Daf 72b

  • Rav Michael Siev

Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 06-Daf 72b

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Thus far in our study of the fourth chapter of Massekhet Kiddushin, we have gotten a basic background on some issues related to yuchesin (lineage). We have been introduced to different categories of people that cannot marry into the broad Jewish community, the most prominent of which is the mamzer, someone born of a union between two people whose relationship carries with it a capital punishment or karet. (See Vayikra ch. 20 for a list of these violations, which include adultery and incestuous relationships. Karet, which literally means to be cut off, most likely refers to being spiritually severed from eternal existence after one's life on this world. One who receives karet may also die early.) We have also discussed how important it is for kohanim to be able to demonstrate their genealogical purity. In the context of all of this, the gemara claimed - based on a grammatical inference from the mishna - that our mishna supports Rabbi Elazar, who stated that the Jewish community in Babylonia had a higher level of genealogical purity than did the community in Israel at the time of the return to the Land of Israel to build the Second Temple. We will begin this week's shiur from the middle of 72b, where the gemara takes up this theme. (Note that we have skipped a few pages in order to focus on sugyot that are best suited to our forum.)

We begin about two thirds of the way down the page, at the beginning of the line.

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: "These are the words of Rabbi Meir,

but the Sages say: 'All lands have a presumption of acceptable [lineage].'"

Ameimar allowed Rav Huna bar Natan to marry a woman from Mechuzyata.

Rav Ashi said to him: "What is [the basis of] your opinion?

That Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: 'these are the words of Rabbi Meir, but the Sages say all the lands have presumption of acceptable [lineage]'?

But the House of Rav Kahana did not teach this, and the House of Rav Pappa did not teach this, and the House of Rav Zevid did not teach this!

Nevertheless, he (Ameimar) did not accept it from him,

because he had heard it from Rav Zevid of Naharda'a.

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל: זו דברי ר"מ (רבי מאיר),

אבל חכמים אומרים: כל ארצות בחזקת כשרות הם עומדות.

אמימר שרא ליה לרב הונא בר נתן למינסב איתתא מחוזייתא.

אמר ליה רב אשי: מאי דעתיך?

דאמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל: זו דברי ר' מאיר, אבל חכ"א (חכמים אומרים): כל ארצות בחזקת כשרות הן עומדות?

והא בי רב כהנא לא מתני הכי, ובי רב פפא לא מתני הכי, ובי רב זביד לא מתני הכי!

אפ"ה (אפילו הכי) לא קיבלה מיניה,

משום דשמיע ליה מרב זביד דנהרדעא.

The gemara begins by quoting Rav Yehuda, who states in Shemuel's name that the Sages disagree with Rabbi Meir and rule that Jews in all places have a chezkat kashrut (a type of chazaka - see last week's shiur!) - a presumption of acceptable lineage - such that one may assume that a Jewish family that is not known to be unfit for marriage due to a problem of mamzerut (the state of being a mamzer) is in fact fit. As we mentioned in our introduction to today's shiur, this means that our mishna, which the gemara had stated indicates that Babylonia was considered superior to Israel with regard to genealogical purity, actually reflects the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who is in the minority. The majority opinion, that of the Sages (in a broad sense), argues that people in all lands are presumed to be of acceptable lineage unless we know otherwise. This statement also directly contradicts another statement made by Shemuel himself on 71a, apparently in explanation of the opinion of Rabbi Meir, that people in lands other than Babylonia or Israel are presumed to be unfit for marriage unless they can prove their acceptability. According to that opinion, the Babylonian Jewish community was presumed to be acceptable, while the Jews of Eretz Yisrael were in the middle: it was not recommended to marry them unless one knew for certain that one's marriage partner was of pure blood, but if one did marry someone from Eretz Yisrael, it was permitted to remain married. Jews in other lands had to prove their acceptability. Rav Yehuda's ruling here, in the name of Shemuel, asserts that Jews everywhere can be assumed to be of acceptable lineage.

The fact that Shemuel is quoted as claiming that the strict view of our mishna is that of Rabbi Meir in particular is not surprising. As a general rule, anonymous mishnayot (plural of mishna) are assumed to reflect the opinion of Rabbi Meir (Sanhedrin 86a).

Based on this statement of Shemuel, combined with the general principle that we follow the majority opinion against a minority opinion that is held by a single scholar, Ameimar allowed Rav Huna bar Natan to marry a woman from Mechuzyata, which was a place outside of both Babylonia and Eretz Yisrael. The gemara relates that Rav Ashi was critical of this decision due to the fact that several important sources omitted Shemuel's permissive ruling from their presentations of the subject. Nevertheless, despite the criticism, Rav Ashi did not back down, as he had heard this teaching from a reliable source: Rav Zevid of Naharda'a.

