Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Is the Fetus a "Swallowed Item"?

The following halacha is derived from our Gemora (Nedarim 75b): If a person swallows a tahor ring and subsequently enters a room containing a corpse, the ring does not contract tumah. This is based on a Gemora in Chulin (71b), which states that a “swallowed item” does not contract tumah.

The Minchas Chinuch (263:3) asks the following question: How can Rabbi Akiva in Chulin (72a) rule that a fetus inside of its mother’s womb can Biblically contract tumah? Shouldn’t the fetus be regarded as a “swallowed item,” and therefore, be shielded by the mother’s body from becoming tamei?

He answers that the fetus is considered like a thigh of its mother and therefore is rendered tamei just like any other one of the mother’s limbs.

The Magen Avraham (O”C 343:2) cites the Rokeach as saying the following: Concerning a pregnant wife of a Kohen, she is permitted to enter into a room that contains a corpse (even though the baby might be a male and cannot become tamei). The rationale is based upon a “double doubt.” Perhaps she will miscarry, and even if she will not, perhaps the child will be a female, not a male!

The Magen Avraham asks: Why is this logic necessary? It should be permitted because the fetus can be regarded as a “swallowed item,” and hence, cannot become tamei?

Reb Elchonon Wasserman in Koveitz Shiurim (2:41) answers: A Kohen is forbidden from entering into a room that contains tumah (regardless of becoming tamei). A “swallowed item,” although it does not become tamei, it is nevertheless, considered as if it is inside the room. Therefore, the principle of a “swallowed item” will not permit her to enter the room.

According to the Minchas Chinuch, we can answer that the fetus is not regarded as a “swallowed item,” and therefore will not be a reason to permit her to enter.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Ben Azzai

(Nedarim 74b) When Ben Azzai heard Rabbi Akiva’s argument, he exclaimed in this exact language: It is a pity to you, Ban Azzai, that you did not serve Rabbi Akiva!

The Yad Malachei asks: It is evident from this Gemora that Ben Azzai did not study under Rabbi akiva. However, the Gemora Brochos (62a) states that Rabbi Yehudah told Ben Azzai: For how long will you be brazen towards Rabbi Akiva, your master? It could be answered that Ben Azzai went to study under Rabbi Akiva, and that is what the Gemora in Brochos is referring to.

However, the Gemora Brochos mentions that Ben Azzai said to Rabbi Akiva: For how long will you be brazen towards your master, that you followed Rabbi Yehoshua into the lavatory? If Rabbi Akiva was his master, how could he speak in such a degrading manner towards him? Even a teacher to a student wouldn’t talk like that; certainly a student to his teacher!

Therefore, he writes that it must be that Ben Azzai was a talmid chaver (a peer) of Rabbi Akiva. They were both disciples of Rabbi Eliezer the Great.

The Gemora in Bava Basra (158a) refers to Ben Azzai as the “Talmid chaver” of Rabbi Akiva. Ben Azzai was considered somewhat of a disciple of Rabbi Akiva.

Rabbeinu Gershom comments: Since Ben Azzai was a “bochur,” he was unable to comprehend halachic logic as well as Rabbi Akiva.

What is the connection between being a “bochur,” and not comprehending to the fullest extent?

I once heard from my Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Chaim Schmelczer zt”l that Rabbeinu Gershom means that Ben Azzai was a bachelor, and one who is not married does not have the same level of contentment as one who is married. Torah study requires one to be at ease; one must have a menuchas hanefesh in order to comprehend the depths of the Torah. This is what Ben Azzai was lacking.

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Deaf-mute Revoking

Rami bar Cham inquires (Nedarim 73a): Can a deaf man revoke the nedarim of his wife?

The Ra”n explains that the Gemora is referring to a deaf person who can talk, but cannot hear.

The Rosh adds: We cannot be referring to a deaf-mute, for he can only make a Rabbinical kiddushin through hinting or signing. He will not be able to revoke her nedarim, which are Biblically valid! Furthermore, he would have the halacha of a shoteh, and the halachos of revoking will not be applicable for him.

Reb Yaakov Emden explains the Rosh to mean as follows: The kiddushin of a deaf-mute is only a Rabbinical one. He performs a kiddushin by demonstrating that he wishes to marry her. It is, therefore, impossible for him to revoke his wife’s nedarim, for that is a Biblical halacha, which would only be applicable to a marriage on a Biblical level.

The Acharonim challenge this explanation from a Gemora in Niddah (46b), which states that one who married a minor, who has no father, and the kiddushin is only a Rabbinical one, may nevertheless revoke her nedarim. This is because every woman who makes a neder intends that it will be subject to her husband’s will. This applies by a Rabbinical marriage as well, since she is his wife.

Reb Shmuel Rozovsky (and others) explain the Rosh to mean that since he cannot talk, he is incapable of revoking his wife’s vows. For one needs to speak in order ot revoke a vow; hinting and signing will not be sufficient.

The Nidrei Zerizin is perplexed by this answer: Where does it say that one needs a complete expression in order to revoke a vow? Furthermore, he can revoke it through writing. For there are many opinions that maintain that writing is considered like speaking in regards to making an oath; certainly it should suffice for revoking a vow!

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pre-existing Conditions

The Gemora (Nedarim 72a) stated that the Mishna is referring to a nesuah, and the reason that the husband cannot revoke her vow is because the halacha is that a husband cannot revoke his nesuah’s prior vows.

The Ra”n explains that it can be referring to a nesuah either in the marriage preceding the divorce or the one that followed it. If she was an arusah by the first marriage and a nesuah at the end, he would not be able to revoke her nedarim, for the husband cannot revoke pre-existing nedarim. If she was a nesuah by the first marriage and an arusah at the end, he cannot revoke her nedarim, for once she is a nesuah, the father loses his rights over her, and the arus is not able to revoke her vows without the conjunction of her father.

The Reshash notes that it would seem from this Ra”n that a husband after nisuin can indeed revoke the nedarim that his wife made while she was an arusah. For otherwise, the Mishna did not have to mention that he divorced her and then remarried her. He cites the Rambam’s opinion that the husband may not revoke the nedarim that his wife made while she was an arusah.

There are those that explain the argument as follows: Does the husband have authority over his wife’s nedarim, while she is an arusah? If you say that the husband has no authority then; it is only in conjunction with her father that he may revoke her nedarim, we can explain the Rambam’s opinion. Once they perform nisuin, the husband acquires the authority to revoke her nedarim, but he can only use this authority on nedarim that his wife makes from now on. However, if you will say that the husband does have authority to revoke her vows even during the erusin, except that this authority is limited in the fact that he may only revoke her nedarim in conjunction with her father, we can understand the Ra”n’s opinion. The husband may revoke the nedarim that his wife made during erusin, for this is not regarded as a pre-existing neder, since he had the authority to revoke this neder even beforehand.

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