Daf 81b continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 28 - Daf 81b continued

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For the last several weeks, we have been studying the laws of yichud, seclusion between a man and woman, which were introduced by the mishna on daf 80b. That mishna concludes by teaching that the laws of yichud do not apply to parents and children. As a demonstration of this, the mishna states that a man may become secluded with his mother or daughter and they may even sleep together in the same bed, as we are not concerned that this will lead to illicit sexual activity. The mishna rules that they may even sleep together "with closeness of flesh," meaning unclothed, as was the norm in those times; however, once the child grows up, parent and child must be clothed.

Our gemara picks up on this point. We are up to the "two-dots," toward the bottom of 81b.

[If] they have grown - he sleeps in his garment, etc.:

And how much (how old)?

Rav Ada bar Rav Aza said in the name of Rav Asi:

"A girl - nine years and one day old,

a boy - twelve years and one day old."

There are those that say: "A girl -

twelve years and one day old,

a boy - thirteen years and one day old."

And this and this, such that they will be, "breasts formed and hair sprouted."

Rafram bar Pappa said in the name of Rav Chisda:

"We only learned if she is not embarrassed to stand before him naked,

but if she is embarrassed to stand before him naked - it is forbidden.

What is the reason?

An inclination has taken hold of her."

הגדילו - זה ישן בכסותו וכו':


אמר רב אדא בר רב עזא אמר רב אסי:

תינוקת - בת תשע שנים ויום אחד,

תינוק - בן שתים עשרה שנה ויום אחד.

איכא דאמרי: תינוקת -

בת שתים עשרה שנה ויום אחד,

תינוק - בן שלש עשרה ויום אחד.

וזה וזה, כדי שיהיו שדים נכונו ושערך צמח.

אמר רפרם בר פפא א"ר חסדא:

לא שנו אלא שאינה בושה לעמוד לפניו ערום,

אבל בושה לעמוד לפניו ערום - אסור;

מאי טעמא?

יצר אלבשה. 

Our gemara picks up on the ambiguity in the mishna's statement that its initial allowance only holds true until the child "grows up." What exactly is the definition of growing up regarding this halakha? The gemara quotes two traditions as to Rav Ada's response (in the name of Rav Asi). The first version states that the age for a girl is nine and the age for a boy twelve, and the second says that the ages are twelve for a girl and thirteen for a boy. Either way, it is only if they have "breasts formed and hair sprouted," which is an expression borrowed from Yechezkel (16:7) and which refers to the process of a girl's physical maturation. Once a girl has reached puberty she begins to be physically attractive to men, and we do not allow her to sleep unclothed even with her father. Before the ages specified in the gemara, even apparent signs of physical maturity are not taken seriously and do not count as heralding the actual onset of physical maturity.

On a technical note, the gemara here mentions the ages of "nine years and one day old," twelve years and one day old," etc. This is a common mode of expression of precise ages in the Gemara. The addition of the phrase "and one day" simply means that the nine years (for example) have been fully completed, such that the person has entered his tenth year. In other words, if a person is born on the first day of Nissan, he completes his years at the completion of the month of Adar; once the first of Nissan comes around again, he has already begun the first day of his next (in this case, tenth) year.

There is a dispute as to the correct versions of the different ages presented in our gemara. The Rosh (Rabbenu Asher, 14th cent. Germany and Spain) argues that the correct reading should have the ages of three (for girls) and nine (for boys) according to the gemara's first suggestion and eleven and twelve according to the second. The Shulchan Arukh (EH 21:7) avoids the issue and simply writes that when boys or girls reach physical maturity, the allowance no longer applies. Some commentators (e.g., Chelkat Mechokek, ibid.) explain that the specific ages mentioned are immaterial, because once the child begins to show signs of physical maturity, they will have already reached the point mentioned by Rav Chisda at the end of our selection of gemara, when the daughter (or mother) is embarrassed for her father (or son) to see her unclothed.

The Gemara continues

We are six lines from the bottom of 81b.

Rav Acha bar Abba

went to the house of Rav Chisda, his son-in-law.

He took his daughter's daughter and sat her on his lap (?)

He (Rav Chisda) said to him: "Does master not believe that she is betrothed?"

