Talmud Tips

For the week ending 28 February 2015 / 9 Adar I 5775

Ketuvot 30 - 36

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for cold and heat.”

We are taught this in a beraita on our daf and it is based on a verse in Proverbs (22:5), as explained in the beraita. “Is the discomfort of being too hot or cold the only matter in a person’s control?” asks Tosefot. Chazal indeed teach that we should make protective efforts to guard against dangers, such as not standing in a dangerous place or beneath a leaning wall. The difference, explains Tosefot, is that protection against heat and cold is always in the realm of human efforts. That is what is taught here. Other safeguards should be taken against possible dangers, but they will not necessarily prove successful in situations beyond a person’s control.

  • Ketuvot 30a

Rav Yosef said and likewise Rabbi Chiya taught: “Although the Sanhedrin ceased to exist, the four capital punishments did not cease.”

The death penalty was only a possible option to be imposed by the Sanhedrin as punishment and atonement for the deserving transgressor when the Sanhedrin existed and convened before the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (and convened in their appointed Lishkat Hagazit — “Hewn Chamber” — in the Beit Hamikdash). First the gemara “edits” this teaching to state that the death penalty judged by the courts did in fact cease. However, the appropriate, similar manner of capital punishment was Divinely carried out on the perpetrator. For example, a person who would have been sentenced by the Sanhedrin to receive the capital judgment of skila (stoning) would die by falling from a roof in the post-Sanhedrim era, receiving an equivalent capital punishment from Above.

Tosefot asks that we see that many transgressors who are deserving of the capital punishment nowadays do not receive the appropriate capital punishment from Above but rather die in their beds from “natural causes”. Tosefot answers that these people either did teshuva or have some special merit and therefore are spared a type of capital punishment in this world. The Maharsha adds that in a similar way it is possible to understand the seemingly unfair, tragic and cruel deaths of extremely righteous individuals such as Rabbi Akiva. They were subject to a decree of suffering in this world in order to be cleansed from the few demerits on their record in order that they would surely receive a loftier place in the World-to-Come.

  • Ketuvot 30a&b

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