should be delayed for as long as possible.

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Compliance with the Rabbis - Gittin 73

Rabbah and Rava did not agree with Rav Huna (and they hold that if a deathly ill person gives a get and recovers, it is a valid get), as they were afraid it might lead people to think that a get could be given after death.

The Gemora asks: Since the get is void in accordance with Biblical law, how can we allow a married woman, owing to the authority of Beis Din, to marry anyone in the world?

The Gemora answers: Yes! Anyone who betroths a woman does so in implicit compliance with the ordinances of the Rabbis, and the Rabbis have in this case retroactively revoked the original betrothal. (They accomplished this by transforming retroactively the money of the betrothal given to the woman at her first marriage into an ordinary gift. Since the hefker of money comes within the authority of Beis Din, they are thus fully empowered to cancel the original betrothal, and the divorcee assumes, in consequence, the status of an unmarried woman who is permitted to marry any stranger.)

Ravina said to Rav Ashi: This is a satisfactory explanation where betrothal was effected by means of money; what, however, can be said in a case where betrothal was effected by cohabitation?

Rav Ashi replied: The Rabbis have assigned to such cohabitation the character of a promiscuous cohabitation. (From the moment a divorce is annulled in such a manner, the cohabitation, it was ordained, must assume retroactively the character of a promiscuous cohabitation, and since her original betrothal is thus invalidated, the woman resumes the status of the unmarried and is free to marry whomsoever she desires.)

The Rashba asks: Why don’t we apply this rule in the case in Yevamos where a man fell into water that has no end? There, we rule that the wife will remain an agunah because the husband might have exited the water from a place that was not visible to us. Why don’t we say that the Chachamim revoked the original kiddushin from him, and she may remarry another man?

He answers: It is only applicable in certain cases. If, for example, there was a get, except that it was written with a condition, and an uncertainty arose regarding the condition, the Chachamim can revoke his kiddushin. Another example where the Chachamim would revoke the kiddushin is where one witness is testifying on the woman’s behalf (that her husband died). However, when there is no get and no witness, the Chachamim did not go ahead and revoke a kiddushin.

The Gemora in Yevamos (110a) records an incident in Narsh where a girl was married off when she was a minor. When she became an adult, they sat her by a Chupah (wedding canopy, in order to validate the first marriage), and someone else snatched her away before the “wedding” (and made her his wife)! Rav Bruna and Rav Chananel, students of Rav, were present when this happened, and they did not even require her to have a get from the second “husband” (as his kiddushin is invalid).

Rav Ashi explains that being that the wife snatcher acted improperly, the Chachamim therefore acted improperly with him and removed the validity of his kiddushin. (This is following the opinion of Rav, who maintains that for the marriage of a minor to become valid, she must have marital relations with her husband when she becomes an adult, and if not the marriage is invalid.)

The Chachamim were empowered to remove the kiddushin in this case because he acted improperly in the beginning of the kiddushin.

Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei Hashas cites a Teshuvos haRashba who writes that we only apply the principle of “Since he acted improperly, the Chachamim acted improperly with him” in places that are specifically mentioned in Chazal. The Sages did not annul the marriage in every case where one acts with trickery. This can be proven from a Gemora in Kiddushin (58b). The Gemora states: One who instructs his fellow to marry a woman for him (as an agent), and the agent goes ahead and marries her for himself, she is married to the second one. We do not say that since he acted improperly, the Chachamim invalidated his marriage.

This can also be proven from the fact that even if one betroths a woman who is subject to a negative prohibition, kiddushin, nevertheless takes effect. This is also true if someone marries a woman who is a secondary ervah to him. Obviously, sometimes this principle is applied, and sometimes, it isn’t.

The Chasam Sofer asks: Why, in these cases (where he betroths a woman subject to a negative prohibition, or a secondary ervah) do we not say that the Chachamim revoked his kiddushin?

He answers, based upon Tosfos, who says that it is for this reason that the groom tells the bride that he is betrothing her according to the laws of Moshe and all of Israel. The kiddushin is only effective if Israel, i.e. the Chachamim consent to the marriage. However, one who is violating the Torah, or the sages, is obviously not marrying with such a stipulation and therefore, the marriage can still be effective. [According to the Chasam Sofer, not every marriage has that stipulation attached to it.]

