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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Gemara Yevamot’

Q & A: Getting Married During Sefira (Part I)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004
QUESTION: My friends are getting married on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. I tried to convince them to do otherwise, as many people have a minhag (custom) not to attend weddings until three days before Shavuot. They told me they spoke to rabbis who allowed it. Is this right? May I attend?
Name Withheld by Request
ANSWER: Regardless of your personal minhag in the matter of Sefira observance, you may attend, as we shall explain below.The basis for the observance of mourning during the Sefira period is the Gemara (Yevamot 62b), which states as follows: “It was said that R. Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples, from Gibbethon until Antipatris, and they all died in one season because they did not treat each other with respect. Thus the world remained desolate [of their Torah] until R. Akiva came to our Sages in the south and taught them … All of them died between Pesach and Shavuot.”

Based on this Gemara, the Tur (Orach Chayyim 493) states as follows: “It is customary in all places not to take a wife [in marriage] between Pesach and Shavuot, the reason being that we do not excessively celebrate then because the students of R. Akiva died during that time. The R”i Gi’at states that this applies only to marriage, which is the main simcha (joy), but engagements and betrothals are proper. Even concerning marriage, if one went ahead and did it, we [the Beit Din] do not mete out any punishment. However, if a man comes with a request to do so, we do not allow it. This is the edict of the Geonim.”

We note that the Gemara itself offered no instructions regarding mourning, but the Geonim gave their instructions based on the Gemara.

The source for mourning between Pesach and Shavuot is found in a citation attributed to Rav Hai Gaon in Teshuvot HaGe’onim (Sha’arei Teshuva 278): “And that which you asked why we do not marry between Pesach and Shavuot, you should know that this is not because of a prohibition. It is rather because of a custom of mourning, as the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) states – that R. Akiva had 24,000 disciples, and they all died during the period between Pesach and Shavuot because of not acting properly [showing honor] one toward the other, and we further learned that they all died unusually horrible deaths through askara (diphtheria).”

R. Hai Gaon continues, “From that time on, the Rishonim – the early halachic authorities – established the custom not to marry on these days, but they permitted engagements and betrothals.”

Perhaps the reason for this permission is that another person might “anticipate him and marry her,” based on what is stated in Tractate Mo’ed Katan (18b) regarding the Rabbinical prohibition to marry on Festivals: “Ein me’arvin be’simcha - One may not commingle one joy [of Yom Tov] with another joy [of one's wife].” Betrothing on Festivals is permitted for the same reason – lest a rival suitor anticipate him and marry her. It is only the marriage itself that is considered a particularly great joy (as we see in Tractate Sukka 25b).

From the above it would seem that marriages are not performed for the entire period between Pesach and Shavuot, a 49-day period – and that is clearly not the case.

We find a similar account regarding the students of R. Akiva in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 61:3), with the exception that there is no specific mention of the time period other than quotes from Rashi and Matnot Kehuna, who explain it as being between Pesach and Shavuot, as in our Gemara (Yevamot 62b).

To further answer our question, we find the following in Responsa Tashbatz (Vol. I, Responsum 178): “Be aware that our custom is only to prohibit [marriages] until Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the Omer). R. Zerachiah Halevi cites an old Sephardic manuscript as a source stating that the students died from Pesach until Peros Ha’atzeret. “Peros” is defined as “half,” which here means not less than sixteen days. [As we learned in a baraita (Megilla 29b), we are supposed to learn about the laws of Pesach 30 days before Pesach, and half of that is 15 days. Fifteen days before Shavuot is Lag BaOmer, for from Lag BaOmer until Shavuot we have 16 days, and part of the 34th day is counted as an entire day (miktzat hayom kekulo), as in all types of mourning, as we learned in Moed Katan (20b, Perek Elu Megalchin.)]

We are thus left (after the 34th day) with 15 days which are the Peros HaAtzeret, which means half of the 30 days in which we are to expound on the laws of Atzeret (Shavuot).

Based on this responsum of Tashbatz, we are left with a total of 33 days of mourning. There are various minhagim as to how we observe these 33 days of mourning. The Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 493:1-3) states as follows: “The custom is not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot until Lag BaOmer, for that is when R. Akiva’s students died…” and he repeats the Tur’s statement that “if one went ahead and married, we do not mete out any punishment.”

We are accustomed as well not to have our hair cut until Lag BaOmer because that is when the students ceased dying, but in fact one should not have his hair cut until the 34th day during the daytime. The Rema notes that in our lands (Ashkenaz) we can have our hair cut starting on the 33rd day.

The Mechaber then states that some are accustomed to have their hair cut on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, and he considers this a serious error. The Rema seems to differ when he cites yet another custom, which permits haircuts until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, but not from Lag BaOmer and on, even though on Lag BaOmer itself it is permitted. On the other hand, those who have their hair cut from Lag BaOmer and on should not do so from after Pesach until Lag BaOmer. The people in a city should not be divided between these two customs lest they violate “Lo titgodedu” (Deuteronomy 14:1), that is, having two obviously different rules in one community.

(To be continued)

Q & A: Joshua Marries Rahab (Part II)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2004
QUESTION: I recently attended a lecture where the speaker discussed great Jewish women in history. He specifically singled out the biblical heroine Rahab who, he said, married the great leader and prophet Joshua.
I had previously heard that Rahab was a woman of ill repute, a harlot, who surely was not suitable for a righteous person like Joshua. Also, when Rahab is mentioned (Joshua ch. 2), there is no indication that she married Joshua. How do we know it?
Sandy Hart
(Via e-mail)
ANSWER: Last week we noted that Targum Yonatan, Rashi and Radak all mention that Rahab’s description as isha zona might refer to one who feeds people, an inkeeper.We also quoted Tractate Megilla (14b), where R. Nahman concludes from the juxtaposition of two sets of verses (in Joshua and in II Kings) that the prophetess Hulda was descended from both Joshua and Rahab.

