Daf 81b continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 27 - Daf 81b continued

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In our last shiur, we studied the Gemara's assertion (81b) that one who intends to eat pig meat but accidentally eats kosher meat still requires atonement for his willingness to transgress. In order to understand the full significance of this statement, we must view it in context of what the Gemara says at the end of the first chapter (39b, 40a): if one intends to perform a good deed but is unable to, God considers it as though the deed was performed. On the other hand, if one intends to sin but for some technical reason does not carry out his plans, God does not view it as though he has sinned. At first glance, this seems to contradict what our gemara says; is one held accountable for sinful intent that is not actually carried out or not? 

In order to answer this question, we must have a full understanding of why it is that the gemara in the first chapter says that sinful intent is not by itself treated as sinful activity. We might imagine that the reason for this principle is that intent alone is not a significant enough betrayal of God's will to warrant punishment. Alternatively, we might claim that intent is not conclusive; it is entirely possible that the person, in the moment of truth, will actually decide to refrain from sin, because his sinful thoughts do not represent the "real him." 

Either of these two explanations may help us understand why the cases in our sugya do not fall into the category expressed in the first chapter. In our case, the person did not merely think sinful thoughts; he perpetrated an action which he thought was sinful. He translated his sinful thoughts into the world of action. That being the case, neither of our earlier explanations applies. The intent itself is more significant once it has been expressed through action. And we cannot say that the person would not have actually carried out his plans, as he actually did act in a way that he thought was a fulfillment of his sinful thoughts.

Back to the Gemara

We resume from the "two-dots" in the middle of 81b.

A man may become secluded with his mother:

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav Asi:

A man may become secluded with his sister,

and [may] live with his mother and with his daughter.

When he said it in front of Shemuel, he (Shemuel) said:

It is forbidden to become secluded with any of the arayot of the Torah,

and even with an animal.

מתייחד אדם עם אמו:

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב אסי:

מתייחד אדם עם אחותו,

ודר עם אמו ועם בתו.

כי אמרה קמיה דשמואל, אמר:

אסור להתייחד עם כל עריות שבתורה,

ואפילו עם בהמה. 

As we have seen many times in our chapter, the section of gemara begins with a quote from the mishna, surrounded by "two-dots." The quote is the last line of our mishna on 80b, which states that a man may have yichud (seclusion) with his mother. Rav Yehuda quotes a statement of Rav Asi, which expounds upon this ruling: a man may become secluded even with his sister, and may even live with his mother and daughter. Apparently, we see two different levels of familial closeness that can impact upon the rules of yichud. There is not normally any sexual desire whatsoever between parents and children; thus, and perhaps also because of the practical necessities of family life, there is no prohibition of yichud whatsoever between parents and children. A mother and son or father and daughter may even live together on a permanent basis without anyone else in the house. With regard to siblings, there is also a negligible danger that they will engage in sinful activity, and therefore the prohibition of yichud was not applied to them. However, it is still forbidden for brother and sister to live together on a permanent basis, as it is possible that their constant exposure to each other will in fact lead them to sin. Thus, Rav Asi extends the mishna's ruling in two ways: 1) Not only is it permitted to have yichud between a parent and child, they can even live together on a permanent basis. 2) The allowance of yichud between family members applies to siblings in addition to parents and children.

Upon hearing this ruling from Rav Yehuda, his student, Shemuel expresses his disapproval. In his view, one should not have yichud with anyone included in the category of arayot, which is the list of forbidden sexual relations enumerated in Vayikra ch.18! In other words, even if one would not normally have a desire to sin with the person - or animal - the issur (prohibition) of yichud would still apply.

Let us continue in the gemara:

We learned in a Mishna: "A man may become secluded

with his mother and with his daughter

and sleep with them with closeness of flesh;"

and it is a [conclusive] answer to Shemuel!

Shemuel would say to you: "And according to your reasoning,

that which is taught in a beraita:

'His sister and his mother-in-law and all the other arayot in the Torah,

one may not be secluded with them except with witnesses;'

with witnesses yes, without witnesses no!"

תנן: מתייחד אדם

עם אמו ועם בתו,

וישן עמהם בקירוב בשר;

ותיובתא דשמואל!

אמר לך שמואל: וליטעמיך,

הא דתניא:

אחותו וחמותו ושאר כל עריות שבתורה -

אין מתייחד עמהם אלא בעדים;

בעדים אין, שלא בעדים לא!

The gemara objects to Shemuel's ruling on the basis of our mishna (80b). Our section of gemara began with a short quote of that line in the mishna, but a fuller text of the ruling is quoted here in the gemara: one may have yichud with one's mother or daughter and may even sleep in the same bed with them, unclothed; to that extent we are completely unconcerned that they will engage in sinful activity! This clearly contradicts Shemuel's ruling that yichud is forbidden with all arayot, even for whom one does not have desire!

