Blog Yomi – Moed Katan #17

Today’s Daf begins at two lines above the section when the lines widen at the bottom of יז עמוד ב, with תנוּ רבנן. The Gemara is addressing the unfortunate situation when someone experiences two periods of mourning in succession. When permitting the cutting of the hair and washing of the clothes, the concept is invoked about doing these actions with a שִׁינוּי, which means to do them in way that is different from the normal manner. Hence cutting one’s hair with a razor rather than a scissors, and washing one’s clothes in water rather than detergent. The concept of invoking a שִׁינוּי indicates that there are extenuating circumstances,

The ArtScroll summarizes the three conclusions that emerge from this Gemara:

a) Not having opportunity to cut one’s hair or wash one’s clothes prior to mourning isn’t sufficient reason to permit cutting one’s hair or washing one’s clothes during אבילוּת (mourning).

b) If that individual suffers multiple mourning periods in succession, he may cut his hair and wash his clothes after the first mourning period.

c) If he did have the opportunity to cut his hair and wash his clothes prior to mourning, and experienced successive mourning periods, he may do so but with a שִׁינוּי as noted above.

Now we extend the personal hygiene questions from haircuts and clothes washing to cutting one’s fingernails:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאָמְרוּ אָסוּר לְגַלֵּחַ בַּמּוֹעֵד, כָּךְ אָסוּר לִיטּוֹל צִפּוֹרְנַיִם בַּמּוֹעֵד, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי יְהוּדָה. וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי מַתִּיר. The Sages taught the following בּרייתא: Just as the Sages said that it is prohibited to cut one’s hair during חול המוֹעד, so too it is prohibited to cut one’s nails during the intermediate days of a Festival; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda, whereas Rabbi Yosei permits cutting nails.

אָמַר עוּלָּא: הֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי יְהוּדָה בְּאֵבֶל, וַהֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּמּוֹעֵד. שְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר

הֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּמּוֹעֵד וּבְאֵבֶל, דְּאָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: הֲלָכָה כְּדִבְרֵי הַמֵּיקֵל בְּאֵבֶל

Ulla said: The הלכה (ruling) is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda with regard to mourning, but is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yosei with regard to חול המוֹעד. Shmuel said: The ruling is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yosei with regard to both חול המוֹעד and to mourning, as Shmuel said this general principle: The הלכה is in accordance with the statement of the more lenient authority in matters relating to mourning.

We now transition to דף יח עמוּד א, and a great less in the sensitivity of words:

פִּנְחָס אֲחוּהּ דְּמָר שְׁמוּאֵל אִיתְּרַע בֵּיהּ מִילְּתָא, עָל שְׁמוּאֵל לְמִישְׁאַל טַעְמָא מִינֵּיהּ. חֲזַנְהוּ לְטוּפְרֵי[הּ] דַּהֲווֹ נְפִישָׁן, אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אַמַּאי לָא שָׁקְלַתְּ לְהוּ? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אִי בְּדִידֵיהּ הֲוָה, מִי מְזַלְזְלַתְּ בֵּיהּ כּוּלֵּי הַאי

It was related that something unpleasant happened to Pincḥas, brother of Mar Shmuel, that is to say, one of his close relatives died. Shmuel entered to ask him the reason and to console him. He saw that Pincḥas’s nails were long, and said to him: Why do you not cut them? Pincḥas replied: If it were your relative who died, and you were in mourning, would you treat the matter so lightly and cut your nails?

And the Gemara continues:

הֲוַאי ״כִּשְׁגָגָה שֶׁיֹּצָא מִלִּפְנֵי הַשַּׁלִּיט״, וְאִיתְּרַע בֵּיהּ מִילְּתָא בִּשְׁמוּאֵל. עָל פִּנְחָס אֲחוּהּ לְמִישְׁאַל טַעְמָא מִינֵּיהּ. שַׁקְלִינְהוּ לְטוּפְרֵיהּ חַבְטִינְהוּ לְאַפֵּיהּ. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: לֵית לָךָ בְּרִית כְּרוּתָה לַשְּׂפָתַיִם

The words of Pincḥas were: “Like an error that proceeds from a ruler”. As soon as he uttered them they come true, even though he did not intend them. Shortly after Pincḥas made his comment, something unpleasant happened to Shmuel, and one of his close relatives died. Pincḥas, his brother, entered to ask him the reason, i.e., to offer words of comfort. Shmuel took his nails and cast them in Pineḥas’s face. Shmuel then said to him: Do you not know the principle that a covenant is made with the lips? In other words, do you not know that what one says influences future events?

