Talmud

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Yevamot 78a-b: Between the Pillars
24/05/2022 - 23rd of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Our Gemara relates that Rav Dimi returned to Bavel from a visit to Israel and he quoted a teaching in the name of Rabbi Yohanan. Upon hearing this, Abaye presented a question that stumped Rav Dimi, and he could offer no explanation. Abaye, upon reconsidering his question, suggested an approach that rang true to Rav Dimi who exclaimed karkapana, hazitay le-reisheikh beinei amudei ki amar Rabbi Yohanan le-ha shema'ata! Literally translated this means "You with the head. I saw your head between the pillars when Rabbi Yohanan taught this lesson." What did Rav Dimi mean with this comment? The Aruk presents two possibilities to explain the first word – karkapana. One suggestion is that it means "you with the great skull." Alternatively it can be understood to mean "man of distinction." Tosafot suggest that the reference to his "head" being between the pillars when the lesson was taught is a reference to Abaye's teacher, Rabba, who had traveled from Bavel to Israel to study with Rabbi Yohanan. Although Tosafot refer to Ketubot 111a, there is little evidence in the Talmud that indicates that Rabba ever visited Israel. More likely Rav Dimi was using an expression, saying that Abaye successfully recreated Rabbi Yohanan's thought process, as if he had been present at the lecture. The reference to his being "between the pillars" is apparently a reference to the beit midrash in Tiberias where Rabbi Yohanan lectured. Archaeological excavations have shown that both the synagogue and the study hall that stood in Tiberias during the post-Mishnaic period were built in the style of a basilica – that is to say, that their roofs were supported by a series of columns. Thus Rav Dimi was describing the lecture hall where he had heard Rabbi Yohanan's teaching that led to this conversation.
Yevamot 77a-b: David, Descended of Moav
23/05/2022 - 22nd of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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King David was a descendant of Rut HaMo'avia – Ruth the Moabite (see Ruth 4:17). Our Gemara relates that when King Saul was concerned that David would claim the monarchy, his advisor, Doeg HaEdomi argued – convincingly – that David should be forbidden from being considered a true member of the Jewish people, due to this ancestry. According to Rava, a man named Amasa (see II Shmuel 17:25) rose in David's defense and threatened to stab anyone who rejected the teaching that women from Ammon and Mo'av were allowed to marry into the Jewish community, even though the Torah prohibits males from doing so. He argues that, Doeg's proofs notwithstanding, he had a tradition from the prophet Shmu'el and his court that such women were permitted. The disagreement revolved around the question of how to understand the reason given by the Torah for the limitation on people from Ammon and Mo'av. The Torah explains (see Devarim 23:5) that this is punishment for the fact that they did not offer bread and water to the children of Israel during their trek through the desert. The traditional perspective is that it was the responsibility of the men to welcome the tired strangers, so the prohibition was limited to them. Doeg argued that the men should have welcomed the men and the women should have welcomed the women – an assertion that was rejected by Shmu'el and his court. The Rashba raises a different question on this source. The people who did not greet the children of Israel with bread and water were the people of Ammon, yet Ruth was from the nation of Mo'av. How do we know that the same exclusion applies to that nation? Several answers are suggested, but the simplest approach may be that of the Talmud Yerushalmi, which points out that the sin of Mo'av was that Balak, their king, hired the services of the prophet Bilam to curse the people. The Yerushalmi argues that the women of Mo'av played no role in that incident at all.
Yevamot 76a-b: Converts From Among the Nations
22/05/2022 - 21st of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Among the people that the Torah teaches cannot join the Jewish people through marriage are Egyptians and people from the nations of Edom, Ammon and Mo'av (see Devarim 23:2-5). The Mishna teaches that there are differences between them, however. Egyptians and Edomites who convert will be allowed to marry only other converts for three generations, after which they can marry anyone. Amon and Mo'av can never join the Jewish people through marriage, although women from those nations can convert and marry immediately. Do these rules apply in the modern age? Already in the time of the Mishna (see Massekhet Yadayim 4:4) there was an awareness that the ancient people could no longer be considered direct descendants of the countries in which they lived. We find tanna'im like Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua, who told prospective converts from these nations that King Sanherib of Assyria exiled people from their lands to such an extent that we cannot possibly know from what nation someone descends. For this reason, the rule limiting converts from marrying into the Jewish people was not applied. Nevertheless, our Gemara tells of Minyamin, an Egyptian convert who was a student of Rabbi Akiva's, who shared his plan of marrying off his children and grandchildren to other converts so that they would eventually be allowed to freely marry. Many rishonim understand that there is a need to distinguish between the nations to the north and east of Israel, who were dispersed by Sanherib and Nevuhadnezzar, and Egypt, which was more successful in retaining a national identity throughout history. In fact, we find two conflicting statements in the Tosefta, one of which suggests that the prophetic statement guaranteeing the return of the Egyptian nation to its land lends credence to the possibility that the people living in Egypt are truly Egyptians. Nevertheless, the Rambam rules that all of the nations have moved from one place to another and that we can no longer really know who is who. According to this ruling, none of the Torah's rules about these nations apply any longer.
Yevamot 75a-b: Sages of the Vineyard
21/05/2022 - 20th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Torah (Devarim 23) lists people who are not permitted to "join" the Jewish people through marriage. Aside from individuals from foreign nations (e.g. Egyptians and Midianites), the Torah also includes men who have been physically injured in a way that affects their ability to have normal sexual relations (see Devarim 23:2). In an attempt to define one of these categories, our Gemara brings the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka, who says that he learned from the Sages in kerem beYavne that someone who has only one testicle does not fall into these categories and can marry freely. From a medical perspective, a person who is in this state, whether he was born with just one testicle or if he lost it through an injury or an operation, can still produce viable sperm and have children. Thus, such a person would not fall into the category of someone who cannot marry. The Sages of kerem beYavne were those who learned in the great yeshiva in Yavne, which was the seat of the Nasi after the destruction of the second Temple. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the gathering was not called kerem beYavne because of a vineyard that grew there (kerem = vineyard), but rather it was because the students sat in a series of long rows that were reminiscent of the standing vines of a vineyard. Since this was the gathering place of the majority of the Sages of that generation, it became known as the beit ha-va'ad – the gathering-place of the committee (of scholars). This is the place where the most serious issues of halakha – those that would impact on the future of the Jewish community in a particularly difficult period in history – were raised for discussion; therefore the decisions that were made in kerem beYavne were treated with the greatest respect by all.
Yevamot 74a-b: Stringencies, to the Letter
20/05/2022 - 19th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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On yesterday's daf, we learned about the basic rules of teruma and ma'aser. The Gemara on our daf points out a number of qualities unique to each one of them. According to the Gemara, teruma is special because it has "mahpaz", while ma'aser is unique in that it is "hadas tav". These words are actually acrostics – mnemonic devices used by the Sages to help them remember certain lists of rules or attributes. Here they stand for the following: Teruma has these unique rules:
  1. Mita (a death penalty) for a non-kohen who eats it on purpose;
  2. Homesh (a fifth, or 20) needs to be added to the repayment if it was eaten accidentally by someone who was not a kohen;
  3. Pidyon (redemption in exchange for money) is forbidden;
  4. Zarim (non-kohanim) cannot eat it.
Ma'aser sheni has these unique rules:
  1. Hava'at makom (it must be brought to Jerusalem)
  2. viDdui (a statement that it was collected and done correctly) must be uttered
  3. aSur le-onen (a person in a state of mourning prior to burial cannot eat it)
  4. Tuma (if eaten in a state of ritual defilement, the transgressor will receive lashes)
  5. Biur (it must be removed from the house and taken to Jerusalem within a specific amount of time).
Finally, the Gemara points out that kodashim have their own set of unique rules, whose mnemonic abbreviation is pankakes:
  1. Piggul (a korban, or sacrifice, brought outside of the Temple, is invalid)
  2. Notar (a korban left over beyond the time that it had to be eaten is invalid)
  3. Korban (it is a sacrifice dedicated to God)
  4. me'Ila (benefiting from it is considered stealing from the Temple, with all that implies)
  5. Karet (the punishment for eating it in a state of ritual defilement is to be "cut off" from the Jewish people
  6. aSur (a person in a state of mourning prior to burial cannot eat it)
The Gemara brings these lists in an attempt to clarify which of these laws is the more severe one, assuming that the one with the largest collection of rules is the most severe.
Yevamot 73a-b: Harvest Taxes
19/05/2022 - 18th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The "taxes" paid by an average farmer during Temple times went largely to the mikdash itself and to the people – kohanim and levi'im – who worked there. The major matanot (literally "presents" but effectively taxes) included: Bikkurim – the first fruits of the harvest that are brought to the Temple and given to the kohanim Teruma gedola – a portion of the harvest given to the kohen. He can use it in his home for normal purposes, but it must be treated as kodshim, i.e. preserved when possible in a state of ritual purity, only consumed by kohanim, etc. Ma'aser rishon – a portion of the harvest given to the levi. It has no kedusha attached to it and it can be used for any purpose. Ma'aser sheni – a portion of the harvest that is taken by its owner to Jerusalem, where he can eat it on his own or give it to others, but it must be kept tahor (ritually pure) and only eaten within the precincts of the city. Our Gemara quotes a Mishna that teaches a number of halakhot regarding bikkurim and teruma. For example, someone who is not a kohen who eats them will be liable to receive the death penalty if he consumes them with malicious intent, or will have to pay restitution and add a 20 penalty if he eats them accidentally. Nevertheless, they are considered the property of the kohen (i.e. he can sell them to another kohen), and if they were to fall into a mixture, they would become nullified at a ratio of 100:1 (ordinary forbidden foods become nullified at a ratio of 60:1). The Mishna points out that all this is in contrast to the laws of ma'aser rishon, which has no unique holiness to it; it is simply a portion of the harvest that must be separated and given to the levi to do with it as he sees fit. The Ramban points out that that the emphasis made by the Mishna on the fact that bikkurim and teruma are the property of the kohen is to point out the contrast with ma'aser sheni, which is considered by the Sages to be in the category of mi-shulhan gavoah ka-zakhu – coming to the individual "from the table of the Almighty."
Yevamot 72a-b: Hidden Circumcisions
18/05/2022 - 17th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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We have already learned (in the first Mishna in this perek 70a) that a kohen who is an arel – a Jewish man who has not been circumcised – cannot eat teruma. The Gemara on our daf discusses the case of a mashukh – a person who had a brit mila and then had his skin stretched back so that it would appear to be a foreskin, in order to hide his circumcision. This type of operation was done during certain times in Jewish history – for example, under Greek/Hellenistic rule – when being circumcised was an embarrassment for someone who was interested in assimilating into the dominant culture, which viewed circumcision as mutilation. It should be noted that under the Greeks, sporting events – including the original Olympic Games – were held with the participants unclothed. Rav Huna rules that, on a biblical level, someone who has undergone this operation and has hidden his brit mila is still considered circumcised; nevertheless the Rabbis ruled that such a person should undergo a second circumcision. Furthermore, the Gemara reports that during the rule of bar Koziva, many people who had hidden their brit mila arranged to undergo a second circumcision. The individual who is known to the Gemara as bar Koziva is the same person who is known to us – as he was called by Rabbi Akiva – as bar Kokheva. In letters written by him that have been unearthed in archaeological excavations, we find that he signed his name Shimon ben Kosba. Apparently, the other names that he had "played off" of his actual name. His supporters called him bar Kohkeva – “the son of the star” – basing themselves on the passage recited by the prophet, Bilam (Bamidbar 24:17), darakh kokhav mi-Yaakov. Those who opposed his revolt – especially after it failed – called him bar Koziva – “the son of falsehood.” One of the underlying causes of the bar Kokheva revolt was the edict of the Caesar forbidding circumcision around 130 CE. From our Gemara we see that there were also people who tried to hide their circumcisions, an act that they later removed under the inspiration of bar Kokheva.