The fact that Ameimar gave his stamp of approval to Rav Yehuda bar Natan's marriage is not merely a matter of historical curiosity; it is stated for its halakhic import. The fact that a prominent authority was willing to rely, in a practical sense, upon the ruling of Shemuel as reported by Rav Yehuda, indicates that he considered it to be fully reliable.

Back to the Gemara

The gemara now continues its discussion of mamzerim from a different angle. We are eleven lines from the end of 72b.

The Rabbis taught: "'Mamzerim and Netinim will be pure in the future to come (the Messianic Era)' - the words of Rabbi Yossi.

Rabbi Meir says: '[They will] not be pure.'"


Rabbi Yossi said to him, 'but does it not say, "And I will sprinkle upon you pure water, and you will be purified!"'

Rabbi Meir said to him, 'When it says "from all your impurities and all your defilements" [that implies] - and not from mamzerut.'


Rabbi Yossi said to him: 'When it says, "I will purify you,"

that is to say: even from mamzerut.'"

ת"ר (תנו רבנן): ממזירי ונתיני טהורים לעתיד לבא - דברי ר' יוסי.

ר' מאיר אומר: אין טהורים.

אמר לו ר' יוסי, והלא כבר נאמר: וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתם!

אמר לו ר' מאיר: כשהוא אומר מכל טומאותיכם ומכל גלוליכם - ולא מן הממזרות.

אמר לו ר' יוסי: כשהוא אומר אטהר אתכם,

הוי אומר: אף מן הממזרות.

The gemara begins by quoting a beraita (the words tanu rabbanan, "the Rabbis taught," always indicate that the Gemara is quoting a beraita). Rabbi Yossi maintains that Mamzerim (pl. of mamzer) and Netinim will be pure, meaning that they will be permitted to marry into the general Jewish community, in the Messianic Era. [As we explained at greater length at the beginning of our series, the name Netinim refers to the Gibeonites, inhabitants of Canaan who tricked the Jews into making a treaty with them, as told in Sefer Yehoshua ch. 9. They subsequently converted but were prohibited from marrying into the Jewish community.] Rabbi Meir argues that the status of these individuals will not be lifted even in Messianic times.

Both sages attempt to support their views on the basis of a pasuk (verse) in Yechezkel (36:25) that speaks of the Messianic Era. Rabbi Yossi argues that when the pasuk says that God will "purify" the Jewish people, that includes the fact that mamzerim and Netinim will be permitted to join the community. Rabbi Meir disputes this claim, based on the continuation of the pasuk, which specifies that we will be cleansed from our "impurities and defilement;" thus, the purification process seems to refer to cleansing the Jewish people of its sins, but not to removing the restrictions applicable to mamzerim and Netinim. Rabbi Yossi responds that although the pasuk does mention "sin and defilement," it then concludes with a general statement that "I will purify you." Since the verse has already mentioned the cleansing from sin and defilement, this general statement must refer to something else. Rabbi Yossi claims that it means that mamzerim and Netinim will be permitted to marry into the community.

Before we go further and study the gemara's discussion of this machloket (disagreement), we must take note of the fact that the commentators differ as to the positions that Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Meir take. The general assumption is that mitzvot will still be applicable in the Messianic Era; how, then, do we understand the position of Rabbi Yossi that the prohibition of mamzerim marrying into the Jewish community will be lifted?

Ramban (Nachmanides) and some other commentators claim that, with the arrival of the Mashiach (Messiah), there will be a Divinely authorized "pardon" of sorts for mamzerim. However, the prohibition will still be on the books, such that new mamzerim that will be created after that time will be prohibited from marrying into the Jewish community. Many other Rishonim (a name that refers to the early Rabbis of the era after the decline of Babylonia as the dominant center of the Jewish world; it includes scholars who lived approximately between the years 1000 and 1500 of the common era), including the Ran (Rabbenu Nissim), argue that even this is impossible. Rather, Rabbi Yossi means to say that Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet), who according to tradition will accompany the Mashiach, will not disclose the identity of mamzerim who have integrated into the community, despite the fact that he will know the true status of each person's lineage. However, people recognized as mamzerim will still be prohibited from marrying into the community. This is a much less radical statement, because it does not posit a one-time suspension of halakha; even nowadays we do not uncover the identity of mamzerim who are not recognized as such and have integrated into the community (Gemara 71a, Shulchan Arukh EH 2:5, Rama).

