Talmud Tips

For the week ending 17 January 2015 / 26 Tevet 5775

Yevamot 107 - 113

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rav Papa said, "A verse states (Devarim 5:1) 'and you will lean (Torah)' and also states 'and you will take care to do them (mitzvot) - to teach that one who 'does them' is eligible to be 'one who learn', but one who does not 'do them' is not eligible to be 'one who learns'."

Torah and mitzvot are tied together in a very special way. If one does not fulfill the mitzvot that he learns about in his Torah study, he may be gaining knowledge but is not considered as fulfilling the mitzvah to learn Torah and does not merit reward for his study (Rashi). Based on Rav Papa’s interpretation, our gemara offers a possible explanation for a seemingly enigmatic statement by Rabbi Yossi in a beraita: “One who says ‘I have only Torah’ (and not mitzvah fulfillment), does not even have Torah.”

  • Yevamot 109b

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nacmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan, “When a dayan (rabbinical judge) issues a ruling, he should envision himself as if a sword is pointed at his body and Gehenom is open beneath him.”

How great is the fear and awe a Torah authority must have when issuing a ruling! This halacha, which is cited by the Rambam shows the utmost “fear of Heaven” and concern for ruling correctly that a halachic authority must possess. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Sanhedrin 23:8)

Based on this, our gemara teaches how a dayan should conduct himself if he is not certain of the ruling in a specific case, although he knows the halacha in a similar case. It is of paramount importance that this dayan go to ask his Rav for a ruling, if possible. He should not rely on his own ability to derive a ruling by comparing one matter to another. He must go to ask the greater Torah authority. (Rashi)

The verse which serves as the basis for Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani’s graphic description of how a dayan should “see himself” is in Shir Hashirim (3:7-8). The “60 giborim” in the verse are explained differently by Rashi and Tosafot. Rashi explains the “60 giborim” (lit. “mighty ones”) as the dayanim of the Great Sanhedrin in the Beit Hamikdash. Tosefot claims that the 60 refers to the 60 ribo (one ribo = 10,000) who stood to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. A halachic authority must make the maximum effort to rule in accordance with the truth of the Torah.

  • Yevamot 109b

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