Talmud Tips

For the week ending 20 December 2014 / 28 Kislev 5775

Yevamot 79 - 85

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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"This nation (the Jewish People) has three signs: they are merciful, humble and love to do kindness.”

King David listed these three specific character traits which are recognizable in the Jewish People, as opposed to the other nations of the world. He learns these traits from three different verses in our sugya. Based on this reasoning he concluded that since the Givonites made a cruel and revengeful request it would be wrong to let them be attached to the Jewish People.

The second trait is called “busha” (lit. embarrassment) in the gemara, which is a recognizable trait that can be seen on a person’s face if he is embarrassed when transgressing. But don’t think that the Jewish People are born with this trait of humility. In fact, the opposite is true; a Jew is born with the greatest brazenness of any nation. However, the Torah that G-d gave the Jewish People humbles the hearts of the Jewish People and changes their nature for the better. (Maharsha)

  • Yevamot 79a

“A person does not have the ability to make forbidden something that is not his.”

This is the ruling of Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Shimon on our daf, regarding a person who grows his grape vine onto his neighbor’s field of grain. Rabbi Meir rules that the mixture becomes a forbidden mixture of grape and grain (“k’lei hakerem”) and the responsible party must pay for the resulting damages. Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Shimon disagree and state the above principle that a person cannot forbid something that is not his.

Tosefot asks, “Why not? If a person puts non-kosher food into the pot of kosher food another person is preparing, certainly the other person’s food becomes forbidden!” Tosefot clarifies that this principle of Rabbis Yossi and Shimon was said only when a “thought” is essential in causing the prohibition. For example, worshipping another’s animal, and likewise in the case of forbidden mixture of grains, which is also thought-dependent as Tosefot elucidates. However, when “thought” is not a factor in the prohibition — such as adding non-kosher food to another’s kosher food — then a person indeed has the ability to make the other person’s item forbidden and would be responsible for the consequences.

  • Yevamot 83 a-b

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