Talmud Tips

For the week ending 4 April 2015 / 15 Nisan 5775

Ketuvot 65 - 71

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

"Fortunate is the Jewish People! When they do the will of G-d, no foreign nation can rule over them, and when they are not doing the will of G-d, they are ruled over by the lowliest of nations…"

This exclamation of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai expresses the fortune of the Jewish People whether or not they are ruled over. The Maharsha explains that this special treatment of the Jewish People is a sign of their loftiness as the nation of G-d. As such, we are under the direct providence and protection of G-d, unlike all other nations who are ruled from Above by a Divinely appointed intermediary for each nation. Therefore, when the Jewish People do the will of G-d, they are about the nature of all other nations. But when they fail to obey G-d, His Divine Presence is removed from them and they are even “lower” in a sense, than other nations which always have their intermediary guardians from G-d. However, even this points to the loftiness of the Jewish People, that they are “G-d’s portion”, and not under the influence of any other go-between from Above.

  • Ketuvot 66b

“Do you think I’m taking their food? I eat from what G-d provides.”

This rhetorical question was the response of a needy person who approached the Sage Rava for charity in order to buy food. When Rava learned that the beggar had expensive “tastes”, Rava expressed concern that granting funds for the man’s exorbitant culinary practice would strain the public charity resources. The beggar argued that G-d is the true source of his nourishment and would not drain the public resources, based on the Psalm 145:15: “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food at his time.” The beggar explained that this teaches that G-d provides each individual with his needs.

Just then, Rava’s sister whom he hadn’t seen in 13 years came to visit him with the exact “first-class” meal that the beggar requested. Rava saw this as a sign from above that the beggar was correct, and instructed that the meal his sister brought for him be given to the beggar instead.

  • Ketuvot 67b

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