For the week ending 20 December 2014 / 28 Kislev 5775

Yevamot 79 - 85

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The disqualification of the merciless Givonites
  • Status of the sariss (eunuch) regarding yibum
  • Rabbi Akiva's position on who is considered a mamzer
  • The late maturing boy or girl and the physical signs of a sariss and ailonit (female eunuch)
  • The status of the wife of a kohen who is a sariss or whose gender is in doubt
  • Whether terumah today is required by Torah or rabbinical law
  • When something loses its halachic status because it is mixed with a large quantity of permissible matter
  • Status of the androgenes (hermaphrodite) and the tumtum (whose gender is undetermined)
  • Grafting of trees before the shemitah year
  • Women permitted to their husband but forbidden to the yavam and vice versa
  • Feminine "equality" in regard to forbidden marriages and the exception for daughter of a kohen
  • What rights has the woman who is a partner to a forbidden marriage
  • Who is considered the inciter of a forbidden marriage and why

Innate or Endowed?

  • Yevamot 79a

"There are three characteristics which distinguish the Jewish People — they are merciful, they are bashful and they are performers of acts of kindness."

This is how King David described his people to the Givonites who demanded the execution of seven sons of King Saul as revenge for their suffering at his hand.

"Only one who has these three characteristics," he concluded, "is fit to attach himself to our people."

Since the unreasonable demand of the Givonites demonstrated that they lacked these characteristics, David ruled that they would have the special status of netinim and would be limited in their marriage eligibility within the Jewish People.

Although the impression gained here is that all these characteristics are in the “genes” of the Jews, it is pointed out by Maharsha that this is not the case. It is true that G-d testified that the Patriarch Avraham would pass on to his posterity a legacy of lovingkindness (Bereishet 18:19) but the other attributes were unique gifts of G-d to His chosen people. "He will endow you with a capacity for being merciful" (Devarim 13.18) was a special gift from G-d, as was the bashfulness that came along with the gift of Torah (Shmot 20:17).

What the Sages Say

"When it was seen that was done to appease the Givonite converts for the harm done to them, 150,000 non-Jews decided upon conversion to Judaism."

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Yehatzodok -Yevamot 79a

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