Talmud Tips

For the week ending 6 December 2014 / 14 Kislev 5775

Yevamot 65 - 71

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“The mitzvah ‘to be fruitful and multiply’ is a mitzvah for a man but not for a woman.”

This is the opinion of the Tana Kama in our mishna — and is the halacha — although a dissenting view is taught by Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka in our mishna, that also a woman has this mitzvah. Amaro’im in the sugya cite two sources for the source of the Tana Kama. One source is that this mitzvah that G-d tells Yaakov ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is in the singular form of “prei u’rvei” and not in the plural form of “pru u’rvu” (Ber. 35:11).

There appears to be a difficulty with this proof since G-d said to Adam “pru u’rvu” in the plural (Ber. 1:28). However, this earlier statement can be understood to be a blessing and not a mitzvah, as indicated by the words that begin this verse: “and G-d blessed them…” (Tosefot). And just as the earlier verse is a blessing but not a mitzvah according to the Tana Kama, the later verse is likewise understood by Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka to be a blessing and not a mitzvah (Maharsha).

Regarding this mitzvah as being only for a male, I once heard a great rabbi in Jerusalem offer the following reasoning: “Wouldn’t it be unpleasant to command a woman to have children since childbirth is generally uncomfortable to say the least? All of the ways of the Torah are pleasant. Therefore, a woman’s instinct is to want children and this is reflected in the blessing she recites daily, “that He made me like His will” — she is naturally attuned to do G-d’s will without being commanded.”

  • Yevamot 65b

“Just as it is a mitzvah to say something that will be heard (accepted), so too is it a mitzvah to not say something that will not.”

This statement is taught in our gemara by Rabbi Ila in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon and refers to the mitzvah of “tochacha” — “rebuking” a person who is transgressing the way of the Torah. The Maharsha understands from Rashi that the repeated verb “hochei’ach tochi’ach” — rebuke, you will rebuke — is the reason that our Sages learned that there is a “double-mitzvah” in this verse. To rebuke one who will accept, and not rebuke someone who will not. The Maharsha offers an additional explanation of his own, without basing it on the double verb since the gemara elsewhere learns a rule to rebuke a person “even a hundred times” (if needed) from the repeated verb. He explains that the verse specifies to rebuke “amitecha” — your friend who desires to keep the Torah and mitzvot, as our Sages explain this term. Therefore there is a mitzvah to rebuke someone who desires to not transgress — and for the “opposite” type of person the mitzvah is to do the “opposite” and refrain from rebuke. It will only lead to anger and danger. But lovingly rebuking “your friend in Torah and mitzvot” will engender his love for you.

  • Yevamot 65b

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