Masechet Kiddushin 72a-78b

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Wedding Rings
18 Dec 2008

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Kiddushin 72a-b

As we have learned, the fourth perek of Masechet Kiddushin focuses on family history, and discusses which communities had more reliable traditions of reliability. The Gemara taught that the Jewish community in Bavel was more reliable than the community in Israel or in other places in the Diaspora. On our daf Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that these attitudes are only the opinion of Rabbi Meir, but that the Chachamim argue and rule that all Jewish communities, wherever they are found, are assumed to be reliably Jewish.

In a similar statement, the Gemara brings a baraita that discusses the status of mamzerim (children born from an incestuous or adulterous relationship) le-atid la-vo (literally “in the future” but in this context it refers to Messianic times). According to Rabbi Yossi, with the arrival of the Messiah mamzerim will become purified; Rabbi Meir disagrees and states that they will remain in their status as mamzerim.

The rishonim argue about the specific ruling about which Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yossi disagree. According to some (the Ritva quoting the Re’ah, the Ran‘s understanding of the Rambam, and others) it is dealing only with cases where there is a safek mamzeirut – where it is not clear whether a given family had this problem. Even though the Messiah is supposed to clarify unknown issues, Rabbi Yossi believes that he will not declare which families are truly problematic. The Ramban, Rashba and others suggest that Rabbi Yossi believes that the Messiah will really release mamzerim from their status.

The Ramban explains that this is done as a hora’at sha’ah – a one-time ruling made for a specific purpose – which is allowed by a prophet for a particular reason. After the arrival of the Messiah, however, all of the normal laws of forbidden relationships – and mamzeirut – will remain in force. This is based on his view of the Messianic period as one when Israel will live in a state of peace, but that we will remain in a physical world and that all normative laws will still apply.

Kiddushin 73a-b

The Mishnah (69a) teaches that there were various types of people who traveled with Ezra the Scribe from Bavel to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period. The people divide into different groups, each of which is limited in who they can marry. Thus, for example, families that were known to reliably be kohanim, Levi’im or regular Yisraelim could marry one another, but kohanim could not marry a halal (a child born from a forbidden union between a kohen and a divorcee, for example). A mamzer (someone born from an adulterous or incestuous relationship), a shetuki (literally, someone who is “quiet”) or an asufi (literally, someone who is “gathered in”), can marry one another, but they cannot marry people from families established as kohanim, Levi’im or regular Yisraelim. The Mishnah explained that a shetuki is someone who knows his mother, but does not know who his father is, and an asufi is someone who was found as a newborn abandoned in the marketplace who does not know his parents.

With regard to establishing someone as an asufi, our Gemara brings the opinion of Rava bar Rav Huna who rules that if there are indications that the child was well cared for and was not abandoned to die – e.g. if the baby had been circumcised, if he had a note attached to him, if he was placed in a position where it was clear that he would be found – then the child should not be deemed an asufi, and can marry like any regular Jewish person.

One of the questions that the rishonim ask is how to reconcile the ruling that placement can determine the child’s status – that if he was found in the public thoroughfare he is deemed an asufi, but if he was placed carefully on the side he is not – with all of the other indications (circumcision, a note, etc.) that save the child from that status. One approach is to say that these indications will help us determine whether being left in the public place was with the intent of having the baby found, or for the purpose of being trampled and killed. Another approach is to say that if the child has been well cared for it indicates to us that the child must have been left in a more secure place and somehow was moved into the street.

Kiddushin 74a-b

In the context of discussing family backgrounds, our Gemara discusses how we can be certain that a child is a bechor – the first-born child to his father – a status that would give him certain advantages with regard to inheritance, for example. Rav Nachman teaches that three people can be trusted to declare that one child is the bechor – the midwife who delivers him, his mother and his father. The mid-wife is believed at the time of birth (if, for example, twins were born), the mother during the week after birth and the father at any point in time.

The Gemara supplies a source for the father’s believability with regard to declaring his son a bechor. The passage in Devarim (21:17) that forbids the father from transferring the advantage of the bechor to the first-born of his beloved wife (if there was an older child from a different wife), requires him to recognize the status of the oldest son. “Recognizing” the oldest son implies that he is believed to say who is the oldest.

Rashi explains that the mother’s believability stems from the fact that she is in constant contact with the baby during the first week of his life. Once the baby is taken from her on the day of the brit milah – his circumcision – we can no longer be certain of her identification. The Me’iri suggests that during the first week the mother makes certain to keep track of the first-born (e.g. if twins were born) in order to be sure which baby should be circumcised first, but after the brit takes place there is no longer any need to remember which child was born first.

According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the midwife is believed based on the story in Sefer Bereshit (38:28) where Tamar gives birth to twins and the midwife tied a string around the baby’s wrist saying “this one was born first.”

Kiddushin 75a-b

Among the groups of people whose lineage and connection with the Jewish people is discussed in our Gemara are Kutim.

The term Kutim refers to the nations (not all of whom were truly Kutim, as there were people from other nations, as well) that were exiled to the Land of Israel by the kings of Assyria who were interested in populating the land after they had removed the Israelite people from it. According to Sefer Melachim (see II Melachim, chapter 17), these nations converted to Judaism because of their fear of lions that had begun attacking them (from which derives the term gerei arayot – “lion converts”), but they continued worshiping their gods at the same time.

Upon the return of the Jews to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, descendants of the Kutim, were active in trying to keep the returnees from rebuilding the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Even so, there were families – including members of the kohanim – who intermarried with the Samaritans.