We concluded with a question. Rahab was a member of one of the Seven Canaanite nations whom we were commanded to destroy. How was Joshua allowed to let her live, let alone marry her?

* * *

The prohibition against marrying someone from one of the seven Canaanite nations is found in Parashat VaEt’chanan (Deuteronomy 7:3): “Velo tit’chaten bam, bit’cha lo titen li[b]eno u[b]ito lo tikach li[b]necha – You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son.” That is what Moshe commanded the Children of Israel regarding the seven nations.

We find in the Gemara (Yevamot 76a) a discussion of the Mishna’s ruling that a petzua dakka (one with crushed testicles) or cherut shofcha (a severed member) may marry a convert or an emancipated slavewoman, and they are only prohibited from marrying within the congregation. R. Sheshet was asked: May a Kohen who is a petzua dakka marry a convert or an emancipated slavewoman (women whom a priest is forbidden to marry)? The issue is whether he retains his status of kehuna and therefore he may not marry them, or do we say that due to his condition he has lost that level of sanctity and may marry them?

R. Sheshet answered: It was taught in a baraita that an Israelite who is a petzua dakka may marry a netinah (a descendant of the Gibeonites – as Rashi s.v. netinah explains). If the petzua dakka retains his state of sanctity (as an Israelite), shouldn’t the prohibition of “lo tit’chaten bam” apply? Thus, this serves also as evidence that the Kohen does not retain his priestly sanctity.

Rava disagrees and says that we may not marry them, and if one does marry them he violates a commandment because of the possibility that he might beget a son who will worship idols. That would apply in situations of idol worshipping societies. This assumes that when they convert, they are biblically permitted to marry, but the Sages still decreed against marrying them even after they convert.

However, the Sages’ decree applied only to those who were able to beget children. Since the petzua dakka could not beget children, the Sages did not issue the decree against them.

The Gemara counters that if this is so, then a mamzer who is able to beget children should be prohibited from marrying a netinah as well. But didn’t we learn in a Mishna (Kiddushin 69a) that mamzerim and netinim are allowed to marry each other? Rava explains that the Sages’ decree applies only to Jews who are fit (kesherim), but to Jews who are unfit – such as mamzerim - the decree is not applicable.

This is the initial understanding of Rava, but the Gemara concludes that Rava later admitted that he was incorrect in stating that they can intermarry with us when they convert. Before they convert the marriage is invalid anyway. It is clear that a level of sanctity (whether of a Kohen or an Israelite) is lost with such a marriage, and therefore it is prohibited.

Rambam (Hilchot Isurei Biah 12:22-23), based on the Gemara’s (Yevamot 79a-b) conclusion, rules that “he or she who has converted from among the seven nations is not biblically forbidden to enter the congregation [through marriage]. It is well known that the only ones among them who converted were the Gibeonites, and Joshua decreed that the Gibeonites, both male and female, were forbidden from entering the congregation [through marriage].” Joshua had issued this decree because of their deception, having presented themselves as “foreigners” when they were in fact from the seven nations. Joshua and the elders had already made a covenant with them to let them live (Joshua ch. 9), and thus he had no alternative.

Rambam continues, “However, he only decreed so for the time that the Temple existed, as the verse states (Joshua 9:23), ‘Ve’ata arurim atem velo yikaret mikem eved vechotvei etzim vesho’avei mayim le[b]eit elokai – Now you are cursed, and there shall never cease from among you woodchoppers and waterdrawers for the House of my G-d.’ Thus he [Joshua] set the conditions of their being distanced [from the congregation] during the [existence of the] Temple.”

These people are called “netinim” because they were “given” over to the labor of the Temple.  However, David later decreed that they shall never enter the congregation for all generations, even when the Temple does not exist. We read in Ezra (8:20), “Umin hanetinim shenatan david vehasarim le’avodat halevi’im…. – And of the netinim, whom David and the officers gave over to the service of the Levites….” Thus we see that he did not make their exclusion from the congregation dependent on the existence of the Temple.

The Maggid Mishneh (Rambam loc. cit.) explains that Rambam follows the Gemara’s conclusion, which he sees as disputing Rava’s opinion. Thus, upon conversion there is no biblical prohibition, except for the decrees of Joshua and David. The Maggid Mishneh notes, however, the view of Ramban and Rashba, who concur with Rava’s ruling that they are biblically forbidden even upon their conversion.

R. Yechezkel Landau (Noda BiYehuda, Even HaEzer, Mahadura Kamma, Responsum 6) concurs with Rambam and explains that the Torah gives a reason for the prohibition (Deuteronomy 7:4), “Ki yasit et bincha me’acharai, ve’avdu elohim acherim. . . – For he [she] will cause your child to turn away from Me, and they will serve other gods.” Thus the prohibition would appear to apply to a society of idolaters who, when they convert, are no longer biblically prohibited; at that point the decrees of David and Joshua became the only prohibitions.

We are thus faced with two problems: your original question of how Joshua could marry a harlot, and how he could marry someone from the seven nations whom he was forbidden to marry according to his own decree.

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-joshua-marries-rahab-part-ii/2004/03/17/

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