Yevamot 71a-b: Participating in the Pesah Sacrifice
17/05/2022 - 16th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The first Mishna in the eighth perek, see 70a) taught that an arel – someone who is not circumcised – cannot eat teruma. The Gemara derived this law from a similar one forbidding an arel from partaking in the korban Pesah (see Shemot 12:48). There are other people who also cannot participate in the Pesah sacrifice – specifically non-Jews, who are listed as ben-neikhar (an "alien," as in Shemot 12:43), and toshav ve-sakhir ("a sojourner and a hired servant," see Shemot 12:45). The Gemara understands the ben-neikhar to be a Jew who has become an apostate. One suggestion regarding the definition of toshav ve-sakhir is that these are the cases of aravi mahul ve-givoni mahul – Arabs or Gibeonites who had a tradition of circumcision, but who nonetheless could not participate in the Passover sacrifice. The rishonim question why we need to be taught that a non-Jew cannot participate in the korban Pesah once we know that a Jewish apostate cannot do so. The Ramban and Rashba argue that someone who rejects the Jewish faith could very well be considered worse than a non-Jew. The Behag suggests that the case of an aravi mahul is one where the non-Jew had begun the process of conversion to Judaism and had already accepted mitzvot and gone to the mikvah, but had not yet completed his brit. This halakha is teaching that he must complete the conversion, even though he already has undergone a circumcision of sorts. It appears that the case of the givoni mahul is not a reference to the Gibeonites mentioned in Sefer Yehoshua (see chapter 9), but rather to another nation. Some manuscripts refer to them as gavnuni mahul, and Rabbeinu Hananel explains that they were a nation who lived in the mountains – some say on the east bank of the Jordan, others suggest that they were in an area called Gubia, south of the Caucasus. In any case, as Rashi explains, they were a nation that had a tradition of circumcision, even in the times of the Talmud.
Yevamot 70a-b: An Uncircumcised Kohen
16/05/2022 - 15th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The seventh perek of Massekhet Yevamot taught about how the relationships that a woman has affect her ability to marry a kohen, and specifically whether she will be able to eat teruma – the tithes that are permitted only to a kohen and to members of his household. The eighth perek, which begins on our daf, continues the discussion of teruma, and teaches about cases where a kohen may not be allowed to eat teruma, and yet his wife will be able to do so because of their marriage. One example of such a case is an arel – an uncircumcised kohen – who cannot eat teruma himself, even though a woman who marries him will be permitted to eat teruma, by virtue of the fact that she has married a kohen. After all, a kohen who is uncircumcised is still a full kohen, he just needs a brit mila – without which he cannot eat teruma. According to the Gemara, the source for the halakha that an arel cannot eat teruma is the word parallels between teruma and the Passover sacrifice where it is clearly stated that an arel cannot participate (see Shemot 12:48). Rashi explains that the arel being discussed by the Mishna is someone who does not undergo circumcision because he had brothers who died after they had a brit mila. In such a case we rule that the person should not be circumcised lest he suffer the same fate as his brothers. Rabbeinu Tam argues that such a person is, essentially, free from the obligation of circumcision, and therefore cannot be considered an arel. According to this line of reasoning, an uncircumcised kohen who is not obligated in the mitzva of brit mila, would be allowed to eat teruma. Rabbeinu Tam explains that we must be talking about a case where the kohen is simply afraid of the procedure and refused to have a brit. Only in such a case would he lose the ability to eat teruma.
Yevamot 69a-b: When the Marriage Ends
15/05/2022 - 14th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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As we have learned, if a kohen marries a woman who is not from a family of kohanim, once she becomes a member of his household she will be permitted to eat teruma in his home. Conversely, if a woman from a family of kohanim marries an ordinary Jew, once she joins his household, she no longer is permitted to eat teruma. What happens if the marriage ends? In both such cases, once the husband dies or divorces his wife, she returns to her father's house, and once again follows the rules that apply in that household. The exception will be if she has had children with her husband. In such a case, the child will keep her in her husband's family's home, and a woman married to a kohen would continue to eat teruma, while the daughter of a kohen married to an ordinary Jew would not be able to do so (see Vayikra 22:13). The Gemara on our daf quotes a baraita that offers the following ruling. If the daughter of a kohen marries an ordinary Jew, and he dies with no children, the widow can begin eating teruma immediately. That is to say, we are not concerned with the possibility that she is pregnant with a child, something that would keep her from returning to her father's household. Rav Hisda explains that this is true for forty days because we can work with the assumption that either she is not pregnant or else the embryo is not considered to be significant for the first 40 days. The Rabbinic ruling that an embryo is not given halakhic significance for the first 40 days coincides with the stage of development when the embryo loses its similarity to embryos of other animals to the extent that the tail disappears and the human head, hands and legs begin to form. Although at that point the embryo is still small and undeveloped, still it is clearly recognizable as a human form.
Yevamot 68a-b: In the First Stage of Marriage
14/05/2022 - 13th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In our study in this perek of women eating teruma thanks to their marriage to a kohen, we have not yet discussed what level of marriage will allow them to do so. We have already learned that a Jewish marriage takes place in two stages – kiddushin (bethrothal) and nissuin (marriage) – both of which are performed in a single ceremony today. In the time of the Mishna these two events were usually separated by a year of preparation for the wedding. Once nissuin has taken place, the married woman can certainly begin eating teruma, for she is a member of the kohen's household. What about after kiddushin? The Mishna (67b) teaches that kiddushin will not give such a woman the right to eat teruma, even though it will cause the daughter of a kohen to lose the right to eat teruma, if she gets engaged to someone who is not a kohen. Our Gemara explains that this is because the kiddushin should really be enough, but there is a rabbinic ordinance here – mishum d'Ulla- because of what Ulla said. Ulla's rule is that we must be concerned that the young bride who – according to prevalent custom of the time – was still living at home might take the teruma and share it with other members of her family who do not have the right to be eating teruma. Even though this is the reason most often quoted, the Gemara in Massekhet Ketubot (57b) offers a second reason, as well – mishum simpon – that we fear that some undiscovered fault or blemish will be discovered in the bride that will cause the husband to have the marriage annulled. Were that to happen, we would find out retroactively that no betrothal had truly taken place, and that she had no right to have eaten the teruma.
Yevamot 67a-b: When a Kohen Dies
13/05/2022 - 12th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
If a kohen marries a woman who is not from a family of kohanim, once she becomes a member of his household she will be permitted to eat teruma in his home. Were he to die, assuming that they had children together, she will continue to eat teruma, since the children allow her to remain in her late husband's household. If she was pregnant at the time of her husband's death, one opinion in the Mishna suggests that the family slaves cannot eat teruma, since they are partially owned by the unborn child – who does not have the ability to feed them. When Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yose quotes his father as ruling that in such a case a daughter has the ability to allow the slaves to eat, but a son does not, Abaye explains that this is talking about a very specific case, when there is not enough money in the estate for the daughters to be supported if the sons were to take their inheritance. In such a case the sons will receive nothing, and even if the unborn child is a son, he will not have rights to the slave and therefore cannot keep him from eating teruma. According to the Torah, when a man dies it is his sons who will receive the inheritance from him, while the daughters will receive nothing. Only if there are no sons and there are daughters will the daughters receive the inheritance. However, the Sages established a clause in the ketuba (the marriage contract) guaranteeing that the daughters will be supported by the estate until they either marry or reach maturity. Given the fact that the ketuba is viewed by the halakha as a promissory note, it has the status of a bill or obligation and it must be paid out before the sons collect their share of the inheritance. Thus, if there are limited funds, it is the daughters who will be supported, while the sons will not receive even minimal support from the estate. Even so, there remains a possibility that the sons will sell the property of the estate, and since on a biblical level it belongs to them the sale will take effect, depriving the daughters of their means of support.
Yevamot 66a-b: Animals Eating Tithes
12/05/2022 - 11th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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One of the topics that was discussed in the sixth perek of Massekhet Yevamot was how the relationships that a woman has affect her ability to marry a kohen, and similarly whether she will be able to eat teruma – the tithes that are permitted only to a kohen and to members of his household. Although this topic has little direct connection to Massekhet Yevamot, nevertheless, the seventh perek, which begins on our daf, is devoted to clarification of this issue. The basic rule of thumb with regard to eating teruma is that all members of a kohen's household can eat, not only his wife and children, but also his slaves and even animals that he owns (see Vayikra 22:11-13). This is true of animals that are kinyan kaspo – that the kohen has purchased and owns. If, however, the kohen was responsible for the animal, but did not actually own it, then he cannot feed it teruma. Thus, the Gemara on our daf quotes a Mishna in Terumot (11:9) according to which a kohen who rents an animal from another Jew who is not a kohen will not be allowed to feed it karshinei teruma, even though a Jew who is not a kohen would be allowed to feed karshinei teruma to an animal rented from a kohen. Karshinim are a type of legume – vicia ervilia – more commonly known as Bitter Vetch. Like most legumes, karshinim have a high nutritional value and can be digested easily by animals. It grows in the winter and spring in lands around the Mediterranean Sea, and in Arab villages it is still grown as animal feed. Although its bitter taste makes it appropriate only for animals, in times of famine or for people who are in dire financial straights it would be prepared for human consumption, as well. Since it can be eaten by people, the obligation of terumot u'ma'asrot – of tithes – applies to it. Still it was usually fed to animals belonging to a kohen.
Yevamot 65a-b: Be Fruitful and Multiply - II
11/05/2022 - 10th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Mishna on our daf continues the discussion of the mitzva of peru urvu – literally "to be fruitful and multiply (i.e. the commandment to have children). Here we learn that the opinion of the Tanna Kamma is that only males are obligated in this commandment, although Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka disagrees, pointing to the passage in Sefer Bereshit (1:28) where God blesses both Adam and Eve and commands them to be fruitful and multiply. In explanation of the Tanna Kamma's position that women are not obligated in this mitzva, the Gemara brings Rabbi Ile’a quoting Rabbi Elazar b'Rabbi Shimon who argues that the conclusion of the passage referred to above adds ve'khivshuha – "and conquer it." Thus, the commandment to have offspring includes a mitzva to conquer and control the world, something that is perceived as being a male oriented endeavor. To support the ruling that the mitzva applied only to men, the Gemara relates a story about Rabbi Hiyya's wife, Yehudit, who had given birth to two sets of twins – two boys and two girls – and had found the birthing experience to be particularly difficult and painful (the Gemara relates that one set of twins – Yehuda and Hizkiyya – were born almost two months apart). She went in disguise to her husband, Rabbi Hiyya, and asked whether women are obligated in the mitzva of peru urvu. When he ruled that they are not commanded, she drank a potion that made her sterile, so that she would have no more pregnancies. When Rabbi Hiyya learned what had happened, he lamented that he would have wanted one more set of children. In fact, research has found that some women are more likely to give birth to twins than others (this trait often runs in families). Thus, a woman who has already had two sets of twins will likely conceive twins again – a fact that was of particular concern to Rabbi Hiyya's wife who had found those pregnancies so difficult.
Yevamot 64a-b: Be Fruitful and Multiply
10/05/2022 - 9th of Iyar, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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A number of Mishnayot here in the sixth perek of Massekhet Yevamot focus on the commandment of peru u'revu – the mitzva of having children. The Mishna on our daf teaches that this commandment is so important that if a couple has been married for ten years with no children, the husband cannot choose to simply forgo this mitzva (in the time of the Mishna he could choose to marry a second wife). The baraita teaches that should he choose to divorce her, he is obligated to pay her ketuba, and she can marry another. Both of these rulings indicate that we do not assume that the onus of responsibility for the lack of children rests with the wife, rather the couple may simply not have been compatible. From a medical perspective, it is possible that both husband and wife could be physically able to conceive, yet they cannot have children together, that is to say that a variety of issues may keep the woman from becoming pregnant or not allow an embryo to develop after conception. Sometimes the woman's body may have antibodies that do not allow for a specific man's semen to survive, which will keep any pregnancy from developing; in other cases the genetic combination of the couple may create conditions that kill the embryo before it advances in its development. These considerations bring the Ritva to rule that even if the husband has had children from a previous marriage, that in itself does not prove that the husband is healthy and that it is his wife who cannot conceive, for it is possible that she, too, can have children, just not with him. For this reason, in the event of a divorce, such a woman can marry another man, and even if she has no children in the second marriage, she can marry a third time, as well.
