Talmud Tips

For the week ending 14 February 2015 / 25 Shevat 5775

Ketuvot 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“They said about Rabbi Yeyuda ben Ila’i that he danced (at a wedding) while holding a myrtle branch… Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak danced with three.”

These great Torah Sages took precious time from Torah study in order to fulfill the mitzvah of helping newlyweds rejoice at the wedding ceremony.

Rashi explains that Rav Shmuel bar Yitzchak was juggling three myrtle branches to enhance the happiness at the wedding celebration. The Maharsha finds difficulty with this explanation and posits that the “three” does not refer to three myrtle branches that were juggled. Rather, it is a praise of the elderly Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak who danced with the liveliness and exuberance equivalent to three young men.

This great rejoicing is still prevalent at Jewish weddings today. This reminds me of a story told by a Rosh Yeshiva from Israel. A non-Jew was once invited to a wedding of a yeshiva student in Israel. As he stood and watched the young men dance and entertain the newlyweds with extraordinary verve and vitality, he turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked, “Rabbi, are these boys high on something?”

  • Ketuvot 17a

“A person will not brazenly deny the claim of his creditor.”

This aspect of human behavior plays a key role in understanding why the Torah imposes an oath on a person who admits to part of the claim of a creditor. He must subsequently swear that he does not owe the remainder of the claim or he must pay the full amount of the claim.

Why won’t he brazenly deny the entire claim? According to Rashi (Bava Kama 107a) it is because a borrower is grateful to the lender for lending him money. Tosefot on our daf, however, disagrees and offers two other reasons. One reason is from Rabbeinu Tam: the nature of person is not to brazenly lie to completely deny the claim of the other person. A second reason in Tosefot is the Riva’s: a person will not have the chutzpah to deny a claim when the claimant knows that the denier is lying.

A major practical difference between Rashi’s reason and the two reasons given by Tosefot is when the claim is not for repayment of a loan, but rather for the return of something deposited for safekeeping. According to Rashi, there is no element of gratefulness on the part of a “partial admitter” and he would be suspect of brazenness to deny everything. According to both opinions in Tosefot, however, a person will not be so brazen as to deny everything whether it is a loan or a deposit.

  • Ketuvot 18a

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