During the following years there were continued tensions between the two communities, and Yochanan Hyrcanus led his troops into battle against the Samaritans and destroyed the temple that they had built on Har Gerizim. Nevertheless, there were also periods of cooperation, such as the period of the Bar Kochba rebellion. As is clear in our Gemara, the attitude of the Sages towards them differed, although after a period of time a final conclusion was reached and they were ruled to be treated as non-Jews, due to their continued involvement with different types of idol worship.

It is important to note that the Gemara in Yevamot concludes that while a bet din should not accept potential converts whose reason for converting is anything other than a sincere desire to join the Jewish People, nevertheless, if such a person does undergo a full conversion process they are considered Jewish according to halacha. It is possible that the Kutim did not fall into that category because they continued with their idolatrous practices even at the moment of their conversion. Nevertheless, today the community of Samaritans living in Israel are no longer idol worshipers, and there has been some level of acceptance of them into the larger Jewish community.

Kiddushin 76a-b

The Mishnah on our daf teaches that there are many families about which we can be certain that they are reliably Jewish and that there are no issues with their family histories. For example, if we trace a family tree and discover that the patriarch was a kohen who performed service in the Temple, or that the patriarch served on the Sanhedrin, there is no need to check any further, since those positions were only given to individuals who were known to be from reliable families. According to Chanina ben Antigonos, another indication of a family with a reliable history is recorded service in the army.

The Gemara brings Rav Yehuda quoting Shmuel who explains the last case to be talking about a family whose ancestors had served in King David‘s army, as the pasuk clearly indicates in I Divrei HaYamim, or Chronicles (7:40). Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as explaining the reason for this – the belief that the merit of their forefathers would put them in good stead in times of battle.

The Gemara points out that the names of many of King David’s soldiers – e.g. Tzelek the Ammonite, Uriah the Hittite, Ittai the Gittite – seem to point to their being converts, or, perhaps, non-Jewish mercenaries. Furthermore, Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as teaching that there were 400 soldiers in King David’s army who were the offspring of relations with an eshet yefat to’ar (see Devarim 21:10) who behaved like non-Jews, cutting their hair, for example, in the fashion of non-Jews, and growing a blorit. The Gemara suggests that the non-Jews were not active soldiers in the army, but played other supportive roles, specifically to keep everyone in a state of alarm.

Many suggestions are offered to define the term blorit, but no word in Greek or Latin is a perfect match for it. The hairstyle involved allowed the hair to grow long particularly on the sides and in the back of the head, and the hair was tied and braided into different shapes. Later on, the braided hair was shaved off in a special pagan ritual ceremony.

Kiddushin 77a-b

The Torah forbids a kohen from marrying the following women:

In addition, the kohen gadol (the High Priest) cannot marry an almana (a widow).

Our Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that if the kohen gadol marries three widows he is only liable for having transgressed one prohibition. The Gemara objects that cases similar to this one appear to hold the transgressor liable for each act separately. In response the Gemara concludes that the baraita must be talking about a case where there were not three separate women, rather the kohen gadol married a woman who was a widow from three different marriages. The baraita is teaching that although this widow is a widow three times over, she is not perceived by the Halacha as a threefold widow, but simply as a widow.

The baraita teaches that sometimes the order of the woman’s marriage will make a difference. If the kohen gadol marries a woman who was first an almana, then a gerusha, then a chalalah and finally a zonah, he will be held liable for four separate forbidden relationships. If, however, the woman was first a zonah, then a chalalah then a gerusha and finally an almana, he will only be seen as having one transgression. The Gemara explains this difference according to the opinion that en issur hal al issur – that once there is an existing prohibition a new prohibition cannot be added to the first one – except in the case of an issur mosif – when the new prohibition adds an element that did not exist previously. As an example, the almana is forbidden to the kohen gadol but not to an ordinary kohen. When she becomes a gerusha, a new prohibition is added – now she cannot marry an ordinary kohen either. Thus, the add-on of the new, additional status, is significant for the kohen gadol, as well.

Kiddushin 78a-b

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the Torah limits a kohen in who he can marry. Specifically, a kohen cannot marry –

In addition, the kohen gadol (the High Priest) cannot marry an almana (a widow).

In chapter 44 of his book, the prophet, Yechezkel, teaches that there are unique rules and regulations that a kohen must follow regarding their general deportment – the clothing they wear, the food that they eat and who they marry.

Our Gemara quotes a pasuk in Yechezkel (44:22) that appears to offer a different set of rules than those offered by the Torah. Specifically, the navi teaches that “Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor a divorced woman; but they shall take virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that is the widow of a priest.” From here it appears that a regular kohen cannot marry a widow – a prohibition that appears to be limited to the kohen gadol according to the Torah – unless her first husband was also a kohen, a distinction never made by the Torah.

The Gemara suggests reinterpreting the end of the pasuk, so that rather than permitting a kohen to marry the widow of another kohen, it should be understood as permitting a regular kohen to marry a widow – something that is forbidden to the kohen gadol. Thus, the first half of the pasuk is understood to be teaching the rules of a kohen gadol, while the end of the pasuk is teaching the rules of a regular kohen.

In response to the Gemara’s objection that biblical passages should not be divided up and be understood to be talking about two different circumstances, the Gemara points out that this is not uncommon in interpreting pesukim. Thus, we find that I Shmuel 3:3 “and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel lay down to sleep in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was,” cannot have Shmuel lying down to sleep in the Temple, since no one is permitted to even sit down there (with the exception of a Jewish king from the Davidic dynasty). Rather the pasuk must be understood to mean that “the lamp of God was not yet gone out … in the temple of the LORD” and that Shmuel lay down to sleep in his place.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.