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69a: Different Types of Lineage

Rav Michael Siev

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Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them. 

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As we mentioned last week, the fourth chapter (perek) of Massekhet Kiddushin deals primarily with issues related to lineage (yuchesin) and the ramifications of lineage upon the laws of marriage, which is the primary concern of the massekhet (tractate) as a whole. The opening mishna introduces the different possible types of lineage, and then explains the laws pertaining to each.

Let us begin with the first half of the mishna.


Ten types of lineage ascended from Babylonia:

Kohanim, Levi'im, Israelites,


chalalei, converts, freed slaves,

mamzeirei, netinei, shetukei and asufei.  

עשרה יוחסים עלו מבבל:

כהני, לויי, ישראלי,

חללי, גירי, וחרורי,

ממזירי, נתיני, שתוקי, ואסופי.

The mishna has introduced numerous technical terms, and before we go further we must make sure that we understand what these terms mean. Firstly, the mishna frames its listing of the types of lineage in historical terms; "Ten types of lineage ascended from Babylonia." The reference here, as Rashi (s.v. Asara) points out, is to those who returned to the Land of Israel following the Babylonian exile. The first beit ha-mikdash (Temple) was destroyed by the Babylonians, and most Jews were forced into exile. Seventy years later, when the Persian king Koresh (the Persians had defeated the Babylonians and taken over their empire) gave permission for the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the beit ha-mikdash, most Jews decided to remain in Babylonia; some took advantage of the opportunity, and, led by Ezra, returned to the Land of Israel (as described in the Book of Ezra). The Gemara will explain why the mishna chose to express these halakhic categories in a historical framework.

The first three of the mishna's terms are most likely familiar to us: Kohanim (plural of kohen) are priests, descendants of Aharon; Levi'im are all of the other members of the tribe of Levi; and Israelites basically includes everybody else. Nonetheless, there are sub-categories within these major groupings, as the mishna enumerates:

Chalalei (Aramaic form of the plural of the word chalal) literally means 'profaned ones,' and refers to the children that a kohen has with a woman he is not permitted to marry. The Torah (Vayikra 21:7) prohibits a kohen from marrying a divorced woman or a zona, which is a woman who has had sexual relations with someone whom she cannot marry according to Jewish law. If a kohen does marry such a woman, he violates a biblical command and the children of this marriage have the status of chalalim. His sons may not perform the service in the Temple and do not have other benefits of the priesthood, and his daughters are unable to marry kohanim. The offspring of a chalal, or of a regular kohen who marries a chalala, also have the chalal status.

The next category mentioned in the mishna is that of converts, which clearly refers to non-Jews who have converted to Judaism. The next category, freed slaves, also have the status of converts. When a non-Jewish slave (an eved kena'ani) is acquired by a Jew, he undergoes a partial conversion and must keep most of the mitzvot. If he is freed by his master, his conversion becomes complete and he fully attains the status of a convert.

Mamzerei (Aramaic form of the plural of the word mamzer) refers to the products of an adulterous (i.e., the woman is married) or incestual relationship.

Netinei refers to the Gibeonites. The Book of Yehoshua (Joshua), ch. 9, tells how the inhabitants of Gibeon, in the Land of Israel, tricked Yehoshua and the Elders to agree to a covenant with them. They dressed up and presented themselves as thought they had just completed a long journey, undertaken from a foreign land, in order to establish a peace agreement with the Jews. Yehoshua and the Elders agreed, realizing only later that the Gibeonites actually hailed from the Land of Israel and should have been included in the divine command (Devarim 7:2) to avoid such treaties in pursuit of a total conquest of the land. Nevertheless, due to the fact that they had agreed to the treaty, the Jews did not destroy the Gibeonites. Rather, Yehoshua designated them as manual laborers (water carriers and wood cutters); it is from here that the name Netinim, literally "designated ones," derives. The Netinim underwent a conversion, but Yehoshua decreed that they may not marry into the Jewish community. Later, King David extended this decree (Yevamot 78b) in light of an incident which displayed the Gibeonites' vindictive nature (as told in II Shemuel, ch. 21).

The mishna itself will define the terms shetukei and asufei. Without further ado, let us continue on in the mishna:


Kohanim, Levi'im and Israelites are permitted to each other.

Levi'im, Israelites, chalalei, converts and freed slaves are permitted to each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzeirei, netinei, shetukei and asufei are all permitted to each other.