Yevamot 63a-b: On Marriage
09/05/2022 - 8th of Iyar, 5782
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Our Gemara quotes a series of passages that appear in Sefer Ben Sira on marriage and the need to be satisfied with your own lot (see Ben Sira, Chapter 26, which includes such statements as "a virtuous woman is a great gift to her husband," and chapter 9, where Ben Sira teaches "Keep your eyes away from a graceful woman [who is married to another] lest you be caught in her trap; do not drink wine and beer with her husband because many have been destroyed by a beautiful woman.") Sefer Ben Sira is one of the earliest books composed after the closing of the Biblical canon. It was authored by Shimon ben Yehoshua ben Sira, a native of Jerusalem, who was a younger contemporary of Shimon HaTzaddik, prior to the Hasmonean era. The book of Ben Sira was held in great esteem, and after its translation into Greek by the author's grandson (in the year 132 BCE in Alexandria) it became widely known even among those who were not familiar with the Hebrew language. Sefer Ben Sira is included as a canonical work in the Septuagint (and therefore is considered as such in many other translations of the Bible), and although the Sages chose to view it as one of the sefarim hitzoni'im - books outside of the canon - they quote it in a respectful manner throughout the Talmud, sometimes even referring to it as ketuvim. Still, because of confusion between this work and another one that was known as Alfa-Beta d'Ben-Sira, which was a popular - and problematic - work, we find statements in the Gemara forbidding the study of Sefer Ben Sira. For generations Sefer Ben Sira was known only from its translations, but recently parts of it have been found in the original Hebrew (in Masada and elsewhere). Since it was not part of the official Biblical canon it appears that the copyists felt more freedom when working with it and we find several different versions of the same text. When it appears in the Talmud it seems likely that it is being quoted by heart by the Sages, rather than from a written text.
Yevamot 62a-b: Days of Mourning
08/05/2022 - 7th of Iyar, 5782
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Traditionally, the weeks between Pesah and Shavuot – the days of Sefirat HaOmer – are kept as days of mourning. The likely source for this tradition appears on our daf, where the Gemara quotes Rabbi Akiva as teaching that even a person who studied Torah in his youth should continue to study Torah into his old age. Similarly, someone who teaches students as a young man should continue to do so even when he gets old. To illustrate the importance of this teaching, the Gemara relates that this concept was crucial for Rabbi Akiva personally. Rabbi Akiva is said to have had 12,000 pairs of students across the land of Israel, and all of them died during the period between Pesah and Shavuot. The land was left desolate until Rabbi Akiva taught a new group of students – Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua - who succeeded in reestablishing Torah study in Israel. The simple reading of the Gemara makes it appear that Rabbi Akiva's students died of a plague, and most of the rishonim accept that approach. In his historical letter, Rav Sherira Gaon offers a different explanation. He says that they died of shemada, which means a war or governmental decree. This is an apparent reference to the Bar Kokhba revolt, of which Rabbi Akiva was an enthusiastic supporter. It appears that Rabbi Akiva's students volunteered for military service under Bar Kokhba's leadership, and when the revolt was put down by the Romans with great severity, they were among the many who were killed. The Meiri suggests that the source for the tradition of mourning during this period stems from this story. According to the ge'onim the students did not die on the 33rd day of Sefirat HaOmer, which is why there is no mourning on that day.
Yevamot 61a-b: The Widow and the High Priest
07/05/2022 - 6th of Iyar, 5782
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We have already learned that the kohen gadol – the High Priest – is limited by the Torah (see Vayikra 21:10-15) with regard to who he can marry, even more so than an ordinary kohen. While an ordinary kohen cannot marry a gerusha (divorcee), zona (harlot) or halala (a woman who was defiled by a forbidden sexual encounter), the kohen gadol can also not marry an almana (widow). What if an ordinary kohen was betrothed to an almana and he receives an appointment to be the kohen gadol? Can he still marry his betrothed? The Mishna on our daf rules that he can marry the widow, and even describes such a case that happened: a prominent widow named Marta bat Baitos was engaged to Yehoshua ben Gamla, who was appointed to be kohen gadol, and he nevertheless married her. The Gemara relates that Yehoshua ben Gamla was not appointed by his fellow kohanim, but by King Yannai, with Rav Asi going so far as to accuse Marta bat Baitos of bribing the king in order to secure the position for her soon-to-be husband. Yehoshua ben Gamla is most likely one of the last kohanim gedolim of the second Temple period, who is mentioned in Josephus as Yehoshua ben Gamliel. If this identification is correct, he was appointed to this position by King Agrippas II (Tosafot point out that the "King Yannai" mentioned in the story cannot be the Hasmonean king by that name, since he had appointed himself to be the High Priest. The Sages used the name "King Yannai" to signify any one of a number of second Temple period kings when they wanted to express negative feelings about them. While Agrippas I was friendly with the Sages, his son, Agrippas II, was considered an enemy of tradition. Among his faults was his practice of selling the position of High Priest.) The negative description in our Gemara notwithstanding, elsewhere Yehoshua ben Gamla is praised by the Sages for a number of things, among them donating golden plates for the Yom Kippur lottery, but chiefly for instituting a formal elementary school system in every city in Israel. This led the Sages to say about him, "were it not for him, the Torah would have been totally forgotten."
Yevamot 60a-b: A Convert and a Kohen
06/05/2022 - 5th of Iyar, 5782
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Although it is not discussed in the Torah, the Sages work under the assumption that a woman who converts is not allowed to marry a kohen. Our Gemara quotes a baraita which teaches that Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai permits a kohen to marry a giyoret (a woman who has converted) if she became Jewish when she was still a child under three years old. He bases himself on the passage (Bamidbar 31:1-20) which describes how, in the aftermath of the war of the Children of Israel against the Midianites, only the underage girls were permitted to live. (Moses was concerned that the earlier incident in which Canaanite women were used to entice the Israelite men to commit idol worship [see Bamidbar 25:1-9] would repeat itself – see Bamidbar 31:14-16.) Since we know that there were kohanim amongst the warriors, Rabbi Shimon concludes that they were allowed to marry these converts. The Hakhamim disagree, arguing that the story of the war makes no reference whatsoever to marriage and that perhaps the children were kept alive as maidservants. In truth, the main discussion of this halakha is in the last chapter of Massekhet Kiddushin. There we find an argument among the rishonim. While Rashi and the Rambam appear to categorize a convert under the rubric of zona (see Vayikra 21:10-15), many others disagree with this suggestion, arguing that even if the woman was considered to have had a "forbidden sexual encounter" prior to her conversion, the halakha generally treats a convert as a newborn. The alternative suggestion raised by the Ra'avad and the Rashba is that the rule forbidding a kohen to marry a convert stems from a passage in Yehezkel (44:22) where the navi states that kohanim can marry only betulot mi-zera beit Yisra'el – virgins from Jewish families. They explain that the Gemara in Kiddushin which quotes this passage apparently sees it not as a prophetic statement with no impact on the halakha, but rather as a clarification and support of the law taught in the Torah.
Yevamot 59a-b: Priestly Marriage Material
05/05/2022 - 4th of Iyar, 5782
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The Mishna on our daf delineates the rules of a kohen gadol – the High Priest – who is limited by the Torah (see Vayikra 21:10-15) with regard to who he can marry, even more so than an ordinary kohen. While an ordinary kohen cannot marry a gerusha (divorcee), zona (harlot) or halala (woman who was defiled by a forbidden sexual encounter), the kohen gadol also cannot marry an almana (widow) and may only marry a betula (virgin). The Gemara discusses the technical definition of these terms in some detail in order to clarify the rules of marriage for both an ordinary kohen and a kohen gadol. One ruling presented by Rav Shimi bar Hiyya is that a woman who has had relations with an animal does not fall into any of the forbidden categories and a kohen would be permitted to marry her, even though she is liable to receive a death penalty for her actions (if she did it on purpose). The Gemara then goes on to relate that such a story actually took place. In the town of Hitlu, a young woman was innocently cleaning the house when she was raped by a dog (some manuscripts say it was a kof – a monkey). The case was brought before Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who ruled that she could marry a kohen. According to the Gemara, Shmuel added that she could even marry a kohen gadol. In answer to the Gemara's question "was there even a kohen gadol during that period?" the explanation is given that the ruling stated there was no question about her status, so theoretically she could even have married the kohen gadol. The Arukh LaNer points out that this question could be asked on many of the discussions in the Gemara, but it is not, for we are well aware that many Talmudic arguments are based on theoretical questions. Since in this instance the Gemara related a ruling that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi gave in a specific case, the assumption was that it must be a practical statement rather than a theoretical one. Based on manuscripts, it appears that Hitlu, where the aforementioned incident took place, can be identified with the village of Ayatlu, about five kilometers west of Nazareth in the Galilee. Ayatlu was known as a village of kohanim, which helps to explain why it was so important to establish whether the young woman was still permitted to marry a kohen.
Yevamot 58a-b: Extension of an Oath
04/05/2022 - 3rd of Iyar, 5782
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From our experiences with secular courts, we often mistakenly think that witnesses who come to testify in court must swear to tell the truth before offering their testimony. The Torah never requires witnesses to take an oath – the court either accepts the witness as being reliable, or else distrusts him based on his connection to the case or because of questions as to his reliability. The Torah, does, however, occasionally require the defendant in a case to swear that the version of events he/she presents is true. One situation that is based entirely on the defendant swearing that she is telling the truth is the case of sota – a woman whose husband suspects her of being unfaithful. In such a case – which is described in detail in Bamidbar 5:11-31 – if there are witnesses, then the woman would be tried as an unfaithful wife. It is only if there are no witnesses that the procedure described in the Torah is carried out, culminating with the shevu'a – the oath – recited by the kohen and accepted by the woman with her statement of "amen, amen" (Bamidbar 5:22). Our Gemara quotes a Mishna that teaches how the woman's oath that she did not commit adultery applies not only to suspicions raised following her marriage (nissuin), but also after kiddushin (betrothal) and even during the period that she was a widow waiting for yibum (levirate marriage). After a lengthy discussion of the mechanism that would allow the oath to cover all of these different periods, Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak suggests that it works through gilgul shevu'a, extending her oath. The idea of gilgul shevu'a is that once someone is obligated to swear on a given issue, we also require them to take a stand on other, connected questions, even though ordinarily they would not have required an oath. Gilgul shevu'a is a concept that appears often in monetary matters, and Rashi on our daf suggests that it is the case of sota that serves as the primary source for this idea.
Yevamot 57a-b: The Significance of the Huppa
03/05/2022 - 2nd of Iyar, 5782
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Anyone who has been to a Jewish wedding has noticed that the bride and groom stand under a canopy – a huppa – that symbolizes the home that the two of them will build together. In the time of the Talmud, the huppa was a type of small room that was decorated in honor of the newly married couple, where they would have their first private moments together. It was closed off from others so that the husband and wife could be intimate with one another, which is the essence of marriage. In truth, there are several different opinions about what constitutes huppa. Some require a real opportunity for intimacy between the couple. Others say that it is a ceremony – similar to ours today – in which a shawl or canopy is draped over the couple. Some say that it is actually an event that takes place after the wedding ceremony, when the wife enters her husband's home. In later times, the purpose of the huppa became more symbolic of the relationship than an actual opportunity for intimacy, a change that affected the way the huppa is treated by the halakha (Jewish law). For example, in our Gemara, Rav and Shmuel disagree about the effect a symbolic huppa will have on a woman who is not really allowed to marry the groom. For example, if a widow who is the daughter of a kohen enters a huppa with a kohen gadol, who she cannot marry because she is a widow, will she lose the right to eat the tithes from her father's house because she has entered a forbidden marital relationship? Or, perhaps, the huppa is only symbolic and we know that no forbidden sexual relations have taken place, so she remains an upstanding member of her father's house and can continue eating terumot? Rav believes that the huppa is significant, while Shmuel does not. One case where both agree is if the wife in this story is an underage child. In such a case, since there is no possibility of sexual relations having taken place, Shmuel argues that even Rav would agree with his reasoning.
Yevamot 56a-b: When a Married Woman is Raped
02/05/2022 - 1st of Iyar, 5782
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Under ordinary circumstances, if a married woman is raped, the halakha recognizes that the forbidden sexual act happened against her will and she remains permitted to her husband. A particularly painful situation arises if the woman who is raped is married to a kohen. In such a case halakha requires the couple to divorce, since as a kohen, the husband is not allowed to be married to a woman who has had a forbidden sexual encounter – which has happened to his wife, even though it was not her fault in any way. Our Gemara quotes a teaching of Rav Sheshet, which says that if a married woman whose husband was not a kohen was raped, even though she can remain married to her husband, she cannot marry a kohen in the future, should she become widowed. This discussion revolves around the way the Sages define the term zona – one of the women that a kohen cannot marry (see Vayikra 21:7). Although the term zona usually is translated as a harlot - a woman who makes herself available to men for sexual pleasure - it is clear that the Sages did not understand the term in that way. As noted above, they defined a zona as a woman who has had a sexual encounter with someone who is forbidden to her – i.e. someone who she would theoretically be unable to marry. Nevertheless, this is a distinction to be made between an issur erva – an incestuous relationship, and eshet ish – an adulterous one. In the former case, the prohibition stems from the inherent personal status, the relationship between the two people; in the latter case the prohibition stems from the fact that she is married to another man, a personal choice that exists as long as the marriage does and can be undone by divorce or by the death of her husband. Thus, the concept of zona, as applied to a married woman, is that of a woman who has abrogated the trust and relationship that existed between her and her husband. According to this line of reasoning, it appears reasonable to suggest that a married woman who was raped does not become a zona at all, since no trust was broken in such a case. Thus the Rashba argues that, were it not for Rav Sheshet's ruling, we would have permitted a woman who was raped to marry a kohen, since she cannot be considered a zona.