The Shiltei Giborim states that this principle applies by a get as well. Anyone who divorces a woman does so in implicit compliance with the ordinances of the Rabbis, and the Rabbis may, in certain cases retroactively revoke the divorce.

Based upon this, the Taamei Yaakov answers the following famous question on Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree: Since the Torah expressly permits one to divorce his wife without her consent, how can this be banned? The Taz lais down a rule that the Rabbis do not have the authority to prohibit something which is explicitly permitted by the Torah!?

He answers that since the Rabbis forbid giving a get in such a manner, it is automatically nullified, for one’s betrothal and divorce can only be effective if he is compliance with the Rabbis’ ordinances. In these cases, the Rabbis did not consent to such a get.

[I am uncertain as to how this answers the question. Granted, the get will be ineffective since it is prohibited to give a get without the woman’s consent; but how did the Rabbis have the authority to issue such a decree? If the Torah expressly permits it, they cannot forbid it!?]

Path to Sanctity

The Gemora states: Whoever betroths a woman in Jewish marriage, betroths her subject to the will of the Rabbis.

The baalei mussar say: One who wants to sanctify and purify himself in his service to his Creator, should do so subject to the will of the Rabbis. He should go to the Rabbis and the righteous people of his generation, and they shall guide him in his quest. One who tries to forge a path himself is apt to stumble and make mistakes; nothing substantive will result from it.

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Directly from Hashem

The Gemora (Gittin 72) cited a braisa: If a scribe wrote a get for the sake of a specific woman, and the witnesses signed it for her sake as well, although they wrote, signed and gave it to the husband, and the husband gave the get to his wife, it is not valid until the scribe and the witnesses hear the husband’s voice telling them to write and sign it.

It is evident from here that if one person tells another to tell another, it is not regarded as if the third person heard it from the first.

Reb Yosef Engel asks from a Gemora in Kiddushin (22b), which states: Why is the ear different than all the other limbs in the body (that it is chosen for piercing for a slave that chooses to stay by his master)? The Holy One, Blessed be He said, “The ear that heard My voice on Mount Sinai when I said, ‘Bnei Yisroel are slaves to Me, and not slaves to other slaves,’ and this person went and acquired another master for himself, his ear should be pierced!” Why is it regarded as if he heard these words from Hashem? Bnei Yisroel only heard the first two commandments from Him; the rest were said over by Moshe!? We could have answered that since Moshe heard it directly from Hashem, and Bnei Yisroel heard it from Moshe, it is regarded as if they heard it directly from Hashem. However, based on our Gemora, that is incorrect!?

He answers that since when Moshe spoke, the Shechinah was talking through Moshe’s throat, it was considered as if they heard the commandments directly from Hashem.

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From their Mouth's and not from their Writings

The Gemora (Gittin 71) states that testimony is valid only from the mouths of the witnesses, not on the basis of any documents. It is evident that writing is not the same as talking.

The Gemora Chagigah (10b) cites Shmuel who states that one who resolves to make a vow must express the vow with his lips; otherwise, it is meaningless.

The Noda b’Yehudah (Y”D I: 66) inquires if an oath that was written down but not expressed would be valid as an oath. His underlying question is: Do we regard his written word as an expression of his lips?

This should be dependent on a dispute between the Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam regarding the validity of testimony from a written document. The Rambam maintains that testimony must be from the mouth of the witnesses and a document will not be Biblically acceptable for testimony. Rabbeinu Tam disagrees and holds that one who is physically capable of testifying may testify through the means of a document.

He concludes, however, that even the Rambam would agree that writing is considered testimony and yet, a written document cannot be accepted by Beis Din. The logic for this is as follows: An act of writing can constitute speech, but only during the time that it is being written. Beis Din will only accept an oral testimony when they hear it directly; hearsay is disqualified. Witnesses who signed a document are testifying, but Beis Din is not present at that time. If they would sign in front of Beis Din, that would be considered valid testimony.

With this principle, you can answer what would seemingly be a contradiction in the Rambam. He rules in Hilchos Eidus (3:7) that testimony must be from the mouth of the witnesses and a document will not be Biblically acceptable for testimony; yet later in Perek 9:11, he writes that one is required to testify with his mouth or at least that he is fitting to testify with his mouth. This would imply that if he is fitting to testify with his mouth, he would be permitted to testify through the means of a document. According to the Noda b’Yehudah’s explanation, it can be said that the Rambam allows witnesses to testify through the means of a document, but only if they sign the document when Beis Din is present. Accordingly, we can say that an oath taken through writing will be binding.

