Talmud Tips

For the week ending 22 November 2014 / 29 Heshvan 5775

Yevamot 51 - 57

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rav would order to give a punishment of lashes to one who nullified a ‘get’.

This is one of a list of cases taught in our sugya when Rav would punish the offender with lashes since the action was extremely detrimental, even though it was not specifically banned by Torah law. This type of lashes is called “maccot mardut” — lashes for rebelling against rabbinical law (and presumably hurt just as much as Torah-mandated lashes!). The case Rav would punish was when a husband nullified a ‘get’ that he sent with a shaliach agent to give to his wife for divorce, but said that it was null and void while the shaliach was on his way to give it to his wife. This law is cited in Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’Ezer 141:67) as being so in the case where the husband nullified it in front of two witnesses. The Shulchan Aruch spells out the problem as that it may cause “mamzerim” — since the husband succeeded in his nullification of the ‘get’ although the wife was unaware of this and thought she was no longer married when in fact she was still married to her husband. And even if the husband nullified it in a way that was not effective, it is possible that the husband still would deserve lashes since he casted aspersions on the ‘get’ and also on his wife who is in this case free to remarry once she receives it, although people might think she is acting immorally (see Tosefot, Pitchei Teshuva).

  • Yevamot 52a

Rav Ashi said, “It is when one is neither fully asleep nor fully awake and responds to being called. When asked where he placed something he is unable to recall, but if asked whether he placed it in a particular place he is capable of answering yes or no.”

This definition is offered on our daf for the term “mitnamnem” — today a word that we usually use to refer to someone who is very drowsy and dozing-off to some degree. Our gemara teaches that this term can also be a correct meaning for the word in a beraita on our daf – “yashen” – which generally is translated as full-blown sleep. Although one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of yibum while fully asleep, the yavam nevertheless fulfills the mitzvah if he is in a state not completely asleep, but rather only drowsy in the manner described by Rav Ashi. We find in other places in the Talmud that this state of drowsiness is considered to be sufficiently awake to fulfill other mitzvot as well, although this is certainly not the ideal way to fulfill them.

  • Yevamot 54a

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