SHIUR BEKIYUT #6: 69b - 72b (Aggada)

  • Yeshiva Staff
     I would just like to make a few comments on some of the issues raised in the three pages of aggada here.
1.  The main issue is the importance of "yichus" - of a proper mate.  The gemara (70a) has a number of statements  which Rashi interprets as referring to one who marries "be-issur," i.e., he marries a woman who is prohibited.  The language of the gemara is, if Rashi is correct, deliberately general - "One who marries a woman who is not appropriate for him ("eina hogenet lo");" "One who marries for money (Rashi - a woman who was prohibited, and he did it for the sake of money)."  It is clear that the gemara is not discussing the seriousness of the transgression itself - the act of violating a particular sexual prohibition, but rather the aspect of the effect on Jewish family and society of these marriages.  "Woe to he who disqualifies his progeny and taints his family by marrying a woman who is inappropriate for him."  The ultimate statement in this context is found on 70b: "Rabbi Avin bar Rav Ada said in the name of Rav: He who marries a woman who is inappropriate for him, when God rests His Presence (shekhina) he will testify for all the tribes (Rashi - He testifies that they are His) but not testify for him.... R. Chama b. Rabbi Chanina said: When God rests His Presence, He rests it only on mishpachot meyuchasot be-Yisrael" - on families with proper yichus, i.e., those in which improper marriages have not taken place.
     It is not at all clear just what is meant by the "resting of God's Presence" here.  Rather than trying to explain these statements, I will restrict myself to trying to summarize what we can conclude based on them.
     It seems clear that the phenomenon being discussed and the importance of yichus relates to the communal-national aspect of Jewish existence.  The particular kedusha that is based on the organic unity of the Jewish people and its relationship with God depends on the purity of yuchsin.  This indicates, first and foremost, the importance of the family unit as the constitutive block in the formation of am yisrael.  Our tendency is to focus on the individual and his worth, and then to pass over to the klal, the national unit.  The union of man and woman, and the family, are seen as belonging to the province of the individual.  These gemarot indicate that it is the family which is the individual building block from which the organic unity of the nation emerges.  The verse cited for the statement of R. Chama b. Rabbi Chanina make this clear: "On that time, says the Lord, I shall be a God for all the families of Israel and THEY SHALL BE FOR ME A PEOPLE."  God's resting His name on the FAMILIES of Israel is what causes them to be His people.  Perhaps this should be understood in light of the well-known midrashic statements whereby an unmarried man is only half a person.  It follows that an improper alliance - technically one that is prohibited, but perhaps we should understand it in a wider sense - robs klal yisrael of one of its constitutive blocks.
     Tosafot, in the last of six explanations for the statement, 'Converts are as bad for yisrael as a lesion,' connects it to the statements concerning yichus.  The family of a ger is not a "mishpacha meyucheset" and hence is not included in the phenomenon of "the resting of the Shekhina."  There is, of course, no transgression here.  The righteous ger is held in high honor in Jewish society.  This particular aspect of kedushat yisrael, however, is based on the family integration of Jewish society.  A ger is an individual, but has no family.  The gemara states, "Raba b. Rav Huna said: This is the additional advantage of Jews over converts.  By the Jews it is written, 'I shall be to them a God and they shall be for me a people,' whereas by converts it is written, 'Who is he who has engaged his heart to approach Me, says the Lord; you shall be for Me a people and I shall be for you a God.'"  This is the one difference - the Presence of God upon the Jews makes them into a people; membership in God's people results in the ger entering into the Presence of God.
     To modern ears it is not easy to understand this aspect of blood relations.  The gemara here is advancing an organic basis for Jewish existence, on the national level.  The Jews were first of all a natural family, tribe, people, and only afterwards could individuals join that entity as converts.  How exactly the prohibitions of yichus impugn this family basis is not clear to us - but the conclusion is that in marrying, a Jew creates not only a social relationship with relevance to his personal life, but a metaphysical unit on which the supra-individual holiness of knesset yisrael rests.
     (The status of ger will be discussed in next week's shiur.)
