Talmud Tips

For the week ending 13 May 2017 / 17 Iyyar 5777

Bava Batra 109 - 115

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Like Brother, Like Sister

Rava said, “One who seeks to marry a woman should check on the nature of her brothers (because the majority of sons are similar in nature to the brothers of the woman’s mother — Rashbam)”.

Rava cites as his source the verse regarding Aharon Hakohen (Shemot 6:23): “Aaron married Elisheva, the daughter of Aminadav, the sister of Nachshon, and she give birth to Nadav and Abihu, Elazar and Itamar.” “Since the verse mentions that Aharon married the daughter of Aminadav, don’t I know that she was the sister of Nachshon, and isn’t it redundant to mention this fact?” states Rava rhetorically. Rava teaches that we learn from here that an important factor in Aharon's marrying Elisheva was that she was the sister of Nachshon (who was the prince of the tribe of Yehuda, a person of great importance — Rashbam). Of course this was not the only reason, but it was significant enough for Rava to emphasize it as a factor to check and to seriously take into account when choosing a wife.

The gemara also cites a Tana in a beraita who states that the majority of sons are similar to the brothers of the woman’s mother. This will provide an indication of the likely nature of one’s children born from a marriage with a particular woman.

  • Bava Batra 110a

Defining “Dignity”

Rav said to Rav Kahana: “Even skin the hide from a dead animal in the market (in public — Rashbam) to receive payment for this work, rather than refuse to do so (and live off of charity), saying ‘I am great man’ and it is forbidden for me to do this work since it would be a ‘chillul Hashem’ for me to do a job that is “disgusting” and unbecoming a Torah scholar such as myself.

The Rashbam writes that this is the correct text in our gemara, and that this is the explanation of this teaching. He also notes that there is another text which states that one might think that Rav Kahana should refuse this type of work as a livelihood since he was a kohen. However, this is apparently an incorrect text, since Rav Kahana was not actually a kohen, as Rabbeinu Tam proves in the writings of Tosefot.

The Rashbam makes a distinction between a Torah scholar who wears dirty clothing, which would indeed constitute a chillul Hashem, and doing honest, although unbecoming, work, rather than be sustained by charity funds, which is not a chillul Hashem. Of course, this statement in no way diminishes the indescribably great importance of Torah study and the loftiness of one completely immersed in Torah study. In the event of any real and practical case, such as a Torah student needing to decide whether to perform such work nowadays, it is crucial to seek counsel from a great halachic authority regarding the application of this teaching in any specific case.

  • Bava Batra 110a

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