For the week ending 18 October 2014 / 24 Tishri 5775

Yevamot 16 - 22

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The confrontation between Rabbi Akiva and Yonatan ben Hirkanus
  • Three halachic rulings from the Prophet Chaggai
  • Which candidates are not accepted for conversion and why not
  • What preoccupied different heathens when they destroyed Beit Hamikdash
  • The issue of patrilineal descent in determining Jewishness
  • The brother born after death of the deceased as a candidate for yibum
  • Brother from one mother but not one father as candidate for yibum
  • Whether zikah – the relationship of the deceased's brothers to his widow before yibum – creates a virtual marital relationship with halachic implications
  • If ma'amar with a yevamah can be effective without her consent just as yibum can be
  • Which women are ineligible for yibum but must have chalitzah and which are exempt from even that
  • When the deceased's brother is a kohen gadol who is forbidden to marry a widow
  • When a positive command clashes with a prohibition
  • Sources for rabbinical restrictions on marriage partners
  • A listing of distant relatives one is forbidden to marry by rabbinic law
  • Who is considered a brother and who a son in regard to yibum and other matters
  • If one is guilty of two sins for relations with one sister

How to be Holy

  • Yevamot 20a

What makes a person holy?

Holiness is achieved, says the Sage Rava, by sanctifying yourself through abstaining even from what is permitted to you.

Rava offered this definition in regard to the term "kedusha prohibitions" used by some Sages to describe the distant relatives that are forbidden as marriage partners by rabbinic law. "Kedusha" means holiness and it is applied to the laws which the Sages instituted as a "fence around the Torah" to ensure that Jews would not marry relatives forbidden by Torah law.

The nazir who abstains from wine that is permitted for drinking is referred to in the Torah as a kadosh — a holy one. In similar fashion, points out Maharsha, the laws that compel Jews to refrain from marrying relatives permitted by the Torah are laws of holiness.

Although Rava specifically addressed the issue of forbidden marriages, his formula for holiness has been applied by the great ethicists to every area of life. Only when one is prepared to sacrifice even what is permitted to him in order to discipline and elevate himself can he be considered holy.

What the Sages Say

"The penalty for cheating the public by selling to them through crooked weights and measures is greater than that for illicit sexual relations because one can repent for the latter but not for the former. (Since he is not aware whom he cheated he finds it impossible to make amends. – Rashi)"

  • Rabbi Levi - Yevamot 21a

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