2.  The future of mamzerim.  The gemara cites a principle (71a): "mishpacha she-nitme'a nitme'a."  Rashi interprets this in reference to the times of Mashiach.  If a family has unknown mamzerim in it (Rashi suggests that they got in because the psul was overlooked since they were rich), they will not be rejected by God (or Eliahu Ha-Navi) at that time even though He knows who is pasul and who is kasher.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Melakhim 12:3), however, interprets the principle as a legal one.  Eliahu will not reject these families, BECAUSE their status is legally kasher once the mamzerut has become undefined.  A doubtful mamzer, as we shall see next week, is permitted by biblical law, so no special dispensation is in effect here.   On 72b appears a stronger formulation: "Mamzerim and Netinim will be legitimized in the future times, this is the opinion of R. Yosi."  The Ramban points out that the laws of the Torah will not change in the future, so it cannot be that the prohibition on marrying a mamzer will be suspended.  Rather, in a miraculous fashion, the mamzerim will cease to be mamzerim.  I would suggest that this is the reverse of the point I explained above.  The purity of yuchsin is a precondition for the "resting of the Shekhina."  In the future time, God will rest the Shekhina on yisrael as part of the ge'ula, and this itself will wash away the state of mamzerut, which is nothing else other than the absence of the quality to be the resting place of the Shekhina.  Shekhina and psul yuchsin are antithetical, and one must give way before the other.  Normally, mundane facts condition the possibility of transcendental relations; at the end of time, God's transcendance will overwhelm the mundane deficiencies.
     At times it is important to not only understand the meaning of the words of a statement of Chazal, but also to be sensitive to why that word carries that meaning.  The gemara (70a) cites two possible reactions of God to promiscuity.  "ýR. Abahu said: The Master said, I wished that the Jews should be like a cherub before me, but they have made themselves like a leopard (Rashi - an animal who is indiscriminate in choosing a mate)."  Another version: "R. Abahu said: The Master said, even though they have made themselves like a leopard, they are considered before Me as a cherub."  Rashi explains that the cherub is a "holy animal."  The particular choice of this term of endearment is instructive.  The cherubs in the Temple were the seat of the Shekhina, their wings spread over the holy ark in the Holy of Holies.  R. Abahu clearly states that disregard of proper yuchsin is antithetical to the resting of the Shekhina - with two possibilities.  Either the leopard will overcome the cherub - or the cherub will overcome the leopard.  If God treats them as a cherub, the psul will be no more.
3.  Mussar.
a.  Kol ha-posel ... be-mumo posel (70a).  One who denigrates others is doing so with his own denigration.  This is clearly meant halakhically, at least as a reason to be cautious, as the stories in the gemara and the corresponding ruling of the Rambam indicate.  You should not marry a man who habitually calls others a mamzer, as it is likely that he is one himself.  Nevertheless, there is clearly a general mussar principle at work here.  A habit of denigrating others indicates the presence of that very deficiency in the denigrator.
b.  The story of Ulla and R. Yehuda (71b).  R. Yehuda cannot find a woman suitable for his son R. Yitzchak, as he fears that the local girls lack "good yichus."  Ulla says to him - how do you know that your yichus is any better?  Having explained the importance of yichus, the gemara acts to remove it as a practical consideration (outside of known psulim).  "What shall we do?" asks R. Yehuda.  Ulla says to him "Go after shtikuta (literally "silence" - Rashi explains that it is the opposite of quarrelsomeness).  An ethical principle replaces yichus.  Bad yichus is expressed in quarrel, good yichus in peace and quiet.
c.  The final ruling of the gemara follows the opinion of Chakhamim: "All countries have a chezkat kashrut;" i.e., we don't assume any psulim without reason, and there are no better or worse communities based on geography.
Next week:
     We return to the halakhic discussions of the gemara.  Again I repeat: If you haven't finished the aggada, please skip and join us on 72b.
1.  72b - Ger ("Ger nosei mamzeret") - 73a ("mutar be-mamzeret ke-Rabbi Yosi").
a. Rambam Hilkhot Issurei Bi'a 15:7-9; Maggid Mishna ad loc.
b. Ran (ad loc. - 30b) s.v. Ger.
c. Yevamot 57a "Ba'a nimei R. Yochanan mi-R. Oshaya..." until the end of the amud ("...shma mina") Rashi, especially s.v. O Dilma.
[R. Chaim, Issurei Bi'a 16:9]
2.  75a - Shtuki ("Eilu hen...") - end of the amud ("... ma'ala asu be-yuchsin").
a. Rashba s.v. Mamzer.