Talmud Tips

For the week ending 16 October 2021 / 10 Cheshvan 5782

Beitzah 35 - 40

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Is Kiddushin a Mitzvah?

“Any activity forbidden on Shabbat is forbidden on Yom Tov. For example: It is forbidden to climb a tree… or make kiddushin… or to consecrate an object… The only difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov is the preparation of food.”

This mishna enumerates a variety of activities that are forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov, dividing these activities into three distinct categories: acts forbidden by rabbinical decree (shvut); voluntary acts (reshut — not forbidden, and close to being a mitzvah, but not a real mitzvah – Rashi); and mitzvah acts.

The gemara asks regarding the case of kiddushin: “Is kiddushin not a mitzvah?” Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam explain this question in two different ways. Rashi explains that gemara’s question as being, “Why is kiddushin not included in the mishna's list of mitzvah acts that are nevertheless banned on Shabbat and Yom Tov? On the other hand, Rabbeinu Tam explains the gemara’s question as being, “Why on earth did our Sages forbid kiddushin on Shabbat and Yom Tov, given that it is a mitzvah to make kiddushin and be fruitful and multiply?”

The gemara answers that the mishna is specifically speaking about a case when the man already has a wife and children. According to Rashi’s view of the question, this answer explains why kiddushin is listed in the mishna under the category of reshut and not mitzvah. This seems to imply that kiddushin is indeed a mitzvah for a man without a wife and chidren, but would still not be permitted on Shabbat and Yom Tov. According to the view of Rabbeinu Tam, the gemara answers that the ban against kiddushin on Shabbat and Yom Tov is only for one who already fulfilled the mitzvah “to be fruitful and multiply." In addition, a person who has not yet fulfilled this mitzvah would be permitted to make kiddushin on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

An interesting question that seems to be taught in our sugya is to determine whether the act of kiddushin in general is in fact a mitzvah. It appears that at least if the man is not married and has not fulfilled the obligation to procreate, the act of kiddushin is a mitzvah. The ruling of the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah seems to clearly state that kiddushin is a mitzvah. (Hilchot Ishut 1:2)

In fact, when I stood under the chuppah and was about to give my dear kallah a ring for kiddushin, something a bit unexpected occurred. One of the witnesses, Rav Avraham Mordechai Isbee, zatzal (my words cannot begin to describe his seemingly superhuman dedication to Torah study and dissemination, not to speak of his Torah-based humility and piety) leaned towards me and whispered so no one else could hear (so as not to embarrass me), “Have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah of kiddushin according to the Rambam[‘s view].”

However, it appears from the writings of other Rishonim, such as Rabbeinu Asher, that kiddushin is not a mitzvah, but rather a prerequisite for the ability to fulfill the Torah mitzvah to procreate. He writes that for this reason there is no “blessing for a mitzvah” said for the act of kiddushin. There is much discussion on this topic, and to be intellectually honest, some commentaries explain that even the Rambam does not mean that kiddushin is a mitzvah. (For example, the Maggid Mishneh writes that although kiddushin is the start of the mitzvah to marry in order to procreate, the marriage-mitzvah is complete only with a later and separate act of nesu’in — a topic for another time, iy’H.)

  • Beitzah 36b

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