Thursday, October 6, 2016

Talmud Studies


(Work in Progress)

Gittin 2: The Yetzer Harah as the Ex-Master of the Household

A person bringing a Get [Document of severance] on someone else's behalf overseas (outside of Eretz Yisrael] has to bring it to the Beis Din. He has to say, "I was present by the writing and I was present by the signing."

Rabbah: we're worried that people are not familiar with [the Halacha of] "Lishmah." For the purpose of divorcing this specific woman.

Rava: we're worried about the problem of bringing back the original witnesses to fulfill it.

“Rabbi Yitzhak said: At first, the Yetzer Harah [the evil inclination] is a guest, and then it becomes the Baal HaBayit [the master of the house]." (Bereshit Rabbah 22:6; Sukkah 52b, in the name of Rava)

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, each person receives a Ktivah veChatimah Tovah, a "document of severance" from the Yetzer Harah, declaring that the person has a new, clean slate for the year. According to Rabbah, later the Yetzer Harah might come and say, "Wait, I never let him/her go. I'm still the Baal HaBayit! They sinned." We say, "No, the person is free from you. The fact that they sinned before is considered now to be "Lishmah," for the sake of Heaven.  According to Rava, later the Yetzer Harah might say, "Wait, I never let him/her go. I'm still the Baal HaBayit! They are sinning!" We say, "No, the person is still deemed free; the fact that they are not fulfilling the Torah properly now is because they are not in the state of witnessing the holiness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."

Gittin 3: What's More Essential, the Ktivah (Writing) or the Chatimah (Signing)?

When it comes to kiyum haget (establishing the validity of a divorce document) even a "Baal Davar," an interested party can testify. "Baal Davar," which literally means "Master of the word," is one of the names for the Yetzer HaRah.

What's the main service that requires "Lishma," the Ktivah (writing) or the Chatimah (signing)? According to Rabbi Meir it's the Chatimah, while according to Rabbi Elazar it's the Ketivah. Rabbi Yehudah requires both.

What's the service of the Yamim Nora'im (High Holy Days) that raises all our deeds to the level of "Lishma," Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur? Rabbi Meir, who was a descendant of converts from Edom (Rome), believes the main elevation is the Teshuvah (repentance) associated with Yom Kippur. Rabbi Elazar, who came from a prominent family and became the head of the Jewish people from a very young age, believes the main elevation is Rosh Hashanah, which the level of Tzadikim Gemurim (completely righteous). Rabbi Yehudah, who was not a descendant of converts yet nevertheless had a very good relationship with the Romans, thought that both services were important for attaining the level of "Lishma."

Gittin 4: Behaviors Outside of the Realm of Holiness

There's a debate regarding whether a Get written on the border of the Land of Israel requires the statement of the emissary regarding Ketivah and Chatimah. Rabban Gamliel says this includes the border towns of Rekem and Cheger. Rabbi Eliezer says even from Kfar Ludim to Lud, and Abayeh says even a town that's enveloped by Israel's borders.
The Land of Israel is the "Holy Land." When a person is trying to improve their behavior and rid itself of the "Baal Davar," the Yetzer Harah, to what extent is repentance needed for things that may be just slightly off the mark, really a gray area in terms of whether it's considered at all a sin?

Rabban Gamliel says it includes Rekem and Cheger. Rekem comes from the verb "Lirkom," to embroider. Cheger comes from "Lachgor," to gird. Whether a person is simply planning or preparing to take an improper action, even that action never came about, it still requires fixing.

Rabbi Eliezer says even from Kfar Ludim to Lud. Even if superficially, you can hardly tell the difference between the holy and unholy action, that still requires Teshuvah.
Abayeh says even if the unholy behavior is enveloped by holiness, still it requires repentance.

Gittin 5: The Emissary as a Witness and a Judge

The Talmud speaks of whether the Sheliach (emissary) needs to make the declaration of Ketivah veChatimah in front of two or three people. Rabbi Yochanan says one needs only two, while Rabbi Chaninah says you need three.

The Gemara explains that this discussion is based on a different question: whether the one who brings the Get can be considered a witness regarding the Get (that it was written in front of two people), and if then, as witness, whether he can be considered as one of the three judges necessary in order to uphold the Get in court.

