Talmud Tips

For the week ending 5 March 2016 / 25 Adar I 5776

Gittin 85 - 90

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“G-d acted with kindness to the Jewish People by hastening their exile at the time of King Tzidkiyahu while those who had previously been exiled at the time of King Yachoniya were still there (in Bavel).”

This “kindness” that G-d did for our nation by exiling a second part of the Jewish nation is taught by the Sage Mareimar on our daf, and is based on a verse in the Book of Daniel (9:14; a chapter that serves as inspiration and textual source for much of our “tachanun” prayer). The verse states, “And Gd hastened up the evil and brought it upon us, for G-d our L-rd is righteous with all His deeds that He has done, and we did not listen to His voice.”

But, really, what kind of “kindness” is it to be “hurried into exile”?

The Sage Mareimar answers this question with the above teaching regarding the exile at the time of King Tzidkiyahu being followed relatively quickly by the exile of King Yochaniya. The latter exile followed soon after the earlier one, eleven years later. G-d, in His great kindness, “hurried” the next exile to be only a short time after the first one in order that the latter group of exiles would be able to learn Torah in Bavel from the earlier-exiled Sages, who were still alive there. The gemara states, based on a verse in the Book of Kings (II 24:16), that there were 1,000 very great Torah scholars in Bavel in the earlier exile. These Torah scholars were still around to transmit the Torah to the massive exile of the Jewish People in the days of King Yochaniya, eleven years following the exile of these Torah Sages during the reign of King Tzidkiyahu. (Rashi)

Another explanation for the “kindness of being hurried into exile” is offered by the Sage Ulla. He taught that G-d hurried the Jewish People out of the Land of Israel after being there for 850 years, since they were transgressing in the Land, and if they would have continued doing so for two more years they would have been completely destroyed (Gd forbid). This is based on a fascinating hint that Ulla finds in the following verses: “When you have children and children's children, and you will be long established in the Land, and you become corrupt and make a graven image, the likeness of anything, and do evil in the eyes of the L-rd your G-d… you will speedily and utterly perish from the Land to which you cross the Jordan, to possess. You will not prolong your days upon it, but will be utterly destroyed.” (Deut. 4:25-26) The word for “long established” in the verse is “v’noshantem”, which has the numerical value of 852, i.e. 852 years. If they had remained in the Land of Israel for a total of 852 years — two more years — they would be punished as the verse says: “utterly destroyed”. Gd showed them great kindness by exiling them two years before this tragedy could occur. (Rashi)

  • Gittin 88a

Rabbi Elazar said, “Whoever divorces his first wife, even the Altar sheds tears for him.”

After the mishna on amud alef teaches the rulings of Beit Shammai, Beit Hillel and Rabbi Akiva regarding what constitutes “grounds for divorce”, based on how to interpret the verse in the Chumash regarding an acceptable reason to permit divorce (Duet. 24:1), Rabbi Elazer cites an additional source that discourages divorce if at all possible. He quotes a prophecy of Malachi, “And this second thing you do, to cover the Altar of the Gd with tears, weeping, and sighing, such that He will no longer turn to the offering, nor will He take anything willingly from your hand. And you will say, ‘Why?’ Because the Gd testified between you and the wife of your youth, that you dealt treacherously with her, and she is your companion and the wife of your covenant.” (Malachi 2:13-14)

Based on these verses Rabbi Elazar teaches, “Whoever divorces his first wife, even the Altar sheds tears for him.”Thismay sound like merely a poignant idea but not a legal issue, especially since nowadays we are without merit of having a Beit Hamikdash with an actual Altar. However, his teaching is in fact cited as halacha in the Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha’Ezer 119:3. The Rema cites Rabbi Elazar’s teaching as reason to forbid divorce even in a situation where it is permitted, providing the wife was not unfaithful (in which case it would be a mitzvah to divorce), or unless the woman also wants to divorce. The Mechaber states that one should “not hurry” to divorce (unless required by halacha), based on this same teaching of Rabbi Elazar.

  • Gittin 90b

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