Mezuzah Maven

For the week ending 9 April 2022 / 8 Nissan 5782

Yevamot 16 - 50

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Library Library Library

How To Be Holy

Rava says that holiness is achieved by sanctifying oneself by abstaining, at times, from what is actually permitted to do, eat or say.

Rava gave this definition in regard to the term “kedusha prohibitions,” which was coined by some Sages to describe distant relatives forbidden to marry per Rabbinic law. “Kedusha” means holiness, and perhaps is netter translated as “maintaining separation.” It is applied to the laws our Sages instituted to be a “fence around the Torah” to ensure that the Jewish People would not marry relatives that are forbidden by Torah law.

The nazir, who abstains from drinking kosher wine, is referred to in the Torah as kadosh — a holy one. Yje Maharsha notes that similarly, the Rabbinic laws banning certain marriages permitted by the Torah are laws of holiness.

Rava’s basic definition of holiness has been applied by the great Torah ethicists to virtually every aspect 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 as truly holy.

  • Yevamot 20a

Righteous Converts

Rabbi Elazar said, “Why did our Sages say that converts to Judaism were not accepted in the glorious days of King David and King Shlomo, and that they also will not they accepted in the days of the Mashiach? The Prophet Yeshayahu (54:15) declared in the Name of Hashem, ‘Those who become converts when I appear to not be with you (i.e. in these days of trouble - Rashi) will merit to be with you in the World to Come.’”

During the days of David Hamelech and Shlomo Hamelech, the Jewish People were the envy of al nations, with their unprecedented spiritual and earthly wealth and success. It was only natural for people of other nations to want to convert to share in this glory. However, conversion requires a sincere desire to take shelter under the wings of the Divine Presence, as it were, something virtually impossible to discern during that era.

  • Yevamot 24b

A Fence That Will Guard

Abayei said, “Our Sages sometimes were stricter in enforcing the laws they made than they were with regard to Torah laws.”

The commentaries explain this phenomenon in the following manner. With the passage of time, the experience of our standing together as nation when Hashem gave the Torah on Mount Sinai unfortunately became a less intense memory to some. As a result, our Sages enacted certain rules to help ensure optimal Torah observance and closeness to Hashem. However, human nature being as it is, some may views these enactments as less binding than Torah laws and not treat them with the necessary seriousness. Therefore, our Sages needed to be stricter and more vigilant regarding laws of Rabbinc origin than the Torah laws. If they would not do this, their efforts to have continuity of Torah observance throughout the ages would be in jeopardy.

  • Yevamot 36b

Marital Treachery

We have learned in a beraita: Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “One should not marry a woman whom he intends to divorce.”

In the same beraita, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov explains that he bases this teaching on a verse in Mishlei (3:29), “One should not secretly plot evil against another who trusts him enough to live with him.”

However, the commentaries refer us to another gemara (Gittin 90a), where this same verse is applied by Rava to forbid a man to live with his wife if he is secretly planning to divorce her. The children from a marriage with this despicable thought in mind will be negatively affected in character (although possible for them to remedy), and are referred to elsewhere in Shas as “the offspring of one with divorce in his heart.” (Nedarim 20b)

  • Yevamot 37b

Good Days and Better Days for Teshuva

Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha, “When the Torah rhetorically asks, 'Who is like Hashem, our G-d, whenever we call to Him' (Devarim 4:7), it refers to the repentance and prayer of the many, while the limiting time-frame of the Prophet Yeshayahu (54:6) 'to seek Hashem when He makes Himself available to you' refers to the individual, who has a special opportunity to repent during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

  • Yevamot 49b

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