Daf 69b continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 04-Daf 69b continued

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Last week, we continued our study of the Gemara's analysis of the first mishna in our chapter, the fourth chapter of Massekhet Kiddushin. The gemara had questioned the wording of the mishna's opening line, "Ten types of lineage ascended from Babylonia," and explained the implicit significance of each part of that phrase. The Gemara now moves on to discuss the actual genealogical categories that the mishna lists. 

We are up to the eleventh wide line on page 69b. At the end of the line, note the three words that are surrounded on both sides by two diamonds (affectionately called "two-dots"). This notation is quite commonplace in the Gemara, and generally (though not always) connotes the beginning of a new discussion. The Gemara often quotes a line from the mishna, discusses it, and then quotes another line from the mishna which it will proceed to analyze; usually, these quotes from the mishna, which are essentially headings of new discussions, are marked off with the "two-dots" notation. If you do not remember the context of this quote in the mishna - look back at our mishna on 69a!

Kohanim, Levites and Israelites:

From where do we [know] that they went?

For it says, "And the kohanim and Levites and some of the people,

and the singers and the gatekeepers and the Netinim settled in their cities,

and all of Israel in their cities."

כהני לויי וישראלי:

מנלן דסליקו?

דכתיב: וישבו הכהנים והלוים ומן העם

והמשוררים והשוערים והנתינים בעריהם

וכל ישראל בעריהם. 

As we noted in our shiur two weeks ago, the Gemara often attempts to find the sources of the rulings stated in a mishna. In our case, the quote from the mishna does not contain a halakhic ruling but rather halakhic categories, couched in historical terms: ten genealogical classes ascended from Babylonia to the Land of Israel, including kohanim, etc. Nevertheless, the gemara still questions our knowledge of this historical event. How do we know that people of each of these three genealogical classes did, in fact, ascend from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael?

The gemara answers this question by quoting a pasuk (verse) in Ezra (2:70). From the fact that the pasuk lists kohanim, Levites and "all of Israel" separately, it is clear that these three categories of people all joined the renewed settlement in Israel. In fact, Levites actually had cities that were set aside for them (see Bamidbar 35:1-8); thus, the Levites - and some of the people - settled in the Levite cities, the Netinim, who were separated from the Jewish community at large, had their own cities, and "all of Israel," namely regular Jews ("Israelites") settled in their cities. 

On a technical note, "singers and gatekeepers" refer to Levites. These were the two primary functions of Levites in the Temple: some were singers, as the Temple service was accompanied by song, and some were gatekeepers, who served as an honor guard at the entrances to the Temple.

We continue in the gemara, at the next set of "two-dots," about halfway down the page on 69b.

Chalalei, converts and freed slaves:

From where do we [know] that chalalei [went]?


For it states in a beraita, "Rabbi Yossi says, 'great is chazaka,

as it says: "And from the sons of the kohanim: the sons of Chavia, the sons of Kotz, the sons of Barzilai,

who took from the daughters of Barzilai of Gilad as wives, and were called on their names.

These sought their genealogical records and they were not found,

and they were disqualified from the priesthood.


And Hattirshata said to them that they should not eat from the most holy offerings

until a kohen with the Urim ve-Tummim will arise."

And he said to them: "You remain in your previous status;

from what did you eat in the exile?

From sacred [food] of the provinces; here also, [you may eat] sacred [food] of the provinces."'"

חללי גירי וחרורי:

חללי מנלן?

דתניא, ר' יוסי אומר: גדולה חזקה,

שנא' (=שנאמר): ומבני הכהנים בני חביה בני הקוץ בני ברזילי

אשר לקח מבנות ברזילי הגלעדי אשה ויקרא על שמם,

אלה בקשו כתבם המתייחשים ולא נמצאו

ויגואלו מן הכהונה,

ויאמר התרשתא להם אשר לא יאכלו מקדש הקדשים

עד עמוד כהן לאורים ותומים.

ואמר להם: הרי אתם בחזקתכם;

במה הייתם אוכלים בגולה?

בקדשי הגבול, אף כאן נמי בקדשי הגבול.

