Talmud Tips

For the week ending 18 October 2014 / 24 Tishri 5775

Yevamot 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Rabbi Levi said, "The penalty for cheating the public by using incorrect weights and measures when selling to them is greater than that for forbidden intimate relations, because one can repent for the latter transgression but one cannot repent for the former transgression.

One who cheats in sales cannot fully repent since he is not always aware of identity of the victims and does not always remember whom he cheated. Therefore he cannot return to all the people he cheated the amount he cheated them out of, and also seek their appeasement, in order to do complete teshuva (Rashi).

  • Yevamot 21a

The Sage Ulah said in the name of Rabbi Elazar, “Before Shlomo came, the Torah was like a vessel without a handle — until Shlomo came and made a handle for it.”

The gemara on our daf is searching for a written source to prohibit marrying “shniyot”. These are certain relatives that are not forbidden by the Torah, but are nevertheless close enough relatives to warrant forbidding their marriage according to Rabbinical decree. An example is not to marry one’s mother’s mother. The reference to “Shlomo” in the gemara is to King Shlomo, the author of Sefer Kohelet. A verse there states, “And more than this, Kohelet was wise, he also taught knowledge to the people; he listened and sought out, he established many proverbs (12:9).”

The word in the verse for “listen” — “izein” — can also mean “a handle”. King Shlomo “made a handle” which the people could hold and help them keep the mitzvot of the Torah and not transgress them. A vessel without a handle is more likely to be “broken” than one with a handle. King Shlomo’s “handle” was that he taught the Torah with much insight and examples. He enacted Rabbinical decrees and greatly emphasized the importance of listening to the teachings of the Rabbis who made such decrees to protect the Torah from being transgressed. Rav Yehuda states in our gemara that one of these decrees King Shlomo made was to ban “shniyot” — “secondary relatives” — in order that Torah law should not come to be “broken” (Rashi).

  • Yevamot 21a

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