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.
The Torah requires that terumot and ma’asrot – tithes given to kohanim and Levi’im – be taken from produce after it is harvested. Fruits that are ordinarily processed (e.g. grapes that are made into wine or olives that are made into oil) may have the tithes taken from the final product.
Our Gemara quotes a baraita that describes a situation where a person sets aside a barrel of wine that will be given as terumah to the kohen once the appropriate amount of wine has been used (rather than take a measure of wine for terumah each time a new batch of wine is made, this barrel was supposed to serve as a reservoir for taking tithes). If the wine in the barrel is found to have become vinegar, we can assume that it was still wine for three days after it was last checked – after that time, any wine that was tithed against this barrel must be viewed as safek (doubt) – it may not have been tithed properly and will have to be done again.
Rashi explains that terumah on wine cannot be taken from vinegar, since they are not the same thing, and tithes must be taken from the same type of food. The Ritva argues that although vinegar and wine are considered the same, since no one would intentionally take terumah for wine from vinegar, it is considered to have been done by accident and cannot be counted.
All wine contains traces of acid, which occasionally can turn the wine into vinegar. The speed with which oxidation occurs depends on a number of different factors – the level of alcohol in the wine, the cleanliness of the container, the surrounding temperature, and more. Sine this process can take some time, there are different stages in the development of the vinegar, from an acidic taste in wine up to a full change from wine to vinegar.
The Mishnah on our daf introduces the concept of yichud – that a man and woman who are not married to each other should not be in a secluded place together, for fear of sexual impropriety between them. According to the Tanna Kamma, a man should not allow himself to be alone with a woman, or even with two women; a woman cannot be alone with a single man, but if there are a number of men, then there is no problem of yichud. According to the Gemara, we fear that the two women will allow sexual relations to take place between the other man and woman, but that men would be embarrassed about engaging in relations in front of one another.
Our Gemara quotes Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav who limits the leniency with regard to a woman being alone with a group of men to situations where the men are known to be kesheirim – “kosher,” i.e. reliable people. To support this contention Rav Yosef points out that that it is not unusual for a group of men to conspire to steal something together, with no embarrassment from one another.
In searching for a source for the halacha of yichud, the Gemara brings Rabbi Yochanan quoting Rabbi Yishmael as saying that a hint (remez) for this law can be found in a passage in Sefer Devarim (13:7) that is discussing idol worship. The pasuk warns that a person might be enticed to idol worship by his brother, the son of his mother. Why does the Torah suggest that the enticement will come from a brother from his mother rather than from his father? The implication is that brothers from the same mother can spend time together – and with her (yichud does not apply to parents and their children) – but brothers who share a father but have different mothers could not be together, since there would be a problem of yichud.
The Talmud Yerushalmi brings the same passage as the source for yichud, but emphasizes the entire pasuk, which includes not only a brother but also a son or a daughter who entices you ba-seter – in secret – to worship idols. From here we can conclude that immediate family relatives can be together ba-seter.
On yesterday’s daf we learned of the Sages’ concern with private interactions between men and women lest they lead to sexual impropriety, and the laws of yichud – of forbidding a man and woman from being alone in a secluded place. Our Gemara clarifies that in circumstances where the likelihood of impropriety is small – e.g. ba’alah ba’ir (the woman’s husband is nearby) or petach patu’ach le-reshut ha-rabim (there is an open entrance to a public place) – the prohibition of yichud does not exist.
Those exceptions notwithstanding, the Sages were well aware of the power of sexual drives, and tell stories about upstanding members of the community who were saved from sinning only at the last moment. Some of the examples include:
A group of women who had been held captive were redeemed by the community of Neharda and were lodged in the home of Rav Amram Chasida (“the pious”). He arranged for them to sleep in his attic and had the ladder leading to the attic removed at night so that no one would disturb them. One of them passed by the opening to the attic, and seeing her, Rav Amram was so overwhelmed with desire for her that he lifted the heavy ladder on his own and began to climb towards the attic. Halfway up Rav Amram realized what he was doing and began to shout “there is a fire in Rav Amram’s house.” In response to his shouts, the Sages came running to help and found him in his bedclothes climbing up towards the women. Upon bringing him down he was accused of embarrassing them before the community that could plainly see what Rav Amram’s intentions were. Rav Amram responded that it is better that the members of his household should be embarrassed in this world rather than in the next world.
The Maharsha writes that aside from the embarrassment involved, Rav Amram could not be accused of lying. When he shouted that there was a fire in Rav Amram’s house, he was telling the truth – not a fire that threatened the house physically, but the fire of his evil desire that threatened him spiritually. Rav Amram made use of the simple meaning of his shout to attract the crowd who thought that there was a “real” fire, and who would thereby “save” him from the spiritual “fire” that was burning.
On the closing daf of Masechet Kiddushin we find the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Meir – a parent should teach his son a clean and simple profession, and should pray to Him that all wealth and valuables belong, since every profession has both poverty and wealth . Thus we recognize that neither poverty nor wealth stem from the profession itself, rather all is according to one’s merit (zechuto). In response to this the Mishnah quotes other opinions about the need to work and learn a profession, closing with Rabbi Nehorai who said that he put aside all worldly professions and taught his son only Torah, whose rewards allow a person to benefit from them in this world, while leaving over capital for use in the World to Come.
Many question the meaning Rabbi Nehorai’s teaching, since in the first perek (chapter) of Masechet Kiddushin (29a) the Gemara quotes a baraita that a father is required to teach his son a trade, and Rabbi Yehuda comments that a father who does not do so effectively teaches him to be a thief. One approach is to recognize that Rabbi Nehorai did not present this as a general ruling, rather he described a personal choice that he made for his family, something that is possible for a small minority of people to do. The P’nei Yehoshua suggests that Rabbi Nehorai’s son showed unique promise as a child, which is why his father chose to dedicate his son’s education solely to Torah.
With regard to Rabbi Meir’s statement that an individual’s monetary success is the result of zechuto (his merit), Tosafot argue that it cannot mean the merit of his mitzvot, since the Sages do not connect mitzvot to worldly success, rather they suggest that it depends on a person’s mazel (what we usually translate as luck). The approach of some of the Geonim is that in this case zechuto should be understood to mean the effort and exertion that a person puts into his work, and that Rabbi Meir is championing the promise of hard work in making someone successful.
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 www.steinsaltz.org 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.