The gemara here proceeds by quoting the next phrase in the mishna, and - similar to the line of questioning we saw above - asks how we know that chalalim ascended to Eretz Yisrael with with those returning to rebuild the Beit Ha-mikdash. (As we explained two weeks ago, a chalal (singular of chalalim, or the Aramaic chalalei) is the result of a union between a kohen and a woman he is not permitted to marry, such as a divorcee or a convert. A chalal does not enjoy the privileges of priesthood.) The gemara responds by quoting a beraita that is based upon three verses in Sefer Ezra (2:61-63; these verses are repeated in Sefer Nechemia, 7:63-65). The context of those pesukim is a listing of the families that made the trip from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael. With regard to kohanim, the verse states that the sons of Chavia and Kotz were present, as well as the "sons of Barzilai." Now, Barzilai was not actually a kohen and his sons would therefore also not be kohanim. These men, however, were known as "sons of Barzilai" only because they had married into the family and adopted its name, thought they acutally claimed to be kohanim.

A note of introduction is in order here. In order for a kohen to receive the privileges of the priesthood, he must be able to prove his priestly status through genealogical records. This is due to the fact that it is forbidden for a non-kohen, including a chalal, to perform the avoda (service) in the Beit Ha-mikdash, to eat certain types of sacrificial food, or to eat teruma (the tithes that are given to kohanim from agricultural produce). Not only does the Torah prescribe severe punishments for non-kohanim who perform the avoda or eat these foods, but one who does so also harms other individuals or even the nation as a whole. The Temple service is a national obligation, and helps atone for the sins of the people; if it is performed by a non-kohen, it does not achieve that important goal. Even if the meat of a sacrfice is not properly consumed by a kohen, the sacrifice does not achieve its objective. Even worse, if someone of priestly lineage is in actuality a chalal, his daughters can ruin the genealogical purity of other priestly families; if a kohen marries the daughter of a chalal, their children will also be chalalim. For all these reasons, great importance is attached to the ability of a kohen to document his status as a kohen of pure lineage.

To return to our story, the priestly family known as "sons of Barzilai" were unsuccessful in their attempt to document their priestly lineage. Therefore, Hattirshata (identified in Sefer Nechemia 8:9 as Nechemia himself, another leader of the return to the Land of Israel) instructed them not to partake of certain types of sacrificial meat until their status could be confirmed. Since the available means of research had been pursued to no avail, true certainty would only have been possible through miraculous means. The Urim ve-Tummim refer to the Name of God that was inserted into the folds of the breastplate of the kohen gadol. In times of need, the kohen gadol could ask God a question, which would be answered through the Urim ve-Tummim (See for example Bamidbar 27:21). The heavenly answer to the kohen gadol's question would come in the following form: the breastplate contained twelve precious stones, each one engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes. Different letters in these names would be illuminated, and the kohen gadol would then piece together the message that God wanted to convey. Unfortunately, the Urim ve-Tummim were not present in the second Beit Ha-mikdash; thus, Nechemia's instruction amounted to suspending the priestly priveleges of the "sons of Barzilai" until the coming of Mashiach (Rashi, s.v. Ad amod).

The main point of the gemara has now been accomplished; it has shown that the sons of Barzilai were treated as chalalim due to their inability to document their genealogical purity. It should be noted that this does not precisely fit what the gemara seemed to want to demonstrate initially. The "sons of Barzilai" were not actually chalalim; they were not able to prove their genealogical purity and were therefore treated, for the most part, like chalalim, out of a concern that they might really have this status. 

This point of the gemara could have been accomplished simply by quoting the pesukim referenced here. However, the gemara actually quotes a beraita that mentions these pesukim and expounds upon them. The beraita quotes Rabbi Yossi as stating that "great is chazaka," as evidenced by the pesukim from Ezra. Chazaka is a halakhic concept that has extensive application. It means, essentially, that we maintain the status quo regarding a person's status, or the status of anything else, until we have conclusive evidence to support uprooting that status quo. In our case, Rabbi Yossi apparently adduces this principle based on the full account of Hattirshata's instructions to the "sons of Barzilai," which is not explicitly mentioned in the pesukim. Hattirshata apparently told them that although they would not be permitted to perform the avoda in the Beit Ha-mikdash or eat sacrificial meat, they would be permitted to continue eating "sacred food of the provinces," as they had done until then. The term "sacred food of the provinces" (kodshei gevul) refers to teruma, which has a sanctified status, but - unlike sacrificial food - may be eaten anywhere, rather than just in the Beit Ha-mikdash or Jerusalem. This shows the great power of chazaka - despite the limitations imposed upon this family, the fact that they were already known as a family that could eat teruma allowed them to continue to do so. The gemara will discuss this point further as it continues.