Yevamot 55a-b: Defining the Act of Bi'ah
01/05/2022 - 30th of Nisan, 5782
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The need to define the act of bi'ah (sexual intercourse) is essential in order to know when that significant act has taken place in a number of halakhic settings. Our Gemara suggests that in the vast majority of cases, the definition is ha'arah – a simple act of touching (in Shmuel's words, "a kiss"). Although the focus of the Gemara is on the male organ, it appears that the conclusion is clear: penetration – of even miniscule proportions – of the man into the woman. The Gemara suggests that the source for this is the case of a shifha harufa (a designated maidservant - see Vayikra 19:20), where the Torah specifies that the act is significant only if there is a complete act of sexual relations, implying that in other cases even much lesser sexual contact would be considered to be significant. [Rashi interprets the case of shifha harufa as one where a non-Jewish maidservant is engaged to a Jewish slave – a relationship clearly permitted by the Torah. Other rishonim argue that Rashi is quoting only the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael, but we follow Rabbi Akiva, who explains that the case is one where a non-Jewish maidservant was owned jointly by two people, one of whom set her free, thus creating a situation where she is half-slave and half-free.] Be that as it may, the Gemara brings a series of cases, each of which must be compared to the other so that the rule of ha'arah can be applied to each one. Thus the Gemara derives that:
  • forbidden sexual relations,
  • forbidden sexual relations between a kohen and someone who he cannot marry,
  • the case where a yevama (widow) marries an outsider before being freed by halitza,
  • the case of yibum when the mitzva is fulfilled, and
  • the case of normal marriage,
will all be accomplished by means of a sexual act, even if that act is only ha'arah. The last case - that of normal marriage - refers to a case where a couple gets married via an act of bi'ah. Our Gemara clearly teaches that, from a technical standpoint, this case is identical to the other ones. Once ha'arah takes place, a significant sexual act has occurred, and the couple has successfully wed. The rishonim are quick to point out that this conclusion stands in contradiction with the Gemara in 1Massekhet Kiddushin (10a) that deals with the same case. There the Gemara says that a person embarking on a sexual relationship has in mind a complete act of sexual intercourse, and ha'arah would not suffice. Several suggestions are raised to deal with this seeming contradiction. One approach is suggested by the Ri"f, who argues that we must distinguish between kiddushin – the first act of marriage – that demands a completed sexual act, and nisu'in – which completes the marriage ceremony, where ha'arah will suffice.
Yevamot 54a-b: The Mitzva of Yibum
30/04/2022 - 29th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The passage in the Torah that is the source for the mitzva of yibum 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 yevama 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 yibum with her. Our Gemara brings a number of possible derashot – derivations of halakha – from this passage, attempting to learn unique teachings from each clause in the pasuk without using any clause more than once. It should be noted that the Talmud Yerushalmi also derives laws (some the same and some different than ours) from this passage, without concern that the clause has already been used for a different teaching. Examples of laws that our Gemara derives from this passage include: that the performance of yibum is the fulfillment of a mitzva that the sexual act will accomplish yibum, whether or not it was done with intent that any sexual act, whether "natural" or "unnatural," will complete the yibum. Based on the first principle mentioned above, several poskim rule that the yavam (the surviving brother) should make a blessing before performing yibum, since the performance of every mitzva requires a berakha beforehand (see Shulhan Aruk, Even ha-Ezer 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 yibum, 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 yibum should be an exception to that rule. Given that yibum 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 yibum any sexual act will suffice to fulfill the mitzva.
Yevamot 53a-b: The Significance of Sexual Relations
29/04/2022 - 28th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As we have learned, according to the Torah, the basic requirement to fulfill the mitzva of yibum is for the surviving brother (the yavam) and the widow (the yevama) to engage in bi'ah - an act of sexual relations - in order to signify the "continuation" of the original marriage. Given the central role played by bi'ah in the fulfillment of this mitzva, it become essential that we define our terms, both as far as the act itself is concerned, but also with regard to the intention of the participants in this act. Must they intend to fulfill a mitzva with this bi'ah, or is the sexual act itself enough? These are the questions that the sixth perek of Massekhet Yevamot addresses. The conclusions, however, are not limited to the narrow area of yibum; they affect other areas of Jewish law, as well. The first Mishna in the perek opens with the simple assertion that a sexual act between a yavam and a yevama will be effective, even if either one – or both – participated accidentally, or even if they were forced to do so. This is true whether or not there is full penetration, with no distinction between one act of bi'ah and another. The Mishna concludes that these rules are true not only in the case of yibum, but also in other laws that involve issues of sex, including cases of erva (adulterous or incestuous relationships) and those involving less severe forbidden sexual relationships (e.g. a kohen marrying a divorcee). Rabbi Yosef Rapp, in his Yosef Lekah, asks why these rules are examined in Massekhet Yevamot. He argues that it would have been more logical to have listed and examined them in Massekhet Makkot, where the laws of forbidden sexual relationships are discussed, and then applied those rulings to the laws of yibum, as well. He answers that yibum has a number of unique issues that could not be understood from a comparison to forbidden sexual acts. For example, given that yibum 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 yibum, any sexual act will suffice to fulfill the mitzva.
Yevamot 52a-b: A Proper Marriage
28/04/2022 - 27th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna (50a) teaches that if a yavam (the surviving brother) first performs ma'amar (see daf 51) – offering a ring or another object of value to the yevama (widow) as though he were marrying her – and then performs normal yibum by engaging in sexual relations with the yevama, he has fulfilled the mitzva appropriately. The Gemara on our daf explains that this appears to support the teaching of Rav Huna, who recommends that a yavam should not simply sleep with the yevama, but rather he should treat the relationship as one that is similar to marriage, beginning with a formal agreement, and only afterwards consummating the marriage with a private, personal act. In support of this idea, the Gemara brings the ruling of Rav who would punish people who agreed to have kiddushin – the first act of marriage – by means of a sexual encounter, even though this is one of the three methods of which the Mishna (see Kiddushin 2a) approves. (The other two are kesef – money, or as tradition has it, a ring; and shtar – a legal document.) 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 – as well as Rav Huna's ruling with regard to yibum – 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.” In its borrowed form, it has come to mean to appease or to placate; to persuade. In our context, it indicates an agreement between the man and woman or between their families prior to marriage.
Yevamot 51a-b: Responding to the Widow
27/04/2022 - 26th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The fifth perek of Massekhet Yevamot focuses on one main topic – the relationship between the various responses that the surviving brother (the yavam) can perform with the widow (the yevama). There are four possible responses, two of them taught by the Torah and two suggested by the Sages of the Mishna: bi'ah (sexual relations), which would complete the process of yibum, so that the two would now be married halitza, the ceremonial rejection of yibum, which would free the widow to marry anyone she wants ma'amar, in which case the yavam offers a ring (or another object of value) to the yevama, mimicking a marriage ceremony. In such a case they have fulfilled yibum on a Rabbinic level get (a divorce document), which would preclude the possibility of fulfilling yibum. Even though on a biblical level a get has no meaning in this relationship, the Sages treat the divorce as having enough power to force the yavam and yevama to choose the option of halitza. What if two or more of these responses are performed by the yavam? What carries more weight – the power of bi'ah and ma'amar to create the relationship, or the power of halitza and get to break off or forestall a relationship? Once either of the two Biblical responses has been performed, there is little question about what has taken place. Yibum creates a full and complete relationship of marriage; halitza severs any relationship, allowing the widow freedom to marry outside her first husband's family. The question is of importance with regard to the two Rabbinic responses – ma'amar and get. Here we find differences of opinion. Does the ma'amar of the Sages establish a full relationship, similar to normal kiddushin? Does it create a partial relationship? Or, perhaps, it does not create any relationship, and its purpose is merely to signify which brother intends to perform yibum at some later time. These are the issues with which our perek grapples.
Yevamot 50a-b: The Years of the Generations
26/04/2022 - 25th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As we learned on yesterday's daf, Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai reported that he found a scroll in Jerusalem that accused King Menashe of having killed the prophet Yeshayahu. Rava comments that Menashe did not simply murder him, but rather he put him on trial for heresies that appear among his prophecies. Although Yeshayahu could explain each one of them, he chose not to do so because he knew that Menashe would kill him in any case and he preferred that Menashe not be held responsible for murder. One of the supposed heresies was the following: The Torah says that every person lives out his appointed days (see Shemot 23:26), yet Yeshayahu told King Hizkiyahu that he would have 15 years added to his life (see II Melakhim 20:6). The Gemara on our daf explains that there is a disagreement between Rabbi Akiva and the Hakhamim about how to define living out one's days. Everyone has a designated amount of years, which are referred to as shnei dorot – the years set aside for a person to live in his generation. According to Rabbi Akiva, if he is deserving, he will live out his time; if he does not merit it, however, years may be subtracted from his life. The Hakhamim believe that a person's merit can either add or subtract from the time that is set for him. The Tosefot HaRosh explains that the term shnei dorot is used because God establishes the years of the entire generation, rather than each individual person (see Yeshayahu 41:4). The ge'onim offer a different explanation, arguing that shnei dorot refers to the length of time that a person would ordinarily be expected to live, given his health and physical make-up. The Rambam wrote a lengthy treatise in Arabic which offers a synopsis of the different positions on this matter from the perspectives of scholarship and medicine.
Yevamot 49a-b: Heresies Among Prophecies
25/04/2022 - 24th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai reports that he found a scroll in Jerusalem that accused King Menashe of having killed the prophet Yeshayahu. Rava comments that King Menashe did not simply murder him, rather he put him on trial for heresies that appear among his prophecies. Although Yeshayahu could explain each one of them, he chose not to do so, because he knew that Menashe would kill him in any case, and he preferred that Menashe should not be held responsible for murder. What were the supposed heresies?
  • The Torah says that no one can gaze upon God and live (see Shemot 33:20).
  • Yeshayahu claims that he saw God sitting on his royal throne (see Yeshayahu 6:1).
  • The Torah says that God is always available to us when we cry out to him (see Devarim 4:7)
  • Yeshayahu teaches to call out to God when he is close by (see Yeshayahu 55:6)
  • The Torah says that every person lives out his appointed days (see Shemot 23:26).
  • Yeshayahu told Hezekiah, the King of Judea, that he would have 15 years added to his life (see II Melakhim 20:6).
The Gemara gives explanations for each of these apparent contradictions, but, as noted above, Yeshayahu chose not to defend himself. The Gemara records that Yeshayahu hid in a tree, but the tree was felled and he was killed. The Gemara explains that Yeshayahu was deserving of death because of a disturbing statement that he made about the Jewish people when he said that he lives among a nation whose lips are defiled (see Yeshayahu 6:5). The rishonim point out that although Yeshayahu makes much more serious accusations against the Jewish nation, in this particular case these words were his own – he was not commanded to say that by God. The Ritva argues that he still should not have been punished, since the navi clearly writes that Yeshayahu was forgiven for his statement (see Yeshayahu 6:7). He offers two explanations – Yeshayahu was forgiven for making the original statement, but he should not have repeated it in his recorded prophesies, or else that the atonement that is mentioned would only be complete through his death.
