Talmud Tips

For the week ending 30 September 2023 / 15 Tishrei 5784

Kiddushin 37-64

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Reward for a Mitzvah

Rabbi Yaakov said, “There is no reward in this world for fulfilling a mitzvah.”

The gemara explains that we see that Rabbi Yaakov holds this opinion from what he teaches in a beraita, that whenever the Torah stipulates the reward for fulfilling a particular mitzvah, it refers only to the reward for the mitzvah in the World-to-Come. Although this concept is a matter of dispute between Tana’im, the Rambam cites the view of Rabbi Yaakov as the halacha. (Laws of Teshuva 8:1)

The Rambam raises an apparent question on his ruling from the beginning of the next chapter, since we see, as we see in many verses in the Torah, that we are promised reward in this world for mitzvah fulfillment, such as peace and success (and punishment in this world for transgressions). We say twice daily, in the second paragraph of the Shema: “I (Hashem) will give the rain of your Land at its time, the early rain and the latter rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your field for your livestock, and you will eat and be satiated. (Deut. 11:14-15) This seems to indicate a reward in this world for mitzvah observance, contrary to the teaching of Rabbi Yaakov, and the ruling of the Rambam in the previous chapter.

The Rambam explains the matter in depth and with great clarity. He writes that “Hashem gave us this Torah, which is a tree of life. Whoever fulfills what is written within it and comprehends it with complete and proper knowledge will merit the life of the World-to-Come.” This is the ultimate reward for the fulfillment of the mitzvot. However, there are also “benefits” in this world that we are promised, not as an ultimate reward, but to help and enable our mitzvah observance, such as being bestowed with wealth and peace. This is not a “reward” inasmuch as it is an “opportunity”. As the Rambam states, “He will grant us all the good that will reinforce our performance of the Torah, such as plenty, peace, an abundance of silver and gold, in order that we not be involved throughout all our days in matters needed by the body; but, rather, we will be able to dwell unburdened and have the opportunity to study wisdom and perform mitzvot in order that we will merit the life of the World-to-Come.”

Kiddushin 39b

Knowing the Mind and Soul

“It is a mitzvah to listen to the words of the Sages.”

The question under discussion in the gemara is what is the source for the statement of Rava that “devarim sheblev einam devarim” — i.e., whatever is in one’s heart (i.e., not verbalized) doesn’t have the power to contradict that which he actually says.

The gemara attempts to provide a source for Rava from a Mishna that deals with a get for divorce. It states that if a man refuses to divorce his wife despite her being forbidden to him, the Jewish court forces him to agree to give the get and say “I want to give the get”. (This is necessary because a get must be given by the husband willingly.) The gemara suggests this a proof for Rava since we can assume that in his heart he does not want to give the get, despite the words that the court force him to say that proclaim that he wants to give it. This would prove that whatever is in one’s heart (i.e., not verbalized) does not have the power to contradict that which he actually says. However, the gemara rejects this from serving as a proof, since “It is a mitzvah to listen to the words of the Sages,” and perhaps that is why he is saying that he wants to give the get.

The Rambam (Laws of Divorce 2:20) elaborates as to what is actually taking place in the mind and soul of the man in this case, and he writes why this is different from someone pressured into doing something that the Torah does not require him to do, such as selling or giving away something that he owns.

He explains: “When someone’s evil inclination has taken a hold on him to avoid fulfilling a mitzvah, or to commit a sin, and he is beaten until he does what he is obligated to do or refrains from what he is forbidden to do, he is not considered as acting against his will. Rather, it is he who has coerced himself with an evil attitude to act against his true will. We therefore view the man who is forced to divorce his wife as one who truly wishes to be a part of the Jewish People, and truly desires to fulfill the mitzvot and to refrain from transgressions, but who is the helpless victim of his evil inclination. Once he has been pressured to the point where his evil inclination is subdued and he declares his consent, we consider it as his having divorced of his own free will.”

Kiddushin 50a

Honoring the Torah and Its Scholars

Shimon Ha’amsoni (others say it was Nechemia Ha’amsoni) was explaining the significance of each and every time the word “et” appears in the Torah. However, when he reached the verse “et Hashem Elokecha tira” (Deut. 6:13) — fear the L-rd your G-d — he stopped. His students said to him, “Our Rabbi, what will become of your explanations of the word “et” that you taught until now?” He replied, “Just as I received reward for explaining, so too I will receive reward for abstaining from explaining.” Then, Rabbi Akiva came and taught that the word “et” in the verse “et Hashem Elokecha tira” teaches to include Torah scholars (i.e., just as the verse teaches the mitzvah to fear G-d, likewise it teaches to fear Torah scholars).

This beraita on our daf is based on the idea that every word and letter in the Torah has meaning. Therefore, the word “et,” a grammatical word without apparent translation, must be there to include something else that is not mentioned explicitly in the verse. This is why these Sages sought to explain what each “et” in the Torah is meant to teach. Shimon Ha’amsoni, in a sense feared to equate the fear of anything else to the fear of Hashem, and therefore could not attribute any meaning to the word “et” in the verse that appears in the command to fear Hashem. (Rashi)

Since there is nothing superfluous in the Torah, including the word “et,” the Sage Shimon Ha’amsoni toiled to explain the meaning of each “et” in the Torah. Doing so was a show of the “honor of the Torah”. And likewise, when he abstained from attributing meaning to the word “et” in the verse commanding fear of Hashem, his abstention was also a show of “honor of Hashem and His Torah”. Rabbi Akiva, however, felt it correct to explain that the word “et” in this verse teaches to include fear of Torah scholars as well as fear of Hashem, since fearing Torah scholars is also showing honor to Hashem and His Torah, because Torah scholars dedicate their lives to the study of Hashem Torah. (Maharsha)

Kiddushin 57a

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