Reb Akiva Eiger discusses some other practical applications for this principle.

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Healing an Idolater

(Gittin 70) For a skin disease (moist outside and dry inside), he should take seven plump wheat stalks and roast them over a new hoe and smear himself with the oil that exudes from them. Rav Shimi bar Ashi used this remedy for a certain idolater for “something else” (leprosy), and it cured him.

Tosfos asks from the Gemora in Avodah Zarah (26b) which states that it is forbidden to heal an idolater. The Gemora rules that one may not assist an idolater woman giving birth, even for payment, for she will raise the child to serve idols!?

Tosfos answers that Rav Shimi was permitted to heal the idolater, for this would help him perfect his medical skills, and thus enable him to heal other Jews.

Tosfos in Avodah Zarah adds that Rav Shimi was not an expert practitioner at all, and he was training when he cured the idolater.

Furthermore, in cases where the idolater knows that the Jew has the ability to cure him, it would be permitted to heal him, for otherwise, it would propagate hatred from them to us.

Alternatively, there may be a distinction between a child being born, who will serve idols, and one who already worships idols.

The Geresh Yerachim asks: How was Elisha permitted to heal Naaman from his leprosy?

He answers that Elisha knew that Naaman would not serve idols any longer, and therefore, it was permitted.

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Frontwards and Backwards

The Gemora (Gittin 69) states: For blood running out of one’s nose, one should bring a Kohen whose name is Levi, and he should write the name Levi backwards.

The Tiferes Yosef explains: It is well-known in the books of Kabbalah that the alef beis written forward connotes kindness, for this way, the inspiration comes in the regular manner; descending from Heaven to earth. The alef beis written backwards connotes judgment, similar to fire, which ascends from the earth.

It is written in the Zohar that a Kohen is a man of kindness, and a Levi is one of judgment. This is why the name Levi, written backwards, signifying judgment, should be written by a Kohen, for he represents kindness.

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Ancient Cures

The Maharsha (Gittin 69) asks: The Gemora in Brochos (10b) states that Chizkiyahu hid the book of remedies and the sages praised him for this. This book contained instructions on healing various diseases through the use of different herbs and plants. Rashi explains that the sages praised him for hiding the book, because people were relying upon these remedies and they were not praying to Hashem for healing. If so, why does the Gemora record all these remedies here?

The Maharsha answers: A doctor definitely has permission to heal the sick, and he therefore has the right to know the cure for all sicknesses. However, these should not be publicized to all people, for some people will not have faith in Hashem; rather, they will rely on these natural remedies. And just as it was permitted to write down the Oral Law, for otherwise, it would be forgotten; so too, it was permitted to write down these cures, for otherwise, they would all be forgotten.

The Geresh Yerachim answers: the book of remedies that Chizkiyahu hid contained cures that were accurate and functioned for any sick person. If that would have remained in existence, people would rely only on that, and not on Hashem. However, the remedies mentioned in our Gemora do not work for every person. There are many factors that would prevent a person from being cured, even if he followed the exact instructions. Therefore, even when these remedies would be applied, one would still need to pray to Hashem in order to be healed.

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Traits of the Sages

It was stated (Gittin 67) : Shmuel said in the name of Rebbe that the halachah is in accordance with Rabbi Yosi, who said that verbal instructions cannot be passed on to an agent.

Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbe said to Rebbe: Seeing that Rabbi Chanina of Ono and Rabbi Meir disagree with Rabbi Yosi, what was Rebbe’s reason for saying that the halachah follows Rabbi Yosi?