Yevamot 48a-b: The Female Prisoner of War
24/04/2022 - 23th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
One difficult halakha that appears in the Torah is the law of eshet yefat to'ar – if a Jewish soldier desires a woman captured in battle, the Torah forbids him to rape her (as is, unfortunately, the case in most armies). Recognizing that in the heat of battle men may want to behave in ways that are not acceptable under normal circumstances, the Torah concedes that the woman can be taken, but she is to be given a month to mourn the loss of her family, and only then will the soldier be given a choice to marry her or to set her free. Regarding an eshet yefat to'ar the Torah rules (Devarim 21:12) that she should shave her head and "do" her nails. The definition of this term is subject to a disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eliezer rules that she should cut her nails short, while Rabbi Akiva believes that the Torah commands her to allow them to grow. The Malbim explains the argument as follows. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the purpose of the activities that the Torah requires of the eshet yefat to'ar is a purification process, preparation for joining the Jewish people. We find similar requirements for a mumar (an apostate) who repents, and some say that all converts undergo similar preparations. Just as the levi'im shaved their bodies in preparation for accepting the responsibilities of the Temple service (see Bamidbar 8:7) similarly the eshet yefat to'ar is preparing for her new life. Rabbi Akiva takes a very different view of the required activities. He sees them as an attempt to remove the beauty and luster of this woman captured in battle, since the Torah prefers that the soldier choose to reject his earlier lust for the foreign woman. Therefore he interprets all of these behaviors in a way that would make the eshet yefat to'ar less attractive.
Yevamot 47a-b: As Painful as a Leprous Scab
23/04/2022 - 22th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
It is well-known that in contrast to other religions, Judaism does not proselytize. In fact, when a non-Jewish person approaches a Jewish court and asks to convert, halakha requires the court to point out the difficulties experienced by the Jewish nation in today's world, the commandments that he will now be obligated in and the punishments that he may be liable for should he transgress them. All this is done in an attempt to discourage converts, because – as Rabbi Helbo says – "Converts are as painful to the Jewish people as is sappahat (a leprous scab)." This statement is one that clearly demands explanation. Tosafot offer no less than four suggestions, among them: Converts are not so knowledgeable regarding Jewish law, and other Jews may learn from them All Jews are responsible for one another, and converts may err more easily We are commanded to be especially sensitive to the needs of the convert, and it is difficult to fulfill that mitzva properly. Other explanations are suggested, as well: The Rambam suggests that we are afraid that a convert will revert to his original set of beliefs, and perhaps will influence others to join him. Tosafot in Kiddushin (70b) point to a statement made by the Sages that the Jewish people were exiled so that they would interact with others who would be convinced of the truth of Judaism and convert. Thus, in a sense it is the converts who are the cause of the Jewish exile. Another approach that appears in that Tosafot is quoted in the name of "Avraham HaGer" – Abraham the proselyte. He says that this Gemara should be understood to mean that since converts are meticulously careful in their fulfillment of the commandments – much more than other Jews – the comparison puts non-converts in a bad light, which is why the converts are viewed as painful for the Jewish people.
Yevamot 46a-b: Jewish Conversion Requirements
22/04/2022 - 21th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Conversion to Judaism involves a number of stages. The potential convert must accept the laws of Judaism, if he is male he must undergo a brit mila (circumcision) and he must go to the mikvah for ritual immersion. What would such a person's status be were he to become circumcised without having gone to the mikvah? We find a discussion of this question in a baraita. The hakhamim rule that both are essential for conversion, and one without the other is meaningless. Thus, such a person is not considered Jewish until he has completed the process. Rabbi Yehoshua says that we can accept someone who has not completed both, just as the imahot – women who became converts – only went to the mikvah without circumcision. Rabbi Eliezer agrees that a lack of mikvah will not keep the person from becoming Jewish, pointing out that our forefathers also did not immerse in a mikvah when they had a brit mila. Rabbi Eliezer's statement – that mikvah did not accompany mila when the forefathers of the Torah performed a brit – is never clearly stated in the Torah, and there are many suggestions of sources that support that idea. The simplest suggested source is presented by the Rambam who points to the mila that accompanied the sacrifice of the Passover sacrifice, in which someone who had not been circumcised was not allowed to participate (see Shemot 12:48). This circumcision is viewed as a prerequisite for conversion, in as much as it was preparation not only for the korban Pesah but for receiving the Torah on Shavuot a short time later, an act that is seen as a mass conversion of the Children of Israel. The conclusion of the Gemara is that all three elements are essential for the conversion to be a valid one: accepting mitzvot, mila and going to the mikvah. Furthermore, these essential acts must be done before a Jewish court, because conversion is seen as a mishpat – a judgment of sorts (see Bamidbar 15:16).
Yevamot 45a-b: Not marriage material?
21/04/2022 - 20th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
What is the halakhic status of a child who is born of a Jewish mother but a non-Jewish father? This question is the subject of a disagreement among the Sages, with opinions ranging from those who rule that the child is a mamzer to those who view him as mekulkal – problematic – to those who see him as a regular Jewish child. This last view is the opinion of such Sages as Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and Rav. The Gemara relates that Rav was approached and asked about the personal status of someone who had a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. When Rav replied that he believed such a person to be perfectly acceptable, the questioner – who was, apparently, the product of such a union – asked to marry Rav's daughter. Rav refused. Upon witnessing the exchange, Rav's grandson, Shimi bar Hiyya asked: 'People say that in Medes a camel can dance on a kav (a small measure); here is the kav, here is the camel and here is Medes, but there is no dancing' – i.e. the truth of a statement becomes apparent when it is put to the test. Here, when your ruling is being put to the test, you are not willing to support your position with an action. Rav replied that even if this man were like Yehoshua bin Nun, he would not be willing to allow his daughter to marry him. Although Medes was not very far from Babylonia, this expression was in use already in the time of the Mishna – i.e. in Israel – and Medes is often used to express something that is very far away. The amazing story that is told about camels in Medes is understood in a number of different ways by the rishonim. Rashi explains that a large camel is thought to be dancing in a small area. According to the Rivan, camels there were thought to have been trained to stand with all four of their legs in a closed area. The Meiri says that people suggested that the camels there were unusually small. While some view Rav's refusal to allow his daughter to marry this suitor as indicating that Rav believed that there was some problem with a person like this, others understand that he was simply saying that he was not interested in this man as a son-in-law for reasons separate than his family background.
Yevamot 44a-b: A Person Forbidden to Marry Within the Jewish Community
20/04/2022 - 19th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We usually understand the case of mamzer – a person who is forbidden to marry within the normative Jewish community – as a child born as the result of an adulterous or incestuous relationship. The Mishna on our daf introduces us to the position of Rabbi Akiva – a position that is not accepted as the halakha – which claims that the offspring of any forbidden relationship will create mamzerim. Thus, in a situation where a husband and wife divorced and the woman remarried, and then (after a second divorce or if her second husband died) they remarried, Rabbi Akiva believes that any children from that union would be mamzerim, since mahzir gerushato (bringing back his divorced wife) is forbidden (see Devarim 24:1-4). From the next Mishna (49a) we learn that Rabbi Akiva's position would include all cases of relatives who are forbidden to marry and the Gemara explains that the source for this ruling is based on his interpretation of the passages in Sefer Devarim (23:1-3) that place the law of mamzer in the same context as a forbidden sexual union. According to this, even Rabbi Akiva will rule only that a child from a forbidden relationship between relatives (issur erva) will become a mamzer. In response to the question that our Mishna has Rabbi Akiva ruling that even a case of mahzir gerushato will lead to mamzerut – and marrying one's own divorced wife does not seem to be a case of issur erva – the Rashba argues that since they were once married their relationship is considered like that of family members. The Rambam reads the Mishna on 49a as offering two possibilities – either relatives who are forbidden to marry or any other forbidden relationship. This interpretation of the Mishna appears to be supported by the Talmud Yerushalmi. It should be noted that we follow the position of Shimon HaTimni who rules that only a sexual relationship that would lead to a punishment of karet will lead to offspring who will be mamzerim.
Yevamot 43a-b: Statements of Oral Tradition
19/04/2022 - 18th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna that we have today is a collection of statements of Torah she'ba'al peh (oral tradition) collated and edited by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi often chose the opinion that he believed to be the one accepted as the halakha and included it in the Mishna without attributing it to a particular Rabbi. Such a Mishna is called stam – a simple Mishna – i.e. one about which we find no argument. Obviously, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi could not include all of the statements of oral tradition in his Mishna, and many of them were later collected by his students, Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Oshiya. These collections were called baraitot – "outside" collections – i.e. those that were not included in the collection of the Mishna. The baraitot are often brought into discussions in the Gemara in an attempt to clarify or broaden our understanding of the laws taught in the Mishna. Our Gemara describes a conversation between Rabbi Nahum and Rabbi Abbahu. Rabbi Nahum was serving Rabbi Abbahu and took the opportunity to ask him a series of questions about how to determine the halakha when learning Mishna. The conversation went as follows: Q: What if we find a disagreement followed by a stam Mishna? A: We follow the stam Mishna. Q: What if we find a stam Mishna followed by a disagreement? A: We do not automatically follow the stam Mishna. Q: What if we find a stam Mishna and a disagreement appears in a baraita? A: We follow the stam Mishna. Q. What if we find a stam baraita and an argument in the Mishna? A. If Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi did not teach a clear conclusion, from where would Rabbi Hiyya, editor of the baraita know it? The Maharik explains the argument put forward by Rabbi Abbahu as follows. We can assume that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was more knowledgeable than his student, Rabbi Hiyya, so if Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was not aware of a compelling reason to rule in a particular case, we cannot assume that Rabbi Hiyya had additional information that would enable us to accept his ruling in the face of the disagreement that appears in the Mishna.
Yevamot 42a-b: Pregnant and Waiting
18/04/2022 - 17th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On yesterday's daf we discussed the rule of havhana – waiting three months after one marriage ends before entering another marriage – in order to ensure that we will know who the father of the child is in the event that the woman becomes pregnant. The Gemara on today's daf quotes a baraita that teaches that we also do not permit a woman to marry immediately if she is pregnant. In this case there is no doubt whose child the woman is carrying, which leads the Gemara to ask why this marriage would be forbidden. The Gemara's conclusion is that the prohibition stems from the fact that the woman will need to nurse after she gives birth, and an immediate marriage may lead to a new pregnancy, which will ruin her milk, and possibly lead to the infant's death. This suggestion leads to an obvious question. If we fear that the newborn will starve to death because the mother is pregnant, shouldn't the Sages forbid any nursing woman to engage in relations, lest she become pregnant? To this question the Gemara responds that the father of the newborn will be sure to supply eggs and milk as a supplement, something that we cannot be certain he will do for the woman's child by another man. The fear that a pregnant woman will not be able to produce milk that will contain the necessary nutrients to feed her infant is not an unreasonable one. In fact, the hormone that is responsible for lactation will often keep ovulation from occurring, offering a type of natural birth control that will keep the case described by the Gemara from occurring very often. With the higher level of nutrition in contemporary society, however, it is not unusual to find nursing women becoming pregnant. The suggestion that eggs and milk be used as a supplement in this case is understood by most rishonim as being a supplement for the child's diet, since the mother's milk will no longer suffice. The Netziv in his Ha'amek She'ala suggests that the fear of a second marriage is not necessarily a concern with pregnancy, but that the responsibilities of married life may take a toll on the mother's health. By supplementing her diet with eggs and milk, her ability to nurse her baby properly is ensured.
Yevamot 41a-b: The Waiting Period
17/04/2022 - 16th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We have already discussed the concept of havhana (literally "a period of distinction"), that it is necessary for a woman to wait three months when moving from one relationship to another in order to clarify who is the true father in the event that the woman becomes pregnant (see daf 33). This rule appears in the Mishna on our daf, which teaches that a woman whose husband passes away with no children will receive neither yibum nor halitza for three months after his death. Furthermore, according to the Mishna, even in non-yibum situations this rule applies, whether the woman was divorced or widowed, whether the first marriage ended after eirusin (betrothal) or nissuin (full marriage). As we have learned, a Jewish wedding is made up of two parts – kiddushin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). Although it is called betrothal, kiddushin is not just a commitment to marry – it is actual marriage. For example, if the couple chooses not to complete the marriage with nissuin, they will need a formal get (divorce). In the time of the Mishna, these two parts normally took place about a year apart, in order to give the bride and groom time to prepare for the wedding and for their marriage, but today they are done one after the other at the wedding ceremony. Rabbi Yehuda permits someone whose failed marriage was only at the betrothal stage to get married without waiting three months, since it is reasonable to assume that the couple did not engage in sexual relations during that period. Similarly, even someone whose failed marriage was a full marriage of nissuin would be allowed to receive kiddushin immediately, since no sexual relations will take place until a later stage in the marriage. An exception would be the community in the southern part of Israel (Judea), where it was common practice to allow – and even encourage – a betrothed bride and groom to spend time together before the nissuin. The custom in Judea to allow the bride and groom to spend secluded time together – which was understood to make it likely that they would consummate their marriage before the concluding ceremony – was a response to a governmental decree in the time of the Mishna that every Jewish bride was to spend a night with the local Roman governor before her marriage. Although the Gemara in Ketubot records that many efforts were made to avoid this decree, one method was to encourage a romantic, and indeed sexual, relationship between the couple even before the nissuin.