The conclusion, surprisingly, is yes, following the opinion of Rabbi Yochanan. At least when it comes to Rabbinical issues, the agent himself can serve as a witness as well as a judge, so only two (additional) people are needed to uphold the Get in court.


In the service of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Sheliach Tzibur (lit. emissary of the congregation, ie. the prayer leader) plays a very important role. As he is praying on behalf of the congregation (and in reality everyone of us should think of him or herself as a mini-Sheliach Tzibur), he should think of himself not only as an emissary, but also a witness testifying in its favor. Not only that, the emissary should even see himself as one of the judges (!!!), judging every single person favorably.

Gittin 6: Making Diaspora into Eretz Yisrael

The Talmud discusses whether Babylonia, with its numerous houses of study, has the legal status of Israel when it comes to the laws of Gittin. Rav says yes and Shmuel says no, that it has the status of every other land outside of Israel.

Rav says that Yeshivot (houses of study) create a lot of movement, and therefore it'll be possible to find the necessary witnesses to uphold the Get. Shmuel says that because the people were involved mainly in study Torah, people won't be familiar with the signatures of others and won't be able to uphold the validity of the documents.

The final ruling is that, yes, Babylonia does have the same legal status of Israel when it comes to these laws.


We have obligation to make the Diaspora like the Land of Israel. How do we do this? Through Torah learning. The Yeshivot are the main thing. Shmuel raises an important point regarding the need to do business as well, but in the end of the day, the main thing is Torah learning.

(The Talmud will later discuss Surya, on the border of the Land of Israel, which King David managed to infuse with many aspects of the holiness of the Land of Israel)

Gittin 7: the "Adam Gadol" and the "Davar Gadol"

As an example about the importance of not creating too much fear in one's household, the Talmud discusses how once an "Adam Gadol," a great person, was (almost) fed a "Davar Gadol" (a big [non-kosher] thing) because the people in the house were too afraid to admit their mistake in the preparation of the food.

This also an example of the Divine characteristic of reward and punishment known as Middah K'neged Middah, where the retribution comes in the same form as the original behavior, to teach a lesson. Anger ultimately comes from a feeling of self-importance. It is utterly unkosher. Similarly, fearing anything other than G-d is also a form of impurity. By making oneself great, showing anger and instilling fear, the "Adam Gadol" was feeding unkosher energy to the world, so it was proper that he be punished with (almost) being fed unkosher food.

Gittin 8: Acquiring Yourself (Atzmech)  and the Possessions of the Evil Inclination

The Talmud has a discussion regarding a slave who brings a document of freedom and it says there, "Yourself (Atzmech) and my possessions are acquired by you." We believe him regarding himself but not his master's possessions.

There's significant debate regarding what happens if a single statement is made, where the owner says, "All my possessions are acquired by you." According to Abaye, we free him only if he can establish the validity of the entire document, while according to Rava we can split the words of the document and believe him regarding himself (freeing him immediately).

The Talmud further discusses whether or not we can split words of such a statement. An example is brought regarding a master's statement where he gives everything to a slave except for a small part. Rabbi Shimon says yes, unless the master's intentions of not freeing the slave were obvious (and it was just a trick), we split the statement (free the slave but not giving him the master's possession), while Rabbi Meir at first appears to says no, we cannot split the statement, neither the slave or the possessions are transferred. Rabbi Yossi says that "Rabbi Shimon's lips should be kissed" but that the Halacha is according to Rabbi Meir.

Another example is given regarding someone on his deathbed that gives everything to a slave. There, even Rabbi Meir says that if the master recovers, the slave is free (the statement cannot be retracted) while the possessions are returned. We conclude that Rabbi Meir always believed that one can split words, it's just that when it comes to a document of freedom, the separation must be total.

As discussed previously regarding a divorce document, a document of freedom also is connected to the idea of Teshuvah. There is a lower level of Teshuvah and a higher level. In a lower level, one frees oneself from bad behavior, but one's previous bad behavior is not acquired as a merit. In a higher level of Teshuvah, the sins themselves are transformed into merits, essentially transferring what was once the possession of his temporary master, the evil inclination.