Let us continue in the gemara - we are seven lines from the bottom of 72b.

It is well for Rabbi Meir - that is what is written: "And a mamzer shall dwell in Ashdod."

But for Rabbi Yossi, what is [the meaning of] "And a mamzer shall dwell in Ashdod"?

As Rav Yosef interpreted: "The House of Israel will dwell securely in their land,

in which they had been comparable to strangers."

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: "The halakha is in accordance with Rabbi Yossi."

Rav Yosef said: "If not that Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel that the halakha is in accordance with Rabbi Yossi,

Eliyahu would have come and removed from us many groups [of people] in neck-shackles."

בשלמא לרבי מאיר, היינו דכתיב: וישב ממזר באשדוד;

אלא לר' יוסי מאי וישב ממזר באשדוד?

כדמתרגם רב יוסף: יתבון בית ישראל לרוחצן בארעהון,

דהוו דמו בה לנוכראין.

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל: הלכה כרבי יוסי.

אמר רב יוסף: אי לאו דאמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל הלכה כרבי יוסי,

הוה אתי אליהו, מפיק מינן צוורני צוורני קולרין.

The gemara now analyzes the argument between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yossi in light of a pasuk in Zekharia (9:6), which states that when the Mashiach comes, mamzerim will be separated from the rest of the community and will dwell in their own places. According to Rabbi Meir, this pasuk is readily understandable, as mamzerim will remain unable to mix with the general community. However, this pasuk seems difficult according to the view of Rabbi Yossi, who asserts that mamzerim will be permitted to marry into the community in the Messianic Era!

Take a moment and consider the gemara's discussion regarding the pasuk in Zekharia, based on the two explanations of Rabbi Yossi's opinion that we mentioned earlier. How does the gemara's discussion fit according to the views of the Ramban and Ran?

The Ramban actually cites this part of the gemara's discussion as a proof to his interpretation. If Rabbi Yossi only meant to claim that mamzerim who had integrated into the community would remain pure, but known mamzerim would remain unfit for marriage, the gemara's challenge to Rabbi Yossi based on the pasuk in Zekharia is very weak: Rabbi Yossi could easily understand the verse as referring to mamzerim who are publicly recognized as such. They would be unable to marry into the community even according to Rabbi Yossi, and it would not be surprising that they would be separated from the rest of the community. From the fact that the gemara considers this verse to be problematic for Rabbi Yossi, it seems that Rabbi Yossi permits even recognized mamzerim to be permitted in the Messianic Era.

The Ran, defending his view, argues that if the pasuk meant to imply that publicly recognized mamzerim would dwell by themselves, the verse would be insignificant; even nowadays mamzerim are not permitted to fully integrate into the community. From the fact that the pasuk presents this situation as something new that will exist in the Messianic Era, we may infer that the discussion is about people not currently recognized as mamzerim, who could be identified as such by Eliyahu ha-Navi

The gemara answers its question by claiming that Rabbi Yossi might interpret the verse as Rav Yosef explains it, that the Jewish People will dwell securely in the Land of Israel, where they had previously been outcast and without rights, as strangers. According to this interpretation, the word mamzerim refers not to the formal, legal category of people born from certain types of forbidden unions, but rather to people who are distanced and outcast - as mamzerim are in that they cannot marry in to the general Jewish community. Rashi (s.v. De-havu) suggests that the pasuk specifically mentions Ashdod because it is a place that the Jews were never successful in conquering, even when they conquered the land originally under the guidance of Yehoshua.

Having analyzed the machloket between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yossi, the gemara moves on to a halakhic ruling: Rav Yehuda says in the name of Shemuel that the halakha follows Rabbi Yossi. You may have noticed that this is the second ruling we have studied today that Rav Yehuda quoted in the name of Shemuel. This is not uncommon: Rav Yehuda studied under the two prime halakhic authorities of the previous generation, Rav and Shemuel, and the often quotes rulings in their names. 

To summarize, we have seen today a critical ruling of Shemuel that allows us to posit that most Jews are of acceptable lineage. We have seen as well the important discussion of the status of mamzerim in the Messianic Era, and the practical ruling that we do not reveal the status of mamzerim who have already integrated into the community. We have also examined the debate between Ramban and Ran regarding the opinion of Rabbi Yossi, and traced how the debaters understands the continuation of our gemara - a critical skill in analyzing disputes in the Talmud and its commentaries.