He replied: Be quiet, my son, be quiet; you have never seen Rabbi Yosi. Had you seen him, you would know that he always had reasons for his views. For we learned in a braisa: Issi ben Yehudah used to specify the praiseworthy merits of the various Sages. Rabbi Meir was a scholar and a scribe. Rabbi Yehudah was a scholar when he desired to be. Rabbi Tarfon resembled a heap of nuts. [When he was asked a question, he cited proofs from Scripture, Medrash, Mishnah, halachah and aggadah, like a heap of nuts toppling over one another.] Rabbi Yishmael resembled a well-stocked shop. [Whenever someone asked him something, he replied immediately, without keeping him waiting.] Rabbi Akiva was like a storehouse with compartments. [All his learning was organized by subject and each subject was taught separately.] Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri was like a basket of a spice peddler. [He could answer questions from any subject.] Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah was like an individual’s basket of spices. [The spice peddler has many varieties of spices.] The teachings of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov were measured but pure. [He did not issue many rulings, but the halachah follows him.] Rabbi Yosi always had reasons for his views. Rabbi Shimon used to grind a lot and let out only a little. It was taught in a braisa that this meant that he used to forget little, and whatever he did forget was only bran (teachings that were not in accordance with halachah). And so too, Rabbi Shimon said to his disciples: My sons, learn my teachings, since my teachings are the cream of the cream of Rabbi Akiva’s.

*** The Peri Megadim asks: It is forbidden to speak the praises of a person, even in his presence!?

He answers: Rebbe spoke these praises to himself.

*** The Maharsha asks: Why is it considered a praise about Rabbi Yehudah that he was a scholar when he desired to be? Isn’t that derogatory?

The Aruch explains that Rabbi Yehudah was the first of the speakers. The Iyun Yaakov explains that he was humble, and although he had permission from the king to speak first, he did not want this honor, and he only used it when it was absolutely necessary.

*** The Kesef Mishnah in Hilchos Beis Habechirah (2:18) states that the halachah follows Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov only when he is mentioned in a Mishna, but not when he is mentioned in a braisa.

The Chacham Tzvi challenges this from the fact that Shimon ben Azai found this rule in the Megillas Setarim, which was written before Rebbe arranged the Mishnayos, so obviously, the rule is all encompassing, even the braisos!?

Tosfos Yom Hakippurim asks that the Kesef Mishnah contradicts himself, for he explains the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (2:8) that the Rambam holds like Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov because his teachings were measured but pure, and this halachah was mentioned in a braisa!?

He explains that whenever he is mentioned in a Mishna, the halachah follows him. However, when he is mentioned in a braisa, it depends upon the logic of his argument.

The Yad Malachei writes that in truth, the Kesef Mishnah holds that the Rambam always rules like Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, even when he is mentioned in a braisa. The Kesef Mishnah that was cited above was in fact a gloss from one of his students, and it erroneously got inserted into the text of the Kesef Mishnah.

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If someone was thrown into a pit and calls out that anyone who hears him should write a get to his wife (specifying his name and his city), those who hear this should indeed write and send the get to his wife (we assume that he omitted the instruction of giving the get due to the confusion of his situation).

The Gemora (Gittin 66) asks: Is it not possible that it was a demon (who are suspect of evil behavior, such as deceiving people) that issued that proclamation?

Rav Yehudah replied: The Mishna is referring to a case where they saw in him the form of a man.

The Mishnah Lamelech proves that that there were only two people heard the voice, for if there were three people there, a demon would not reveal itself to them. Now, if there are only two people, it must be that one of them is writing the get and signing on it. This will prove that the signature of a scribe together with one witness is sufficient! This would be problematic, for Amoraim below argue on this exact issue!?

Poras Yosef answers that the Mishna can be referring to a case where there were three people there, and the demon would nevertheless reveal itself, because they were far away from each other.

The Beis Aharon writes that in a place where demons are accustomed to be, such as inside pits, they will reveal themselves even in the presence of three people.

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Chalifin for a MInor - Gittin 65

Rava said: There are three categories of a minor: If he would be given a rock, he would discard it, but if given a walnut, he would accept it, he can make an acquisition on things, but he may not acquire for others.

Tosfos asks that it seems from a Gemora in Bava Basra that a minor does not have the ability to acquire anything!?

Tosfos answers: The Gemora there could be referring to a minor who has not yet reached this stage of understanding.

Alternatively, they answer that the Gemora there is referring only to a kinyan chalifin (acquiring something through an exchange with a kerchief or other object), where a minor has a more difficult time grasping the mechanics of the kinyan.

The Ra”n explains that the Rabbis instituted for a minor only those kinyanim where the object is raised or pulled by the minor; however, other types of kinyanim, where the concepts are difficult to grasp, are not effective for the minor.