He (Rav Acha) said to him: "You have violated [the ruling of] Rav,

for Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav, and some say Rabbi Elazar:

'It is forbidden for a man to betroth his daughter when she is a minor,

until she grows up and says, "I want [to marry] so-and-so."'"

(Rav Chisda responds:) "Master has also violated [the ruling of] Shemuel,

for Shemuel said: 'One should not make use of women!'"

He (Rav Acha) said to him: "I hold like the other [ruling] of Shemuel,

for Shemuel said: 'Everything for the sake of heaven.'"

רב אחא בר אבא

איקלע לבי רב חסדא חתניה,

שקליה לבת ברתיה אותבוה בכנפיה.

אמר ליה: לא סבר לה מר דמקדשא?

אמר ליה: עברת לך אדרב,

דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב, ואיתימא רבי אלעזר:

אסור לאדם שיקדש את בתו כשהיא קטנה,

עד שתגדיל ותאמר בפלוני אני רוצה.

מר נמי עבר ליה אדשמואל,

דאמר שמואל: אין משתמשים באשה!

אמר ליה: אנא כאידך דשמואל סבירא לי,

דאמר שמואל: הכל לשם שמים.

As we have seen before, the Gemara often relates incidents that are relevant to the halakhic discussion at hand. This may be so that the protagonists themselves may present their halakhic positions as part of the story, or so that the Gemara can analyze the story afterward for its halakhic implications. Our case is one in which the story is mostly a dialogue in which the participants themselves express their halakhic opinions.

Rav Acha bar Abba visited the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Rav Chisda. Rav Acha took his granddaughter and put her on his lap; according to other interpretations of the phrase אותבוה בכנפיה, she slept in his bed with him, in which case the incident is a direct parallel to the Gemara's previous discussion. Rav Chisda, however, took exception to what he perceived as an exaggerated expression of familial closeness, and objected on the grounds that his daughter was already betrothed.

Let us mention a quick review of some of the details of betrothal. As we learned in the early part of our chapter, kiddushin, betrothal, is the first step of halakhic marriage; after kiddushin, the couple is legally classified as husband and wife, though they do not start living together until the completion of the second stage, nisu'in. Although the two components of marriage are done together nowadays, in earlier times it was common to perform kiddushin and at some later date to complete the nisu'in. A father has the legal right to accept kiddushin on behalf of his daughter when she is a minor. Apparently, Rav Chisda had accepted kiddushin on behalf of his young daughter, and he therefore objected to Rav Acha's behavior with the girl.

Rav Acha chastised Rav Chisda for having taken this step: Rav taught that although a father may have the legal right to accept kiddushin for his young daughter, he should not exercise this right. Instead, the girl should be allowed to mature and then to have a say in selecting her marriage partner.

Rav Chisda strikes back, accusing his father-in-law of violating Shemuel's directive that one not make use of women. This is a general instruction that a man not have a woman perform certain functions that may be considered slightly intimate and therefore could lead to inappropriate thoughts, such as washing his face, hands or feet for him or making his bed (see Shulchan Arukh and Rema, E.H., 21:5). These are actions that are not objectively forbidden by a specific prohibition, but that Shemuel advises that one stay away from and Rav Chisda argues that it should certainly extend to physical contact. Rav Acha responds that with regard to the extra-halakhic advice of Shemuel, there is great significance given to the intent of the person involved. In this case, Rav Acha had only positive intentions, namely to express his closeness to his granddaughter and to show his daughter how much he loved her daughter.

It is interesting that this incident is the last in a series of stories on 81b regarding the precautions that various sages took in the area of yichud. Whereas in previous incidents we learned about sages taking extreme precautions above and beyond the letter of the law, this story tempers that message, with Rav Acha heralding Shemuel's defense of actions taken "in the name of heaven," within the letter of the law rather than beyond it. 

The next mishna

We are up to the top of 82a.  

Mishna. A bachelor should not teach young students,

and a woman should not teach young students.

Rabbi Elazar says: "Even one who does not have a wife

should not teach students."

Rabbi Yehuda says: "A bachelor should not shepherd animals,

and two bachelors should not sleep under one garment."

And the Sages permit.

מתני' לא ילמד אדם רווק סופרים,

ולא תלמד אשה סופרים.

רבי אלעזר אומר: אף מי שאין לו אשה

לא ילמד סופרים.