Yevamot 40a-b: Inheriting the Brother Who Died
16/04/2022 - 15th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We have already learned that when a man dies with no offspring, and his brother performs yibum with the widow, the yavam effectively steps into the position of the brother who has passed away. One example of this idea is that the yavam does not need to have a new marriage ceremony, as we see this marriage as a continuation of the original relationship. The Mishna on today's daf adds another element to this. According to the Hakhamim, when a person performs yibum, he takes possession of all of the dead brother's property. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees, arguing that when someone passes away with no children, it is his father who is first in line to receive his inheritance, and that rule remains in force even in the case of yibum. This discussion revolves specifically around the possessions of the brother who died. If we are to take the position of the Hakahmim to its logical conclusion, the yavam – who now represents his dead brother as well as himself – should also get his brother's share in any inheritance that is to be divided between the brothers when their father passes away. This is, in fact, the conclusion of the majority of the rishonim. Both the Rambam and the Ramban, however, suggest that only the possessions that are actually owned by the brother when he dies are taken over by the yavam. They derive this from the passage that is used as the source for this law, that the yavam will stand in his brother's stead – yakum al shem ahiv ha-met (Devarim 25:6) – which does not offer him to stand in his father's stead, only his brother's. Those who disagree point out that only Rabbi Yehuda makes use of this pasuk in this context. This is all if the brother performs yibum. Were he to do halitza, the Mishna teaches that he receives only the same share in the inheritance that all of the other brothers do. Although this appears to be obvious, the Gemara explains that we may have thought that someone who performs halitza removes himself from anything having to do with this brother, and might lose his share.
Yevamot 39a-b: Yibum or Halitza
15/04/2022 - 14th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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It appears from the Gemara that there were different historical periods. At first, when the yavam and yevama had pure intentions, and performed yibum with the intention of fulfilling the mitzva, yibum was preferable. In later years, when people could no longer be relied upon to have the proper intent, halitza became the preferred option. This most basic question is discussed on our daf, where we find a disagreement between Abba Shaul and the Hakhamim. Abba Shaul argues that a person who performs yibum because he finds the yevama beautiful, because he wants to be married to her or for some other reason (the Rivan suggests that this refers to monetary gain), it is as though he engaged in a forbidden sexual act. The Hakhamim point to the passage (Devarim 25:5) that commands the yavam to "come upon" her, and see no qualifications in the performance of the mitzva. It is not clear whether Abba Shaul actually believes that a person who performs yibum with intentions that are not totally pure does not fulfill the mitzva. The Nimukei Yosef, for example, argues that Abba Shaul accepts the fact that the act of yibum will work, even if it is done with the wrong intentions, and proper intent is only a Rabbinic requirement. From the Ramban, however, it appears that according to Abba Shaul someone who performs yibum with the wrong intent will not be married to her, since the commandment was not properly fulfilled. There is no clear conclusion in the Gemara with regard to this disagreement. Although it appears that our Gemara leans towards the position of the Hakhamim, other Gemarot appear to accept Abba Shaul's position. During the Ge'onic period different communities followed different rulings, with Neharde'a following Abba Shaul and Sura accepting the position of the Hakhamim. In modern times rulings differ between Sefardic and Ashkenazic communities. Ashkenazim usually recommend halitza, while Sefardim encourage yibum.
Yevamot 38a-b: When the Widow Dies
14/04/2022 - 13th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
When a couple gets married, a ketuba – the agreement that is signed by witnesses delineating the obligations that the husband has towards his wife – is written. When the Mishna on our daf refers to the ketuba, it means specifically the monetary responsibilities that the husband has accepted in this relationship, and, in particular, the amount of money that he guaranteed to her in the event of divorce or death. It was traditional for the wife to also bring financial assets into the marriage, which were divided into two – Nikhsei melug, which are possessions that remain the property of the woman. While the couple is married, the husband can derive benefit from this property. When the marriage ends, they remain hers, in whatever condition they may be. Nikhsei tzon barzel, which are possessions that become the property of the husband. Their value is written into the ketuba, and in the event that their marriage comes to an end – if the husband dies or if they become divorced – the wife will be reimbursed for the full amount, either from the estate if he died or from him if they divorced. Our Gemara discusses a case where a woman – whose husband had died with no children, but has not had yibum – herself dies. Who receives her inheritance? Beit Shammai rules that it is divided between her husband's relatives and her father's relatives. According to most rishonim, Beit Shammai believes that as a potential yevama, the woman's relationship with the family is one of safek – of questionable marriage. Thus we are not sure what to do and divide it in half. Beit Hillel rules that given the questionable situation, we leave the status quo. Thus, the nikhsei tzon barzel remain in the possession of her father, the ketuba remains with the husband's family, and the nikhsei melug are divided between the two.
Yevamot 37a-b: When the Child Is Not Viable
13/04/2022 - 12th of Nisan, 5782
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As we have learned on yesterday's daf, if a widow is pregnant when her husband passes away, there will be no mitzva of yibum if she gives birth to a viable child. If the child dies, however, and the dead man had no other children, the normal rules of yibum would apply. How long does a child have to live in order to be considered "viable"? Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel teaches that once a child lives for 30 days he is considered a live birth. This teaching implies that a child who dies within the first 30 days after birth is, at best, a safek – that his status is questionable. The Gemara presents a case where a woman in this situation, i.e. whose child died before 30 days had passed, married someone from outside the family (that is to say, she assumed that she was not obligated in yibum, since she had a child – albeit one who did not live for very long – with her first husband). In such a case, Ravina quotes Rava as ruling that she should have halitza done if she married a regular person, but if she married a kohen – who is not permitted to marry someone who had undergone halitza – then halitza should not be done, since it would destroy the woman's marriage. Rav Mesharshiya, however, quotes Rava as saying that even if she married a kohen, halitza is necessary. Ravina tells Rav Mesharshiya that although Rava had said that in the evening, by the morning he had changed his mind. In response, Rav Mesharshiya says sarcastically "You say it is permitted? Then you can permit forbidden fats (heilev) as well!" The Tosefot HaRosh says that Rav Mesharshiya was arguing that permitting a woman who had had halitza to a kohen would lead to other mistaken rulings – like permitting a divorced woman to marry a kohen, as well. The Arukh LaNer suggests that Rav Mesharshiya was hinting to a Gemara in Massekhet Hullin (49a) that kohanim were lenient and permitted certain questionable fats. Thus, Rav Mesharshiya is arguing that someone who is so desirous of helping out kohanim should rule leniently on the subject of heilev.
Yevamot 36a-b: Levirate Marriage and Pregnancy
12/04/2022 - 11th of Nisan, 5782
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All of our discussions in Massekhet Yevamot open with the premise that the brother who passed away had no children; if he did have children, the mitzva of yibum would never come into effect. The first Mishna in the fourth perek (35b) presents a situation where the widow is left pregnant. In such a case, we must wait and see whether the unborn child is viable. If she gives birth to a child who lives, there is no need for yibum; if the child does not survive, then the normal rule of yibum will apply. And what would have to be done in case one of the surviving brothers performs yibum before the child is born? Here, too, the Mishna distinguishes between a case where the unborn child survives and a case where he or she does not. If the child survives, the yibum was a forbidden sexual act and the couple will need to bring sin-offerings (and, obviously, cannot continue living together). If the child does not survive, we learn retroactively that the act of yibum was appropriate and the couple can continue their married life together. The Gemara on our daf quotes a baraita that presents the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, who rules that in such a case the couple will need to divorce. Although we do not follow the ruling of Rabbi Eliezer in this case, nevertheless his position deals with some of the basic issues of this topic, so the rishonim examined his statement closely in order to see the ramifications of his position. Rashi understands that Rabbi Eliezer's intention is to teach that in such a case the couple will need to separate, and the means to do it will be through a normal writ of divorce, with no need of halitza. Thus it appears that Rashi understands that the yibum was successful, but the man is punished for performing yibum at a time that the relationship may have been a forbidden one. The Rambam, The Ri”d and others suggest that the requirement here is to have a get in addition to the required halitza. The Rashba has an alterative reading of Rabbi Eliezer's statement that does not include the requirement to divorce her, just a ruling that they cannot continue living together (yotzi rather than yotzi b'get), and he understands that Rabbi Eliezer requires only that halitza be performed.
Yevamot 35a-b: A Period of Distinction
11/04/2022 - 10th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
When learning the Mishna (33b) we were introduced to the concept of havana (literally "a period of distinction"), which is a period of time that we obligate a woman to wait before getting married when it is necessary to clarify whether she is already pregnant from another man. According to a baraita quoted on our daf, Rabbi Yehuda also applies this rule to the cases of women who convert, are freed from captivity, or are released from slavery. In all of these cases, Rabbi Yehuda rules that we must be concerned that these women engaged in sexual relations in their former situations – perhaps against their will – and thus may be pregnant. Therefore, we obligate them to wait three months before they can marry. Rabbi Yose, on the other hand, permits them to marry immediately. Rabba explains Rabbi Yose's position by saying that since these are all cases where the woman does not want to become pregnant, she will likely use a mokh – an absorbent barrier in her vaginal canal that will keep her from conceiving. Abaye objects that this will not work in all of the cases. The woman who was a captive, for example, could not possibly be able to prepare herself in such a way before she was raped. Abaye suggests that Rabbi Yose relies on the fact that the women turned themselves over in order to keep the semen from fully entering, so we need not be concerned that they became pregnant. Rabbi Yehuda is concerned that they do not turn themselves over well enough, and they may become pregnant anyway, their best efforts notwithstanding. From a medical standpoint, "turning over," as described by Abaye, would have no effect whatsoever on the chances of pregnancy. It is likely that Abaye's intention is not simply for the women to turn over, but to take all possible preparations in order to avoid pregnancy, including herbs, drugs and so on. Rabbi Yehuda's concern is that there are few methods that can be used at the conclusion of sexual relations which can guarantee that no pregnancy will result.
Yevamot 34a-b: On the First Try
10/04/2022 - 9th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On yesterday's daf, we learned the case in the Mishna where two men offer kiddushin to two women, but at the time of the nesu'im (marriage) the women are switched and each ends up sleeping with the wrong spouse. Aside from the korban hatat (sin-offering) that they are obligated to bring, the families are obligated to wait a three month period in order to ascertain whose child the women are pregnant with, should it turn out that one or both of them conceive. Our Gemara questions why this period of three months (havana) would be considered necessary, since it is known that a woman will not become pregnant the first time she engages in sexual relations. In answer, Rav Nahman suggests that the couples engaged in more than one act of relations and that the suspicion is that conception took place in a later act of relations. Rava questions the very basis of the question, pointing out that there are known cases of virgins who had become pregnant the first time they engaged in sexual relations. Rav Nahman responded with the explanation that these women prepared themselves in advance by removing their hymen, which allowed them to become pregnant the first time they engaged in relations. The arguments of the Gemara notwithstanding, modern medical opinion is that there is no physical impediment that would keep a woman who is a virgin from becoming pregnant the first time she has sex. Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to assume that there are both physical and psychological barriers that lessen the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant under such circumstances. The testimony of the Gemara about certain women who "prepared themselves" to become pregnant the first time they had sexual relations likely means that they not only physically prepared themselves, but that they also prepared themselves emotionally for the intimacy of the sexual act.