The Rashb”a adds that since we rule that the object being used for the chalifin must be owned by the one making the acquisition, it emerges that the minor must convey the object to the seller. He does not have enough knowledge to accomplish that and therefore the kinyan is not effective.

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Rav Kahana and the Poor Man's Dates

The Gemora (Gittin 61) relates an incident: Rav Kahana was going to Hutzal and he saw a certain person who was throwing sticks at a palm tree so that the dates would fall to the ground. Rav Kahana picked up the dates and ate them. The person said to Rav Kahana, “You saw that I had picked some of the dates with my hand (and therefore it is actual theft for you to take them).”

Rav Kahana said to him: You must be from Rabbi Yoshiyah’s city (who often gave public discourses in the city; that is why you know these halachos). Rav Kahana applied the following verse to Rabbi Yoshiyah: And a righteous man is the foundation of the world.

Tosfos asks: Even if Rav Kahana did not know that the person picked the dates with his hand, he still should not have eaten them!? Why was he not concerned with our Mishna’s ruling that we do not take from the poor in the interest of peace?

Tosfos answers that the man was taking the branches off the tree and the dates were falling off themselves. Rav Kahana thought that the man had no interest in the dates.

The Ramban answers that Rav Kahana thought that he was an idolater and the Mishna did not rule that the produce of an idolater is protected because of harmony.

The Rashba answers that Rav Kahana himself was a poor person (or he was regarded as one since he was traveling). [This answers why he would have been permitted to take the dates that was seemingly reserved for the poor.]

The Meiri writes that the decree of promoting harmony was instituted primarily for a poor person who would be taking for himself and eating in his house; however, the enactment for the interest of peace would not affect a passerby, such as Rav Kahana, who would be eating on the road.

The Vilna Gaon says that this decree was instituted only with respect to olives, but not for dates.

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Kohen takes Precedence, even after Ressurection - Gittin 59

It is written [Vayikra 21:8]: You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. And it was taught in the Beis Medrash of Rabbi Yishmael: You shall sanctify him teaches us that in all matters pertaining to holiness, the Kohen takes precedence. He should be the first one called to read the Torah. He should be the first to recite the blessing by a meal. He takes the first portion (if he is dividing something with a Yisroel, the Kohen has the right to choose the first portion).

The Gemora in Megillah records the following incident: Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira ate the Purim meal together. They became intoxicated. Rabbah got up and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. On the following day, Rabbah pleaded for mercy and he revived Rabbi Zeira. On the next year, Rabbah invited Rabbi Zeira to eat with him. Rabbi Zeira replied: A miracle does not occur at all times.

The Kli Chemda at the end of Parshas Breishis cites a kuntrus called Over Oreach. In this sefer, a question is asked: The Gemora Brochos (46a) records an incident where Rabbi Avahu honored Rabbi Zeira to recite the blessing and cut the bread. The Rashba asks that this is inconsistent with the halachah which states that this honor should be reserved for the host. The Rashba answers: since the meal was on behalf of Rabbi Zeira (he had recovered from a sickness), Rabbi Zeira was considered the host. Why didn’t the Rashba answer that Rabbi Zeira was a Kohen (Yerushalmi Brochos 8:6)? He answers that since this incident happened after the episode of Rabbah with Rabbi Zeira mentioned in Megillah (Rabbah slew him and the following day revived him), Rabbi Zeira lost his sanctity of being a Kohen and did not merit the right of this honor.

The Kli Chemda is greatly perplexed by this answer. Every Kohen is considered a Kohen because his father was a Kohen. It is obvious that he did not lose his relations with his relatives because he dies, so why shouldn’t he be a Kohen? (Rabbi Chaim Berlin cites a Gemora in Sanhedrin, proving that the Kehunah remains even after resurrection.) Perhaps he would have required a new inauguration to serve in the Beis Hamikdosh but he definitely did not lose the status of being a Kohen. He cites proof from the story with Elisha that one does not relinquish his relations with his relatives after he dies.

(Look at the Ramban in the beginning of Parshas Emor, where he writes that a Kohen has certain halachos because he is a descendant of Aharon HaKohen and other halachos are because he is a Kohen himself.)

After his resurrection, would he be required to marry his wife again? Reb Elchonon Wasserman discusses the status of the wife of Eliyahu after he ascended to Heaven without dying.

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