Talmud Tips

For the week ending 27 December 2014 / 5 Tevet 5775

Yevamot 86 - 92

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Because they (the Levites) did come up from Bavel”

After the Babylonian exile, the levi’im did not return to Israel and the Temple service, and were therefore penalized to no longer receive ma’aser rishon as they had in the past. This is one of the reasons stated on our daf for the ma’aser going to the kohanim after this exile.

Tosefot has a difficulty with this reason since that we find a reference in the mishna in Kiddushin and in a verse in the Book of Ezra that levi’im indeed returned to Israel with Ezra after the exile. Tosefot resolves this apparent difficulty by explaining that these were only the levi’im whose thumbs were cut off by Nevuchadnetzer when they refused to musically perform for him in Bavel. The Temple service was hindered by the refusal of the rest of the levi’im to return, and therefore they were penalized to lose out on the ma’aser.

  • Yevamot 86b

“The Torah ways are ways of pleasantness” (Mishlei 3:17)

This reason is offered in our sugya to exempt a woman from a need for yibum or chalitza in the event that her husband’s child dies after he does. Although her deceased husband is now without descendants, she is nevertheless exempt from any connection to his brothers. Although one might think the mitzvah should apply, the Torah concept of “pleasantness” exempts her and permits her to marry outside of the family.

Various explanations are offered to explain the “pleasantness” intended here. Tosefot reasons that it would not be “pleasant” to rescind permission to marry once it has been granted her. Rashi writes that if she would require chalitza after marrying a second husband, it might make her appear less “pleasant” to him and this night disrupt their family harmony. The Ritva explains that if she would need to receive a divorce in order to fulfill yibum or chalitza for her first marriage, this could be most unpleasant. There appear to be practical dimensions and differences to these various explanations.

  • Yevamot 87b

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