Yevamot 33a-b: When Two Wives Are Switched
09/04/2022 - 8th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
A Jewish wedding is made up of two parts – kiddushin (betrothal) and nesu'im (marriage). Although it is called betrothal, kiddushin is not just a commitment to marry – it is actual marriage. For example, if the couple chooses not to complete the marriage with nesu'im, they will need a formal get (divorce). In the time of the Mishna, these two parts normally took place about a year apart, in order to give the bride and groom time to prepare for the wedding and for their marriage, but today they are done one after the other at the wedding ceremony. One of the reasons that the tradition changed is concern over the period during which the couple is married but not yet living together. Our Mishna presents a uniquely disturbing case that stems from this situation. Two men offer kiddushin to two women, but at the time of the nesu'im the women are switched and each ends up sleeping with the wrong spouse. In such a case, they would all need to bring a korban hatat – a sin-offering. The Mishna adds that there may be reason to obligate the parties involved in more than one korban hatat, if, for example, the men were brothers or the women were sisters. In any case, assuming that the exchange was accidental (the Gemara rejects the possibility that the case in the Mishna could be talking about people who switched spouses on purpose, saying midei be-reshi'ei askinan!? – does the Mishna talk about evil doers!?), the proper wives would be returned to their respective husbands and obligated to wait a three month period, in order to ascertain whose children the women are pregnant with, should it turn out that one or both of them conceive. The three months – a period called havhana (literally "a period of distinction") – are essential, both to clarify who is the true father and to determine whether the baby who is born is to be considered a mamzer – a child born from an adulterous or incestuous relationship.
Yevamot 32a-b: Two At Once
08/04/2022 - 7th of Nisan, 5782
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When a person performs an act that contains two forbidden actions, is he held responsible for both, or only for one? If, for example, someone who is not a kohen enters the Temple on Shabbat and performs the Temple service, is he held liable only for performing the Temple service (which is forbidden to someone who is not a kohen – see Bamidbar 18:7), or also for the act of sacrificing on Shabbat? This basic situation is referred to by the Gemara as issur hal al issur, and we find an argument between Rabbi Hiyya and Bar Kappara on this matter, with Rabbi Hiyya ruling that the person would be held liable for both, and Bar Kappara ruling that they would only be responsible for one sinful act. Both Rabbi Hiyya and Bar Kappara are adamant about their positions – the Gemara quotes each of them as swearing that their ruling was the position taught by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The Gemara in Shevu'ot (26b) discusses a case like this one and concludes that neither person would be held responsible for taking a false oath, since they were each certain of their positions. Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi, in his Ramat Shmuel, adds that in this case it is even possible that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi changed his mind at some point and taught this law differently at different times, so it is plausible that both of his students were telling the truth. Bar Kappara was one of the last tanna'im, a student of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Rebbe) and a friend of Rabbi Hiyya. We are never told his first name, although some suggest that his father was Rabbi Elazar HaKappar, who died before he was born, and that he, too, was named Elazar. He was knowledgeable in both Torah (he authored a collection of baraitot known as Mishnat bar Kappara) and in general knowledge, which is why he was sent on several occasions as the Jewish emissary to the Roman government. Almost all of the first-generation amora'im in Israel were his students. He was known as a satirist with a healthy sense of humor, and even offered critique that extended to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and his family, which may explain why – his close relationship with Rebbe notwithstanding – he did not receive Rabbinic ordination until after Rebbe's death.
Yevamot 31a-b: Two Pairs of Conflicting Witnesses
07/04/2022 - 6th of Nisan, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
When a beit din – a Jewish court – needs to establish facts in order to make a decision, the preferred method is to listen to the testimony of eyewitnesses and rule according to the statement that they make. The principle taught by the Torah is that testimony of two witnesses is accepted as definitive (see Devarim 19:15), and in the words of the Talmud, trei ke-me'ah – if two witnesses testify, it is as though one hundred did. What if two pair of witnesses come into court and each tells a different, conflicting story? In such a case the Gemara rules that we must use other methods in order to reach a conclusion on how to decide the case. The Gemara's suggestion is to rely on hazaka – we accept the status quo ante, i.e. that the situation has not changed – until we find compelling evidence that suggests otherwise. The case presented by the Gemara to illustrate this rule is that of a man named Bar Shatya who suffers from a psychological condition where he is sometimes healthy and lucid, but when he suffers an attack, he is considered a shoteh – mentally incompetent. With such illnesses, sometimes attacks come with great regularity; other times a particular incident may trigger an attack. Still, there may be lengths of time when no symptoms exist whatsoever, and the person is completely healthy. During those periods, the halakha respects the individual's health, obligating him in mitzvot and accepting his actions as valid according to Jewish law. Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what his mental condition is simply by looking at or speaking with him, and it is necessary for the court to establish what his state of mind was when a given event took place. If Bar Shatya sold land, for example, the court would have to investigate him. In the event that two sets of witnesses expressed opposite opinions on his state of mind, the Gemara concludes that we nullify the sale, leaving the land in the possession of Bar Shatya, as it was in the beginning.
Yevamot 30a-b: Once And Again
06/04/2022 - 5th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
There are two Mishnayot on today's daf that are almost identical. In both of them, the scenario opens with three brothers, two of whom are married to sisters, while the third brother is married to an unrelated woman. In the first Mishna, we learn that if one of the sisters becomes widowed and fulfills the mitzva of yibum with the brother to whom she is permitted (she cannot marry the brother who is married to her sister), should that brother now die with no children, neither she nor her tzara (fellow wife) will become yevamot to the surviving brother. She cannot because he is married to her sister; her fellow wife cannot because she is the tzara of a woman forbidden to the yavam. In the second Mishna, it is the brother who is married to the unrelated woman who dies, and his wife fulfills the mitzva of yibum with one of the surviving brothers. Should that brother die, as well, neither she nor her tzara (fellow wife) will become yevamot to the surviving brother. She cannot because she is the tzara of a woman forbidden to the yavam, since he is married to her sister. The Gemara asks the obvious question – why do we need both of these Mishnayot? Aren't the cases so similar that there is no need to repeat the rule a second time? The Gemara's response is that we really do not need both, and that the rule of the second Mishna can be understood from the first. Nevertheless, once it was taught, Mishna lo zaza mimkoma - the Mishna is not moved from its place. This idea is connected with a time when the Mishnayot were truly an oral tradition, and students learned them by heart in order. Leaving out or combining Mishnayot may have been very confusing to those students, so Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (who edited the Mishna) chose to leave in Mishnayot even if they were not essential, since they were part of a long-studied tradition.
Yevamot 29a-b: Woe Unto Him
05/04/2022 - 4th of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The commandment of yibum that we have been discussing throughout Massekhet Yevamot is carried out by an act of sexual relations between the brother (the yavam) and the widow (the yevama). According to the Torah, there is no need to first offer a ring or a marriage contract, as in a regular wedding, since this is effectively a continuation of the first brother's marriage. Nevertheless, if one of the surviving brothers offers a betrothal ring to the widow – an act referred to in the Mishna as ma'amar – at least on a Rabbinic level, the yibum process is considered to have begun. The Mishna on our daf offers a scenario in which there are three brothers, two of whom are married to sisters, while the third one is single. One of the married brothers dies, and the brother who is single offers ma'amar to the widow. Then the second married brother dies, as well. In such a case, Beit Hillel rules that the surviving single brother cannot complete the mitzva of yibum with either widow. He will have to offer the widow of the first brother both a get (a divorce) and halitza; he will also have to perform halitza on the second brother's widow. This is true because his ma'amar has created a situation of partial marriage between the yavam and first yevama. Since it is not a full marital relationship, we must view this as a situation where two sisters have become yevamot together, and he cannot perform yibum on either. Since there is a partial marital relationship, he must divorce the one who had received ma'amar. The Mishna concludes by saying that it is such a case that leads people to say "oy lo (woe unto him), for he has lost his wife and his sister-in-law." Tosafot explain that this comment oy lo is specifically raised in this case because this man did nothing wrong and yet he discovers that all his efforts were for naught because of outside events over which he had no control. The Meiri suggests that this language stems from the poignancy of this story. The single man had an opportunity to marry – perhaps even two opportunities – and yet nothing came of it.
Yevamot 28a-b: Levirate Bonds
04/04/2022 - 3rd of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On the last daf we discussed a case where there were three brothers, two of whom were married to two sisters. The married brothers died, and both widows become potential yevamot to the surviving brother. The Mishna on our daf teaches that although the Tanna Kamma requires that both widows receive halitza, there is an opinion – Rabbi Shimon – that rules that these two sisters are permitted to marry whoever they want without a need for halitza (the brother certainly cannot marry both sisters, a relationship that is forbidden by the Torah). The Gemara on our daf suggests that Rabbi Shimon does not require halitza for these sisters because of his reading of the passage in Vayikra (18:18) that forbids marrying two sisters. He understands that the pasuk teaches that when sisters somehow gain the status of tzarot (rival wives), as they do in our case, neither of them will be permitted. The Talmud Yerushalmi presents an alternative reading of Rabbi Shimon, arguing that he did not intend to forbid yibum with both of the widowed sisters, rather only with the one whose husband died second. Rabbi Oshaya explains that Rabbi Shimon views zika (see Yevamot 18) as being the equivalent of actual marriage. Thus, when the second brother passes away, his widow is freed from any need of halitza, according to Rabbi Shimon, because the yavam is already "married" to the widow of the first brother who died. Tosafot point out that this would be true only in the case where there is just one potential yavam. If there were more surviving brothers, then Rabbi Shimon also admits that we would allow the brothers to remain married to the widowed sisters, if each of them performed yibum with a different one. Clearly, according to Rabbi Shimon we need to distinguish between the case of a single yavam where zika is tantamount to marriage, and more than one potential yavam, where the zika relationship remains something less than that.
Yevamot 27a-b: Two Sisters Married To Two Brothers Who Died
03/04/2022 - 2nd of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We have already discussed the concept of zika – the almost marital relationship that exists between the yavam and the yevama before they have had the opportunity to fulfill the mitzva of yibum or halitza (see Yevamot 18). The discussion of zika is revived on our daf in the context of the following case: There were three brothers and two of them were married to two sisters. The married brothers died, and both widows become potential yevamot to the surviving brother. In this case he certainly cannot marry (i.e. perform yibum with) both sisters, a relationship that is forbidden by the Torah. Can he marry one of them? Rav Huna quotes Rav as requiring halitza for each of them so that they can marry others. If, however, one of them died, then he would be permitted to marry the other one. Rabbi Yohanan agrees that each of them will require halitza. In the event that one of the sisters dies, however, he distinguishes between them. If the sister who was widowed second passes away, he will be allowed to perform yibum. If the sister who was widowed first dies, he will not be allowed to perform yibum on the remaining sister because at the moment that her husband died, she was forbidden to the yavam, since her sister was already in a situation of zika to the brother, and he could not marry both sisters. One explanation given by the rishonim to explain why Rav permits even the second yevama to get married (in the event that her sister died) is presented by Rabbeinu Hananel, the Rashba and others. They explain simply that Rav rejects the very concept of zika (see Yevamot 18). In theory, therefore, he should allow the yavam to marry either of the two sisters, even if they both remain alive. What keeps him from doing that is not connected with zika but with a different rule – that a person cannot perform an act that will negate the mitzva of yibum. By performing yibum on one sister, the yavam is simultaneously negating the mitzva of yibum on the other.
Yevamot 26a-b: Suspecting the Witness
02/04/2022 - 1st of Nisan, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Previous Mishnayot have taught that a person whose testimony allows a woman to marry (e.g. a person who brings a writ of divorce from a far-away land, someone who testifies that the husband had died or been killed, or even a Torah scholar who refuses to annul vows that the wife had taken against her husband, forcing them to divorce) cannot, himself, marry her; we suspect in such cases that he has an ulterior motive for his actions – that he desired her for himself. The Mishna on our daf teaches that if such a witness was married at the time that he testified, if his wife dies, he would be permitted to marry her, since at the time of his testimony his situation as a married man makes him "above suspicion." It is interesting to note that in the time of the Mishna the Biblical law permitting a man to marry more than one wife was still in effect (the practice was not discontinued until well after the Talmudic age, when Rabbeinu Gershom established limitations on such marriages. Even so, Sefardic communities did not accept this limitation until the modern age), so theoretically the witness could have had an interest in marrying this woman. Nevertheless, such marriages were relatively rare, and the Mishna did not consider such an unlikely concern to be reason to establish a prohibition against marrying her. In fact, the Nimukei Yosef quotes a statement from the Talmud Yerushalmi (which is not found in our texts) that teaches that if there is reason to suspect him – if his wife is sick, for example, then we would not allow him to marry her. The Rivan explains simply, that since the witness did not marry her right away, but waited until after his wife's death to do so, all suspicions are removed. This concept is expressed by the Yerushalmi in the words ein adam matzui lahto le-ahar zman – we do not suspect a person of sinning if he will only benefit after a significant amount of time will pass.
