Ketubot 74 - 80
Saving the Marriage
An earlier mishna (72b) rules that if a man marries a woman on the condition that she is not bound by any vows, or that she suffers from no serious physical handicaps, and it turns out that she has such vows or handicaps, the marriage is considered null and void. What happens, however, if prior to his discovery she went to a sage and cancelled her vow, or to a physician and healed her handicap?
The beraita tells us that in the case of vows the marriage remains intact, but that in the case of the handicap it is annulled. The difference is that when a sage cancels the vow on the basis of her expressing regret at having made the vow, it is considered a retroactive nullification; while in the case of healing, the change in condition takes place only at the time of the treatment.
Tosefot explains that this is not merely a matter of semantics, but rather an analysis of male psychology. Even after his wife has been healed of her handicap, the husband, who made the marriage dependent of her being free of such a shortcoming, is resentful of the fact that she was married to him while she suffered from a handicap which he explicitly wished to avoid. She is therefore tarnished in his eyes and this is considered grounds for ruling that she did not fulfill the condition of the marriage, rendering their union null and void. In the case of a vow, had the nullification not been retroactive, he would also have been resentful, because of the punishment she risked for violating the vow during their marriage up until its cancellation. Since the vow is considered retroactively to have never taken place, there is no such punishment and no cause for resentment which could serve as grounds for annulment.
This is true, adds Tosefot, only when he discovered the existence of the vow after the sage's cancellation. Should he, however, become aware of it before she goes to the sage, the eventual cancellation will not save the marriage. This is so because when a man makes a condition that she has no vows, his intention is that should he discover she has a vow he has the option to annul the marriage. If this discovery comes before her visit to the sage, we assume that he wants to exercise this option for fear that the vow may be one that cannot be cancelled. If the discovery comes only after the vow has been cancelled, he no longer has any reason to be worried about the future or resentful about the past, and the marriage therefore remains intact.
The Ancient "Law of Return"
What is the criterion for being a citizen of Zion? Way before the Israeli Law of Return was even dreamed of, this issue was discussed in our gemara. "Of Zion it shall be said," writes the psalmist (Tehillim 87:5), "this person and that person was born in her, and the One Above shall reestablish her." Rabbi Maisha, the grandson of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, interpreted this as meaning that both the Jew born in Eretz Yisrael and the one who looks forward to the restoration of its glory will be considered as having been born there.
Maharsha explains the interpretation of the passage in the context of the passages which precede and follow it. The psalmist opens his tribute to the love of Hashem for the gates of Zion by declaring that "glorious things are spoken of the 'City of the L-rd.' " He then draws the contrast between the citizens of other lands and those of Zion. All others are referred to by the land of their origin and are called Babylonians or Philistines because of where they were born. In regard to Zion, however, not only does the one born there qualify to be called a citizen but also the one who anxiously, but confidently, looks forward to the One Above reestablishing her. Summing up this contrast, the psalmist says that "Hashem will record when He registers the peoples" -- identifying each according to his place of birth. "This one" -- the Jew born outside Eretz Yisrael but looking forward to its restoration by Hashem -- "will be considered as having been born there."
The double reference to the one born in Zion which is the basis of the above interpretation was also seen by the Sage Abaye as a hint to the superior Torah wisdom of sages in Eretz Yisrael which makes each of them the equivalent of two sages in Babylon. Rava, however, cites from the experience of one of their colleagues that once a sage from Babylon made it to Eretz Yisrael he became twice as wise as the Sages there.