Talmud Tips

For the week ending 19 December 2015 / 7 Tevet 5776

Gittin 9 - 15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“When the words (of Rabbi Shimon) were said in front of Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Yossi praised them with this verse: ‘Lips should kiss he who speaks wisely’.” (Mishlei 24:26)

This beraita on our daf refers to the praise and support that Rabbi Yossi showed to Rabbi Shimon’s opinion in a halachic dispute with Rabbi Meir. What is meant by the use of this specific expression of “lips should kiss” to extol Rabbi Shimon’s wisdom? And isn’t every kiss done with lips?

One explanation seems to be the “simple meaning” and means that one who speaks Torah wisdom is “suitable to be kissed”. (Rashi) However, this does not seem to explain why the verse says “lips should kiss” instead of simply saying “kiss”, which is understood to be done with lips. Tosefot offers a different interpretation of the verse, one which answers this question. According to Tosefot the verse is not speaking about “kissing”. Rather, Rabbi Yossi is citing this verse as praise for Rabbi Shimon’s words as follows: When a person speaks stunning words of Torah wisdom in front of others, the listeners surrounding the speaker should “press their lips together” and be silent with agreement. (The Hebrew word in the verse “yishak”, which is often translated as “kiss” — “nishika” — is in fact from the root of “things touching one another”, and here it refers to the top lip touching the bottom lip, and closing one’s mouth in silence and agreement with the speaker’s statement.)

  • Gittin 9a

Rabbi Yochanan says, “If a person (from the ‘market’, i.e., not appointed by the recipient to collect) confiscates money from a debtor to benefit a creditor at the expense of other creditors, his collection is not valid.”

There is a principle of “effecting ownership for a person without his knowledge” that is taught in a mishna on this daf.

In this mishna, the Rabbanan (the majority opinion) state that a master who gives a person a document of freedom for his slave may not retract the giving, since the person is acquiring the freedom document immediately for the benefit of the slave, despite this being to the detriment of the master. Therefore, one might think to apply this rule to a case of taking for the benefit of a specific creditor, and say that his taking is valid. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yochanan teaches that this principle of “acquiring for another’s benefit” does not apply in this case of collecting for a creditor, since others are negatively affected. The gemara explains the difference between the case in the mishna which “works” and the case Rabbi Yochanan says that this confiscation does not “work”, despite their apparent equality.

Tosefot says that Rabbi Yochanan’s teaching here seems to contradict what Rabbi Yochanan said in the first chapter of Bava Metzia. There he says, “one who picks up a lost object (one that is “finders keepers”) for his friend, it is immediately acquired by his friend”, despite this being to the detriment of other potential finders. Tosefot answers that by a lost object the acquisition “works” for his friend due to a logical reason: Since the person who picks it up could acquire it for himself, he also has the ability to acquire it for his friend.

Rabbi Yochanan’s teaching is codified in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 105:1.

  • Gittin 11b

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