Talmud Tips

For the week ending 8 November 2014 / 15 Heshvan 5775

Yevamot 37 - 43

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Sage said, "The hunger of a person who has bread in his basket is not comparable (i.e. is less) to that of a person who does not have bread in his basket."

These words of wisdom are taught in our gemara to explain that a person is affected for the better, both psychologically and even physiologically, if he has a “security net” of knowing he can access at any time that which he needs. This is a metaphor, and is true not only regarding being less hungry if he already possesses food, but reflects on varied aspects of human nature. A person is less anxious and concerned about satisfying his needs if he knows he already possesses that which he wants and needs. Although the Sage who taught this is not named in our sugya, it is recorded to be either Rabbi Ami or Rabbi Asi in Tractate Yoma 74b.

  • Yevamot 37b

Rabbi Abahu answered rhetorically, “If Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi did not teach a clear conclusion, from where would Rabbi Chiya know it?”

The question posed to him on our daf (as one of a series of similar questions) is as follows: “What is the rule for determining the halacha if we find a stam beraita teaching only one ruling, while we find an argument in this same matter in a mishna? One might think that the clarity expressed in the sole opinion taught in the beraita would give it greater weight than the lack of a clear ruling in the mishna — and therefore we should rule like the opinion in the beraita. This line of reasoning is similar to what the preceding statement in our gemara taught: “If there is a stam mishna and an argument in a beraita, the halacha is like the opinion in the stam mishna.”

However, Rabbi Abahu answers that this is not necessarily so when there is a stam beraita and an argument in the mishna. This is a different story. His reasoning is that we should assume that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was more knowledgeable than his student, Rabbi Chiya. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi taught the mishna and Rabbi Chiya taught the beraita. Therefore, if Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi did not have a clear-cut reason to rule like one side when teaching the mishna in a particular case, we cannot assume that Rabbi Chiya had additional information to convince us to accept his ruling in the beraita. Therefore, we cannot say that the halacha should follow the one specific opinion the beraita teaches. (Rashi, Maharik)

  • Yevamot 43 a-b

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