Regarding lower level Teshuvah, there is less scrutiny. However, regarding higher level Teshuvah, we must ensure that he can establish (fulfill) the contract. If two separate steps were taken, the lower level Teshuvah is immediately accepted, and the higher one is investigated.

What happens when the Teshuvah is so dramatic and fast that he achieves lower and higher level Teshuvah in one fell swoop? Can we separate the person's freedom from bad behavior from the transformation of sins into mitzvot? Abaye says no while Rava says yes.

In the case where the transformation is not total (the yetzer harah holds on to aspects of the bad behavior), Rabbi Meir says not even the person is free. Rabbi Shimon says the person is free, unless the yetzer harah is basically tricking the person. Rabbi Yossi says that Rabbi Shimon's ability to free the person from judgement should be praised, but that the Halacha is like Rabbi Meir.

When it comes to the yetzer harah being about to be destroyed completely within a person, the lower level Teshuvah is immediately accepted, even if the yetzer harah is able to recover and the person is not yet on the level of a complete Tzadik.

Gittin 9: What Happens When the Sheliach Becomes a Deaf-Mute?

The Talmud discusses a case where a Sheliach cannot say the words, "it was written and signed before me." Then the signatures of the witnesses have to be investigated and proven to be accurate.

It explains that this is the case of a Sheliach who was healthy and became a deaf mute before he made the declaration. We know from a separate law that a Sheliach for a Get cannot be a deaf-mute, a crazy person, or a minor. (These are considered to be people without proper knowledge/common sense)


To be a proper Sheliach Tzibur (leader of the congregation), particularly on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the person cannot be deaf to the needs of each individual, and he also cannot fail to speak up on their behalf. He also cannot be crazy, in the sense that he must know the proper balance between reaching up to the Heavens in prayer, and remaining in this world in his thought, speech and deed. Furthermore, he cannot be a child, who in general tend to be self-centered and irresponsible.

What happens in the case where a Sheliach was healthy at the time of his appointment, but then at the time of judgement he somehow disqualifies himself? Then the "signature of the witnesses" must be investigated. Every deed in this world creates an imprint on the world, along with an angel testifying to that act, who could potentially serve to indict or defend a person at the time of judgement. A good Sheliach Tzibbur, like a good lawyer, can find ways of tempering the effect of the negative witnesses and emphasizing that of the positive ones. If a Sheliach is not around, then the deeds must speak for themselves.

Gittin 10: What if the Witnesses are Kutim?

The Talmud discusses a case where the the witnesses are Kusim (they had questionable conversions, out of fear of being eaten by lions, and generally only keep the Written Torah, not the Oral Torah). The Talmud states that if one witness is a Kusi, the get is still valid... The Gemara then tries to figure out who's opinion this is.

Really, it's Rabbi Elazar, who forbids it, it's just that in this case there was a kosher witness there that could vouch for the Kusi

The Rabbi enforced the principle of Kulchem. Everyone had to sign together at the same time.

Rabbi Gamliel even holds if both are Kusim (as a judge, he found a way to be lenient)

When it comes to our deeds, even if some are questionable, other ones can make up for it. Even the deeds of others can make up for it - That's the idea of Kulchem. We try to bind our actions to that of other Jews at the time of doing; we also bind to each other at the time of judgement.

Nitzavim is always on Rosh Hashanah, and it starts, "Ve'Atem Nitzavim... Chayim Kulchem Hayom."

Bava Metzia 113

"All of Israel are children of kings."

Can the agent of the court enter the home to pick up a security? Shmuel says no.

Bava Basra 2

Partners that wanted to build a "mechitza" (divider/wall), they build it in the middle and share the expenses.

If they are partners, isn't it strange that they want to be separate?

In marriage, in study, and in many other areas, partnerships still often need to have boundaries. If these barriers fall, HaMakom and HaAvanim (perhaps it can be read as Banim) belong to both of them.

Ideally, they will come to the realization that when boundaries fall, more room is created for Hashem, and the the "bricks" (mitzvot), or the "children," ie. the positive results of tearing down this barrier belongs to both of them.

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