Talmud Tips

For the week ending 9 May 2015 / 20 Iyyar 5775

Ketuvot 100 - 106

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Don’t eulogize me in the small cities.”

Rebbi (Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi) told this to the great Sages of his generation before his passing. However, his reasoning for this request was not initially clear. The Sages first thought that Rebbi, being humble, did not want to burden the people, since if there were eulogies in the towns, the people living in the nearby villages would travel to the small cities. However, when the Sages saw that there were eulogies in the large cities and everyone came there, even from the smaller cities and villages, the Sages understood that Rebbi’s intent was “for honor”.

The Maharsha explains that Rebbi requested this “honor” despite his being the most humble person of his generation. “After Rebbi passed, humility ceased” states the gemara in Sota (49a). But he didn’t want people to honor him; rather he wanted that they show honor to the Torah. Requesting no eulogies in the smaller cities meant that everyone would come together to honor the Torah in a great manner. He could forgo his own honor but could not forgo the honor of the Torah. In fact, this request shows another interpretation of the gemara that “after Rebbi passed, humility ceased” — i.e. he nullified his own personal, humble desire to not bother others in order that the Torah be honored properly by everyone gathering together to hear the Torah-filled eulogies from the greatest Torah scholars.

  • Ketuvot 103b

“A judge who accepts a bribe feels so ‘close’ to the giver that he sees himself as the giver, and a person cannot see anything wrong with himself.”

This is the explanation that Rava gives on our daf as the reason why a judge may not take a payment in any manner from a litigant, even to rule that the guilty party is guilty and the innocent is innocent.

He adds that the word in the Torah indicates this reason for his identifying with the giver. The Hebrew word “shochad” — bribe — can be understood as “shehu chad”, “that he is one” with the bribe-giver. The giver and the receiver are now as if they share one heart. Once he accepts a payment he can no longer think objectively in judgment, just as he cannot be objective about himself. This is so even if his intent is to judge according to the truth (Rashi).

The gemara on amud aleph teaches that a judge named Karna would take payment from both parties in advance to compensate him for the clear loss of income he incurred from lack of involvement in his wine “quality control” occupation in order to judge a case. (See Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 9:4 for more details regarding a judge's receiving payment.)

  • Ketuvot 105b

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