How does the Gemara know that Hattirshata added that the family under discussion could continue to eat teruma? This is not mentioned explicitly in the pesukim!

Look carefully at the wording of the pesukim ...

It seems that Rabbi Yossi infers this message from the language of the pesukim themselves. Hattirshata does not simply tell the "sons of Barzilai" that their priestly privileges are being suspended; he instructs them not to eat from "kodesh ha-kodashim," the most holy offerings. This implies that they are still able to eat from sanctified food that is not the "most holy." Since all sanctified food must be eaten by kohanim, the only distinction that makes sense would be that they could continue eating from teruma, which they had been accustomed to eating, but could not partake of the newly instituted sacrficial food. Thus, their inability to prove their status as kohanim would not allow them to begin to enjoy new privileges of the priesthood, but it would also not prevent them from enjoying those that they had access to until now.

We continue in the gemara, twelve lines from the end of 69b.

And according to the one who says: We raise up from teruma to lineage,

these that eat from teruma, they would come to elevate them!

It is different there, because their status was flawed.

But what, then, is [the meaning of the phrase] great is chazaka?

Originally they ate from Rabbinical teruma, and eventually they ate from Biblical teruma.

ולמאן דאמר: מעלים מתרומה ליוחסין,

הני דאכול בתרומה אתו לאסוקינהו!

שאני התם, דריע חזקתייהו.

ואלא מאי גדולה חזקה?

מעיקרא אכול בתרומה דרבנן, ולבסוף אכול בתרומה דאורייתא.

The gemara here questions the beraita's assertion that the "sons of Barzilai" were permitted to eat from teruma despite their being ruled ineligible to perform the Temple service: there is an opinion that claims that "we raise up from teruma to lineage," meaning that if one sees a kohen eating teruma, one may assume that he is of pure lineage, and another kohen may marry his daughter. According to this opinion, it would be dangerous to allow the "sons of Barzilai" to continue eating teruma, lest they come to marry freely with other kohanim. Since the "sons of Barzilai" were considered possible chalalim, if a daughter of this family would marry a kohen, their children would also need to be considered potential chalalim! Thus, they should have been prevented from eating teruma in order to forestall this problem.

The gemara answers that there was no concern that people would think that the "sons of Barzilai" were of pure lineage because it was quite obvious to all that the family might be tainted. The commentaries here suggest different options as to why this was so obvious. Rashi (s.v. Shani) explains that the fact that this family alone was disqualified from eating sacrificial meat would serve as a clear indicator that they were tainted. Tosafot (s.v. Shani) argues that it was the fact that the "sons of Barzilai" attempted to uncover their genealogical records and were unsuccessful. Be that as it may, it was known to all that this was a family that was not determined to be of pure priestly lineage.

If this is the case, the gemara asks, why does Rabbi Yossi proclaim that "great is chazaka?" The power of chazaka is great if it allows one to do something that we would have thought to be forbidden; but here, there is no reason for us to be concerned that their eating from teruma will lead to any other problem, and eating teruma itself is something they had been doing all along! The gemara responds that previously, this family had eaten food that had the status of teruma on a rabbinic level; nevertheless, since they had been eating "teruma," they were allowed to continue to do so, including even food that has the the status of teruma on a biblical level. As Rashi (s.v. Be-teruma, s.v. Teruma) explains, the biblical command to separate teruma from one's produce and give it to a kohen applies only in Eretz Yisrael. In certain areas outside of Eretz Yisrael, there is a rabbinic injuction to separate teruma. The "sons of Barzilai" had experience only with the rabbinic teruma outside of Eretz Yisrael. Neverthless, because of the strength of chazaka, they were permitted to continue eating teruma even when they came to Eretz Yisrael, despite the fact that teruma there has a more stringent status.

This week, we have seen our gemara question and provide sources for some of the mishna's statements. We have also been introduced to the important halakhic concept of chazaka and to the complexities of proving one's status as a kohen. We will continue next week with the gemara's further analysis of Rabbi Yossi's teaching.