ר' יהודה אומר: לא ירעה רווק בהמה,

ולא יישנו שני רווקין בטלית אחת.

וחכמים מתירים.

While the previous mishna introduced the prohibition of yichud and some of its details, this mishna expands upon that theme by making recommendations that go beyond the formal limits of yichud. The mishna advises that a bachelor should not teach young students; the gemara will explain that this is due to concern that regular contact with the mothers of his students might lead to inappropriate thoughts or activities. The word ravak, used in the opening phrase of the mishna, refers to a man who has never been married. Rabbi Elazar adds that even if he has been married in the past, a man should not teach young children if he is not currently married. One who is currently married is considered to be least at risk of violating the prohibitions we mentioned above. The tanna kamma (first tanna) apparently felt that one who has been married before is not as consumed by his desire, and is at a low enough level of risk that he should not be discouraged from the teaching profession. The gemara will provide more detail about Rabbi Elazar's opinions.

Rabbi Yehuda extends the advised precautions even further, warning that a man who has never been married should not shepherd animals, lest his extended contact with animals - with no other outlet for his natural sexual urges - lead him to desire animals. Furthermore, two unmarried men should not sleep under one garment, so as to avoid temptation for homosexual activity. The Sages dispute Rabbi Yehuda's extensions, arguing that we are not concerned about the possibility that the man will become tempted to engage in homosexuality or bestiality.

Let us see the gemara on this mishna.

Gemara. What is the reason?

If you say because of the children,

but we learned in a beraita: "They said to Rabbi Yehuda:

'Israel is not suspected of homosexuality or bestiality!'"

Rather, a single man - because of the children's mothers,

a woman - because of the children's fathers.

גמ' מאי טעמא?

אילימא משום ינוקי,

והתניא, אמרו לו לר' יהודה:

לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכור ולא על הבהמה!

אלא רווק - משום אמהתא דינוקי,

אשה - משום אבהתא דינוקי.

The gemara, as usual, questions the reason for the mishna's instruction that a bachelor should not teach young children. One possibility would be to suggest that we are concerned that the teacher might actually abuse his students, but the gemara rejects this based upon a beraita that adds to our mishna: the sages responded to Rabbi Yehuda's ruling (at the end of our mishna) by arguing that we are not concerned about homosexuality or bestiality. That being the case, it is impossible that the mishna's first statement, which is stated anonymously, should reflect the narrow opinion of Rabbi Yehuda alone. A different explanation is therefore required. The gemara explains that the concern is the consistent contact between the teacher and the students' parents.  

The gemara goes on to explain the opinions of Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Yehuda:

Rabbi Elazar says: "Even one who, etc."

It was asked of them: One who does not have a wife at all,

or perhaps if she is not living with him?

Come and listen: "Even one who has [a wife] and she is not living with him -

should not teach students."

Rabbi Yehuda says: "[A single man] should not shepherd, etc.":

It was taught in a beraita: "They said to Rabbi Yehuda:

'Israel is not suspected of homosexuality and bestiality.'"

ר' אלעזר אומר: אף מי שאין כו'.

איבעיא להו: מי שאין לו אשה כלל,

או דלמא בשאינה שרויה אצלו?

תא שמע: אף מי שיש לו ואינה שרויה אצלו -

לא ילמד סופרים.

ר' יהודה אומר: לא ירעה כו'.

תניא, אמרו לו לרבי יהודה:

לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכור ולא על הבהמה.

The first section here seeks to clarify Rabbi Elazar's statement in our mishna. Rabbi Elazar rules that if one is not currently married, he should not teach young children. The gemara wonders if Rabbi Elazar would clear anyone who is married to teach, or if he requires that the man actually be living with his wife. The gemara concludes that the man must be living with his wife in order to be permitted to teach. Since his marriage relationship is ongoing in an active sense, the contact with his students' mothers will not lead him astray. Finally, the gemara cites the sages' response to Rabbi Yehuda, as explained in a beraita and quoted earlier in our gemara.

This concludes our course for this year. For those who want to work on their ability to read and understand Gemara, or even to follow the flow of its discussions, it is highly advisable to review the material that we have covered during this course. It would be especially helpful to review the gemara with the help of our shiurim, and then to read and explain it again, by yourself, from a regular page of Talmud.

Best wishes for a wonderful summer,

Michael Siev