For the week ending 30 January 2016 / 20 Shevat 5776

Gittin 51 - 56

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The rights of the daughters to support from deceased father's estate
  • When the finder of a lost object is obligated to take an oath when challenged by the loser
  • Why one who makes a partial admission must take an oath
  • The responsibilities of a guardian of orphans appointed by the court or by the father
  • Rabbi Meir's dream
  • How property of orphans can be acquired
  • Responsibility for damages which are not discernible
  • Penalties imposed by the Sages for intentional and unintentional violations
  • Are Jews more careful about Shabbat or about Shmitah
  • Compensating the kohen for taking his terumah
  • Responsibility of kohen who causes a sacrifice to be disqualified
  • Credibility of scribe who confesses that he was derelict in writing a Sefer Torah which he sold
  • The halachic testimonies of Rabbi Yochanan ben Gudgeda
  • Stolen beams and stolen sacrificial animals
  • Purchase of a property taken from a Jew by Roman aggressor
  • The events leading up to the destruction of Yerushalayim
  • Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and the general turned emperor
  • The rise and fall of Titus

Fearing Fear Itself

  • Gittin 55b

"Fortunate is the man who is always afraid." (Mishlei 28:13)

"Those in Zion who were afraid were sinners." (Yishayahu 33:14)

Opposing signals seem to emerge from these two passages, but Tosefot provides a resolution.

The basic principle is that there is a positive aspect of fear and a negative one. The difference is spelled out in the dialogue between Rabbi Yishmael ben Rabbi Yossi and his disciple as they walked through the streets of Yerushalayim (Mesechta Berachot 60a). Seeing the disciple shaking with fear for no discernible reason the master reprimanded him by quoting the passage from the Prophet Yishayahu. When the disciple countered with the passage in Mishlei he was told that the positive fear of which King Shlomo spoke was in regard to retaining Torah knowledge — a fear of forgetting which spurs a scholar to steadily review what he has learned. What Rabbi Yishmael condemned as sinful based on the words of Yishayahu was an exaggerated fear of danger that betrayed a lack of faith in G-d.

In our own gemara the passage in Mishlei is quoted as a criticism of the Jews under Roman rule who were not sufficiently afraid of the repercussions which would follow their actions. They were too confident in their security that they failed to consider that the Bar Kamtza whom they publicly embarrassed might turn into a treacherous enemy whose slander would lead to the destruction of Yerushalayim.

What the Sages Say

"I never referred to my wife as my wife but rather as my household (because all the household affairs were taken care of by her so that she was the pillar of the home – Rashi)."

  • Rabbi Yossi - Gittin 52a

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