And these are "shetukei" - anyone who knows his mother but does not know his father.

An asufi [is] anyone who was gathered from the market and does not know his father or his mother.

Abba Shaul would call shetuki, "beduki."

כהני, לויי וישראלי - מותרין לבא זה בזה;

לויי, ישראלי, חללי, גירי וחרורי - מותרין לבא זה בזה;

גירי וחרורי, ממזירי ונתיני, שתוקי ואסופי - כולם מותרין לבא זה בזה.

ואלו הם שתוקי - כל שהוא מכיר את אמו ואינו מכיר את אביו.

אסופי - כל שנאסף מן השוק ואינו מכיר לא את אביו ולא אמו.

אבא שאול היה קורא לשתוקי בדוקי. 

The first three categories, Kohanim, Levi'im and regular Isaelites, are all permitted to marry each other. Levi'im and Israelites may marry chalalim, converts and freed slaves, though a kohen may not. Converts may marry mamzeirei, netinei, shetukei and asufei. An Israelite is forbidden from marrying someone from one of these other categories: netinei as explained above and mamzeirim because the Torah (Devarim 23:3) explicitly prohibits a mamzer from marrying into the regular Jewish community.

The mishna concludes by defining the final two types of lineage mentioned above. Shetukei refers to one who knows his mother but not his father. Rashi (s.v. ve-eino) explains the term comes from the word shetika, which means silence; when the child refers to someone as his father, his mother hushes him. An asufi is one who has been gathered in (ne'esaf) from the market, and does not know either of his parents. Abba Shaul would refer to a shetuki as a "beduki," indicating the necessity of an investigation (bedika)  to ascertain his lineage; the Gemara will discuss the significance of Abba Shaul's alternate name.

Due to the fact that their lineage is in doubt, the shetuki and asufi both have the status of potential mamzeirim, as the possibility exists that they are the children of an illegitimate union. Thus, they can marry only those whom a mamzer can marry.

To recap, the mishna introduces the different types of lineage, explains how lineage impacts upon the permissibility of marriage and concludes by defining the terms shetukei and bedukei.

Let us now proceed to the gemara.


Gemara. Ten types of lineage ascended from Babylonia:

Why does [the mishna] state "ascended from Babylonia?"

It should state, "went to the Land of Israel!"


It teaches us something in passing,

as is taught in a beraita: "'And you shall get up and ascend to the place which the Lord your God shall choose;'

this teaches that the Temple is higher than all of the Land of Israel,

and the Land of Israel is higher than all [other] lands."

גמ' עשרה יוחסים עלו מבבל:

מאי איריא דתני עלו מבבל?

ניתני הלכו לארץ ישראל!

מילתא אגב אורחיה קמ"ל (קא משמע לן);

כדתניא: וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלהיך -

מלמד שבית המקדש גבוה מכל ארץ ישראל,

וארץ ישראל גבוה מכל הארצות.  

The Gemara's analysis of a mishna generally takes one of a number of tracks: the Gemara may present the sources for the mishna's statements, question its rulings based on other Tanna'itic material, or even quote a discussion about a different topic that martials support for some position or other by quoting the mishna at hand. Another course sometimes taken by the Gemara, which is the case here in our sugya (topic or lesson), is to question the wording of the mishna, with the claim that another phraseology would have been more direct, precise, or otherwise preferable. This approach is based on an assumption that is of critical importance for studying Talmud: the Mishna was composed with the utmost attention to detail. Every word is measured, and there is something we can learn from every mishnaic nuance. Thus, if our mishna could seemingly have been composed in a more appropriate manner, there must be a reason that it was formulated the way we have it.

The specific line that our gemara questions is the mishna's statement that ten types of lineage "ascended from Babylonia." Why does the mishna say "ascended from Babylonia," instead of "went to the Land of Israel?" The normal way to mention a journey is to say that somone "went," "traveled," or the like; why "ascended?"

The gemara answers that the author of the mishna intended to teach an additional lesson alongside his main point of enumerating the different types of lineage: that Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) is higher than Babylonia, and the trek therefore involves an ascent. As support for this answer, the gemara references a beraita which expresses this point.