The gemara responds that Shemuel can marshal support from a beraita, which forbids yichud with one's sister, mother-in-law, and "all arayot in the Torah" unless in the presence of witnesses (of course, in the presence of witnesses it is no longer considered yichud at all)!

The gemara concludes:

Rather, it is [a dispute among the] tanna'im, for we learned in a beraita:

"Rabbi Meir said, 'Beware of me regarding my daughter;'

Rabbi Tarfon said, 'Beware of me regarding my daughter-in-law.'"

A certain student mocked him.

Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel:

It was not [but] a short time

until that student stumbled (sinned) with his mother-in-law.

אלא תנאי היא; דתניא,

אמר רבי מאיר: הזהרו בי מפני בתי.

אמר רבי טרפון: הזהרו בי מפני כלתי;

ליגלג עליו אותו תלמיד.

אמר רבי אבהו משום רבי חנינא בן גמליאל:

לא היו ימים מועטים,

עד שנכשל אותו תלמיד בחמותו.

In light of the apparently conflicting rulings stated in the mishna and beraita, the gemara concludes that there is a dispute among the tanna'im regarding this issue. As a demonstration of the fact that there is tanna'itic support for Shemuel's opinion, the gemara brings another beraita, in which Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Tarfon instructed others to remain present so that they would not have yichud with a close relative.

The gemara continues with Rabbi Abahu quoting a tradition that a student mocked Rabbi Tarfon's excessive caution regarding his daughter-in-law, only to end up sinning himself with his own mother-in-law. The message is clear: in these areas, one can never be too careful, and cannot assume that "it will not happen to me." Additionally, one must be especially careful not to speak badly of Torah scholars.

The gemara continues by analyzing the end of Shemuel's statement:

"Even with an animal:"

Abayei would exclude them (the animals) from the whole field.

Rav Sheshet would cross a bridge.

Rav Chanan from Naharda'a went to Rav Kahana on the bank of a river;

he saw that he was sitting and studying,

and an animal was standing in front of him.

He said to him: "Does master not agree with [the policy of] 'even with an animal'?"

He said to him: "I did not realize."

אפילו עם בהמה.

אביי מכלליה מכולה דברא.

רב ששת מעבר ליה מצרא.

רב חנן מנהרדעא איקלע לרב כהנא לפום נהרא,

חזייה דיתיב וקא גרס

וקיימא בהמה קמיה,

אמר ליה: לא סבר לה מר אפילו עם בהמה?

אמר ליה: לאו אדעתאי.

The examples brought here emphasize even further the lengths to which the rabbis went to avoid placing themselves in a situation which would provide an opportunity for sin, even if that possibility was remote. The Sages here took quite seriously Abayei's exhortation about avoiding yichud even with animals.

Back to the Gemara

We are 14 lines from the bottom of 81b.

Rava said: "A man may become secluded

with two yevamot and with two co-wives,

with a woman and her mother-in-law,

with a woman and her husband's daughter,

with a woman and a young girl that knows what cohabitation is

but does not give herself to cohabitation."

אמר רבא: מתייחד אדם

עם שתי יבמות, ועם שתי צרות,

עם אשה וחמותה,

עם אשה ובת בעלה,

עם אשה ותינוקת שיודעת טעם ביאה

ואין מוסרת עצמה לביאה.

We learned in our mishna (80b) that a man may not have yichud even with two women together; since each one knows that her fellow would sin if given the chance, the women will not be afraid to sin with the man in the presence of the other woman. That being the case, Rava teaches that since some women naturally have enmity for each other, there is no chance that they will sin in each other's presence; each will be afraid that the other will publicize her sin in order to embarrass her. Therefore, there is no issur of becoming secluded with the two women together.

The second pair on this list, co-wives, is easily understood. On a Torah level, a man is permitted to marry multiple women. It has become universally accepted in the Jewish community to prohibit polygamy; however, in the Gemara's time it was still permitted to do so (though it was not a common occurrence). Naturally, in a household with multiple wives, it would be common for there to be competition and enmity between the wives.

The first example, that of yevamot, is related. There is a mitzva in the Torah called yibbum (Devarim 25:5). This mitzva states that if a man dies childless, his wife and brother should marry so as to perpetuate the name of the deceased. If the couple does not want to marry, they may perform the chalitza ceremony (Ibid., v. 6) and go their separate ways. Nowadays, chalitza is performed whenever a situation such as this arises despite the fact that the Torah presents it as though yibbum is actually the preferred option. Thus, women who are married to two brothers would also naturally harbor some enmity in that they know that they may become co-wives.

Similarly, a woman and her mother-in-law have a natural enmity in that they compete for the attention and dedication of the son-husband. Finally, the most expansive leniency on this list is yichud with a woman and a young girl. Since the girl is old enough to understand what is happening if the woman and man will sin, there is a danger that the girl could spread word of what happened; at the same time, she is not old enough to be tempted to sin herself, and therefore is even more likely to publicize the sin.

In all of these cases, there is no realistic likelihood of sin, and therefore the prohibition of yichud is waived.