Yevamot 25a-b: In That Case, We Accept The Testimony
01/04/2022 - 29th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
If a man reports to the beit din (the Jewish court) that a certain man has died, based on that testimony the beit din will act to allow the dead man's wife to marry. The Mishna on our daf teaches that if the man testified that a man had died, or if he said that he had killed a certain person, or that he was involved in the murder, the beit din will accept his testimony and permit the wife to marry. Nevertheless, the witness (or, perhaps, the murderer) will not be allowed to marry the widow himself. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees in the case where the man testifies that he was the murderer, and says that in such a case we cannot accept his testimony at all, since we do not allow a person to incriminate himself. Therefore the woman cannot marry him or anyone else, since we must assume that her husband is still alive. According to the Gemara, the Tanna Kamma of the Mishna also agrees that we cannot allow a person to incriminate themselves. The opinion is presented in the name of Rava that adam karov etzel atzmo, ve-ein adam masim atzmo rasha – just as a person cannot testify against a close relative in beit din similarly he cannot testify against himself, incriminating himself. Apparently, however, the Tanna Kamma relies on an often discussed Talmudic idea – palginan diburei – we split up his statement. In this case that means that we reject his self-incriminating statement, but we accept his testimony that the man had actually been killed. The mechanism behind the concept of palginan diburei is subject to a disagreement among the rishonim. The Rashba argues that we can only apply it in cases where we can interpret the testimony in a way that will allow his entire statement to be understood as being truthful. For example, in our case, we could say that the witness who says "I killed him" actually means "I killed him…accidentally." If it is impossible to interpret his testimony in such a way, we would not apply the principle of palginan diburei, and we would reject his testimony entirely. Others, however, explain that the concept of palginan diburei is powerful enough to allow us to accept the conclusion of his testimony (that the man is dead) even as we reject the incriminating aspect of it (that the witness murdered him).
Yevamot 24a-b: Converting From a Desire to Marry
31/03/2022 - 28th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
It is well-known that Judaism does not actively proselytize, and even when prospective converts approach the beit din (the Jewish court), they are first discouraged from converting. Only after being told of the difficulties of life as a member of the Jewish community will the convert be accepted, once we are convinced that their desire to become a Jew is sincere. The Mishna on our daf discusses a not uncommon (but problematic) reason for conversion – a desire to marry. The Mishna teaches that someone who has a relationship with a non-Jewish woman should not marry her after she converts. Apparently, there is a concern that the conversion may have been done for the wrong reasons, which we would like to discourage. Nevertheless, if he does marry her, we do not obligate him to divorce her. The Gemara points out that although we are uncomfortable with the idea that a convert will marry a person with whom he or she had a prior relationship, the Mishna appears to accept the conversion as valid. This is a clear rejection of the position that if a person converts because they see material advantages to being a member of the Jewish community (see, for example, Megillat Esther 8:17) their conversion is invalid. The Nimukei Yosef and others explain that conversion is acceptable even if it was done for the wrong reasons because we assume that the person who converts truly accepts the requirements willingly, even if the process that brought them to convert was suspect. From the Rambam it appears that it is more of a technical question, and once a person has converted, we accept their present status quo state as a Jew. The Gemara concludes by bringing a baraita that teaches that during the time that King David and King Solomon ruled, converts were not accepted, nor will they be in the days of the Messiah.
Yevamot 23a-b: When One is Not Sure which Sister He Married
30/03/2022 - 27th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna on our daf presents a case that appears to be most unusual. What happens if a man marries one of two sisters, but does not know which one he married? The Mishna teaches that in such a case the man must divorce each of them, since he cannot marry two sisters. Even after he divorces one he cannot marry the other, since she may be the sister of his divorced wife, which is also forbidden by the Torah. Two possibilities are presented by the Gemara as to how such confusion may have come about. From ga'onic literature it appears that a case was once presented to them where a marriage took place and afterwards there was a dispute about what happened, to the extent that no one was sure who was truly married. In this case, it was clear that a marriage took place between two people; we just cannot determine which two people they were. The other possibility raised by the Gemara suggests that the confusion in our story stemmed from the fact that the marriage somehow was done without clarity from the very beginning – perhaps a situation where both sisters appointed a single individual to act as their agent to accept marriage proposals on their behalf. Someone approached the agent and offered him kesef kiddushin to effect the marriage – and said "with this money I am marrying one of the sisters" without clarifying which one he intended. The Ritva suggests that if we assume yesh bereira – that we can ascertain someone's intent retroactively, once they make a decision later on – then such a marriage may work. Still, he argues, the case might be where a person leaves the decision to someone else (e.g. "I will marry whichever woman my father decides") and then that person disappears and cannot make the decision. In the end, this possibility is rejected because that would be a case of kiddushim she-lo nimseru le-biah – marriage that could never be consummated – since the marriage itself created a situation that does not allow for a marital relationship to take effect.
Yevamot 22a-b: Any Brother or Any Child
29/03/2022 - 26th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In order for the commandment of yibum to come into effect, the two most basic components are for a married man to die with no offspring, and to have a living brother who can marry his widow, thus fulfilling the mitzva. The Mishna on our daf teaches that having any brother will allow the commandment to take effect, except for a brother that was born to a non-Jewish woman or slave; similarly, having any child will keep the commandment from taking effect, except for a child that was born from a non-Jewish woman or slave. The Gemara interprets the use of the expression "any brother" and "any child" to include even the case of a brother or child who was a mamzer – a child born as a result of an adulterous or incestuous relationship – who ordinarily is not allowed to marry into the Jewish community (see Devarim 23:3) – deriving this from the passage u-ven ein lo (Devarim 25:5) that the mitzva of yibum takes effect when he has no son. The expression ein lo is interpreted by the Gemara to mean ayyen alav – investigate his situation carefully; that any evidence of offspring will eliminate the mitzva of yibum. This interpretation is explained by the Sma to mean that the Torah requires us to check that truly ben ein lo – there is no evidence whatsoever of a child. Although the Gemara clearly indicates that the teaching of the Mishna comes to show that a mamzer is considered a legitimate sibling or child with regard to the rules of yibum, the geonim and rishonim add another case that needs to be considered. What should the halakha be with regard to a sibling who has become an apostate? Do the rules of yibum still apply? Will we insist that the widow refrain from marrying anyone else if the apostate refuses to participate in a Jewish religious ritual? Similarly, if the apostate brother dies with no children, will his wife become a yevama to his brothers (assuming, of course, that he was married to a Jewish woman)? The first approach to these questions was to affirm that Jews remain Jews, even if they committed sins as severe as apostasy. Later on there were some geonim who suggested that we must distinguish between a situation where the brother's apostasy took place before or after the wedding. In the event that already at the time of marriage the brother was an apostate, the suggestion is that the marriage took place conditionally with an understanding that the apostate brother was not to be included in the family for these purposes.
Yevamot 21a-b: A Daughter-In-Law Forbidden Because of a Daughter-In-Law
28/03/2022 - 25th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
An example of a relationship that is forbidden by Rabbinic ordinance is a person's son's daughter-in-law. The Gemara suggests that one's daughter's daughter-in-law is also forbidden, mainly out of concern that the two cases will be confused with one another. This explanation came as a result of an enigmatic story related by Rav Hisda in the Gemara. Rav Hisda tells that in his youth he heard a great man - Rabbi Ami – teach, "a daughter-in-law is forbidden because of a daughter-in-law." Uncertain of the meaning of this statement - and informed by the kalda'ei (Chaldean astrologers) that he would grow up to be a teacher - Rav Hisda decided that, if he turned out to be one of the Sages, he would ascertain the meaning on his own, and if he were to become a simple teacher of children, he would ask the Sages who he met in the synagogue. Now as an adult, Rav Hisda realized on his own that Rav Ami meant that a person's daughter's daughter-in-law is forbidden lest she be confused with a person's son's daughter-in-law. The kalda'ei to which Rav Hisda referred appear to be the same as the kasda'ei, one of the names of the Babylonians. Nevertheless, already in the Book of Daniel (see, for example, 2:2) we find that the kasda'ei were people who engaged in a specific profession – they were stargazers, or astrologists. Although the Sages actively discouraged people from turning to these astrologists in order to learn the future - because such behaviors appear to contradict the commandment of tamim tihiyeh im HaShem elokekha (see Devarim 18:13) - still, many people, and especially children and simple folk, would turn to them with questions about their future. Some rishonim understood that the Sages accepted that these kalda'ei actually had the ability to foresee the future on some level, but taught the people that they should not rely on them too much. The Rambam, however, understands that these fortunetellers are forbidden specifically because their alleged abilities are nothing but foolishness (see his Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim 11:16).
Yevamot 20a-b: Others Prohibited in Levirate Marriage
27/03/2022 - 24th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Up until this point, the Mishnayot in Massekhet Yevamot have been teaching about cases where a husband dies with no children, but the commandment of levirate marriage cannot be performed because the dead man was married to a woman who was an erva - a close relative who is forbidden to marry - to the surviving brother. Thus such a woman cannot become a yevama, nor is there a need to free her to marry others through halitza. Our Mishna teaches that there are other women whose status is such that they cannot marry the brother, and so, there is no possibility of yibum (levirate marriage). Nevertheless, halitza is still necessary so that she will be permitted to marry outside the family. The two categories of such women are issur mitzva and issur kedusha. The Mishna defines issur mitzva as women who are prohibited from marrying the potential yavam because of a Rabbinic ordinance forbidding their union, and issur kedusha as cases where they cannot get married because of a Biblical prohibition, but one that is less severe than an erva, like a kohen who is married to a divorcee or anyone who marries a mamzer - an illegitimate child born from a forbidden sexual relationship. Abaye explains the terminology as follows: Rabbinic ordinances are called issur mitzva because of the concept of mitzvh lishmo'a divrei hakhamim - that there is a mitzva to listen to the words of the Sages. According to the Nimukei Yosef, this mitzva is derived from the passage in Sefer Devarim (17:9-11) that teaches the importance of following the admonitions of the Sages. Simple Biblical prohibitions are called issur kedusha based on the passage in Sefer Vayikra (21:6-7) that refers to the kohanim as kedoshim - holy - in the context of forbidding them to marry a woman who is divorced. The Rivan points out that aside from this pasuk that refers to a kohen, we also find a similar passage that refers to all Jewish people - vehitkadishtem veheyitem kedoshim (see Vayikra 20:7) - which explains the source for issur kedusha in the context of anyone marrying a mamzer. In fact, according to some manuscripts of the Talmud, the passage that appears in the Gemara is kedoshim tihiyu (see Vayikra 19:2), which applies to all Jewish people, not only to kohanim.
Yevamot 19a-b: Ties That Bind Yet Again
26/03/2022 - 23th of Adar II, 5782
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On yesterday's daf we learned of the concept of zika - a connection between the potential yavam and yevama that creates almost a relationship of marriage between them. The idea of zika is used by our Gemara to explain the contrarian position of Rabbi Shimon in our Mishna (18b). Thus far in Massekhet Yevamot we have accepted that the case of eishet ahiv she-lo haya be-olamo - when there is a brother who was not born until after the woman became a widow - is not included in the mitzva of yibum (see daf 17); thus, in such a situation, neither the widow nor her tzara (fellow wife) could become the yevama of such a brother. In our Mishna (18b), however, we learn that Rabbi Shimon requires either yibum or halitza in just such a case. The Gemara explains that, according to Rabbi Shimon, an example of eishet ahiv she-lo haya be-olamo will be when a man with no brothers passes away with no children. Any brother born after his death will be considered an eishet ahiv she-lo haya be-olamo. If, however, there was a living brother at the time that the first brother dies, and that brother performs yibum, when a new brother is born we view the yevama as the full wife of the living brother, and so the prohibition of eishet ahiv she-lo haya be-olamo would not apply should the present husband die with no children. Rabbi Oshaya goes one step further in the Gemara, arguing that even if the yavam had not yet taken the widow as his yevama at the time that the newborn brother arrived, nevertheless because of the rule of zika we consider them already married, so Rabbi Shimon would not consider this a case of eishet ahiv she-lo haya be-olamo. Abaye points to an obvious difficulty with applying zika in this fashion. What if there are two surviving brothers when the first brother dies? How can Rabbi Shimon consider the yevama "married" to both of them based on the rule of zika? In truth, although it is simpler to understand how zika works when there is only one yavam, the rishonim suggest that zika to more than one yavam means that as long as the potential exists for yibum to take place between people, we consider all of the prohibitions that stem from a marital relationship to be in place, even as it is clear that no true marriage exists.