Let us take a moment to define the term "beraita." The word beraita literally means "outside," and it refers to teachings from the sages of the Mishna (the "Tanna'im") that were not incorporated into the Mishna itself. Despite not being included in the Mishna, many such teachings were preserved. Beraita'ot are commonly quoted in the Gemara as authoritative sources of halakhic practice. Standard volumes of the Talmud (not the Schottenstein edition) include one collection of beraita, known as the Tosefta (literally, "addition," as it is additional Tannaitic material to the Mishna), at the very end of the volume.

The beraita quoted here expounds upon the verse in Devarim (17:8) which urges disputants who cannot resolve their dispute in local courts to seek the counsel of the Sanhedrin, the supreme rabbinical court, which sat on the Temple Mount. The pasuk (verse) expresses the command with verb to "ascend." The beraita concludes on the basis of this wording that the Temple was higher than the rest of Eretz Yisrael, while Eretz Yisrael is higher than all other lands.

The gemara continues:


It is well [to state that the] Temple is higher than all of the Land of Israel;

that is what is stated, "arguments in your gates, and you shall get up and ascend."

But from where do we know that the Land of Israel is higher than all the [other] lands?

As it states, "Therefore, days are coming, says God, and you will no longer say, 'As God lives, who has taken the Children of Israel up from the Land of Egypt,'

but rather 'As God lives, who has brought up the Children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands to which I have pushed them.'"  

בשלמא בית המקדש גבוה מכל ארץ ישראל,

היינו דכתיב: דברי ריבות בשעריך וקמת ועלית;

אלא ארץ ישראל גבוה מכל ארצות מנלן?

דכתיב: לכן הנה ימים באים נאם ה' לא יאמר עוד חי ה' אשר העלה את בני ישראל מארץ מצרים,

כי אם חי ה' אשר העלה ואשר הביא את בני ישראל מארץ צפון ומכל הארצות אשר הדחתים שם.  

The gemara now turns its attention to the beraita we quoted above: it is reasonable to infer from the pasuk in Devarim that the Temple is higher than the rest of Eretz Yisrael; this is due to the phrase preceding the one quoted in the beraita, which discusses how to resolve an argument that takes place "in your gates." This description clearly refers to Eretz Yisrael, our homeland. Thus, the verse describes a person traveling from other locations in Israel to the Temple as ascending, and we can infer that the Temple is indeed higher than the rest of Eretz Yisrael. However, how can we infer from here that the Land of Israel is higher than all other lands?

The gemara explains that, indeed, another source is necessary to prove this point, and it quotes a verse from Yirmiyahu (23:7). This verse refers to God's redeeming the Jews and bringing them from other lands to Eretz Yisrael as bringing them "up." Thus, Israel is understood to be higher than all other lands.

It is interesting to note that our gemara's claim that one ascends from other lands to Eretz Yisrael is reflected in the modern term for emigration to Israel, aliya, which literally means "ascension." But what does it mean the Land of Israel is "higher" than other lands? To assert that it lies at a higher altitude than all other lands is simply not factually correct. The statement in our gemara must be interpreted in a spiritual sense. The Torah describes Eretz Yisrael as "the land which the Lord your God seeks out; the eyes of the Lord, your God, are always on it, from the beginning of the year until year's end" (Devarim 11:12). It is axiomatic in halakha that Eretz Yisrael has a unique level of kedusha (holiness). From the spiritual perspective, one ascends when one travels to Israel, or within Israel, to the Temple. [Interestingly, the Maharsha, Rav Shemuel Eliezer Idlish, the 16th-17th century commentator whose work is included in the back of standard volumes of the Talmud, attempts to understand the term in its literal geographic connotation: this is possible, he writes, because Eretz Yisrael is the center of the world and the Temple is the center of the Land of Israel (perhaps this is a reference to midrashim that assert that the world was created from the Temple Mount, and expanded outward). That being the case, since the world is round, Israel can be viewed as sitting atop the globe, which expands outward in a spherical formation.]  

I would like to mention two methodological points regarding Talmud study that we have come across in the selection we studied today. Firstly, it is quite important to look up the pesukim (verses) that the Gemara quotes during its discussion. Understanding the meaning as well as the context of a particular verse are important preconditions for understanding what the Gemara is trying to accomplish by quoting it. Secondly, it is critical that one keep close track of the Talmudic discussion. Our gemara, for instance, began with a question regarding the mishna, which it answered. It then digressed to question the beraita that was quoted in support of the answer, and responded to that question. Only now will the gemara return to its original issue and assert that the answer we gave to the original question is not fully sufficient - but for that, we will have to wait until next week!

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