The reference to ״כִּשְׁגָגָה שֶׁיֹּצָא מִלִּפְנֵי הַשַּׁלִּיט״ is from Koheles, with the actual פּסוק being:

יֵ֣שׁ רָעָ֔ה רָאִ֖יתִי תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ כִּשְׁגָגָ֕ה שֶׁיֹּצָ֖א מִלִּפְנֵ֥י הַשַּׁלִּֽיט׃, on which Rashi comments that it is like a King who unintentionally let an error out of his mouth, and his decree is irrevocable. Such is the power of words to influence future events, the Gemara is saying, one of many lessons from Koheles shared by שׁלמה המלך during his moments of existential crisis.

ArtScroll cites the Maharsha who underscores that a person’s words may inadvertently contain some prophecy of the future. One should therefore avoid the mention of anything undesirable that could happen in the future, lest his words carry a prophetic message which once expressed in less likely to be reversed.

The Gemara now ventures further into personal hygiene, and the proper disposal of one’s nail clippings. It involves the following cryptic comment: שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים נֶאֶמְרוּ בַּצִּפּרְנַיִם: הַקּוֹבְרָן — צַדִּיק, שׂוֹרְפָן — חָסִיד, זוֹרְקָן — רָשָׁע. טַעְמָא מַאי — שֶׁמָּא תַּעֲבוֹר עֲלֵיהֶן אִשָּׁה עוּבָּרָהּ וְתַפִּיל.

Three things were said about nails: One who buries them in the ground is deemed righteous. One who burns them is even better, as he is considered pious. One who merely throws them away is regarded as wicked. The Gemara explains: What is the reason that it is prohibited to throw away nail clippings? This is prohibited lest a pregnant women pass over them and miscarry, for the Sages had a tradition that it is dangerous for a pregnant woman to walk over fingernails.

As noted in a Chabad piece by Baruch Davidson, the נימוּקי יוֹסף offers two reasons for the caution about cutting fingernails and leaving them in a place where pregnant women would be exposed to them:

1) Due to the emotional strain of pregnancy, a woman is likely to be overly repulsed by the sight of the nails, and this, in turn, might cause her to miscarry.

2) In ancient times, nail clippings were used as implements for witchcraft. As such, the possibility existed that these clippings would be used to harm her.

The Gemara then proceeds to another personal hygiene lesson involving the trimming of one’s mustache. We normally associate trimming with maintaining a certain personal appearance. But here the Gemara is not referring to grooming. Rather, it is in keeping with the theme of personal hygiene, here for the practical purpose of not getting food trapped in one’s mustache while eating (and yes, I can relate!).

The balance of the Gemara דף יח עמוּד א relate to different types of cloths and towels with which one can wash, before transitioning to the next Mishnah on דף יח עמוּד ב which addresses what one is permitted to write on חול המוֹעד. The Mishnah states:

וְאֵלּוּ כּוֹתְבִין בַּמּוֹעֵד: קִדּוּשֵׁי נָשִׁים וְגִיטִּין וְשׁוֹבָרִין. דְּיָיתֵיקֵי, מַתָּנָה וּפְרוֹזְבּוּלִין. אִיגְּרוֹת שׁוּם וְאִיגְּרוֹת מָזוֹן

שְׁטָרֵי חֲלִיצָה וּמֵיאוּנִים וּשְׁטָרֵי בֵירוּרִין. גְּזֵרוֹת בֵּית דִּין וְאִיגְּרוֹת שֶׁל רְשׁוּת

And these are the documents that may be written on חול המוֹעד: Documents of betrothal of wives, through which bridegrooms betroth their brides; bills of divorce; receipts for the repayment of debts; wills [deyateiki]; deeds of gift; prozbolin, documents through which lenders authorize the courts to collect their loans on their behalf, thereby preventing the Sabbatical year from canceling their debts; letters of valuation, which were drawn up by the court when they valuated property and transferred it to the lender; and letters of sustenance, which were drawn up when one accepted upon himself to maintain another, e.g., his step-daughter.

The list continues: Documents of the ritual through which the brother-in-law frees the yevama of her levirate bonds [cḥalitza], thereby freeing her from the obligation to marry one of her deceased husband’s brothers; documents in which the court records the refusal of a girl upon reaching majority to remain married to the man to whom her mother or brothers married her as a minor after the death of her father; documents of arbitration, in which the court summarizes a conflict that had been resolved through arbitration; court rulings; and the official correspondence of the ruling authorities.

You will note that the common theme to all of the documents above is that if they are not written in a timely manner, they will result in irretrievable loss. Once again our Gemara is looping back to an overarching theme we had at the outset: דָבָר הָאָבוּד.

We’ll conclude today’s Daf with the opening line of the Gemara that follows the Mishnah above:

אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: מוּתָּר לְאָרֵס אִשָּׁה בְּחוּלּוֹ שֶׁל מוֹעֵד, שֶׁמָּא יִקְדְּמֶנּוּ אַחֵר – Shmuel said, one is permitted to write the document related to אֵירוּסִין during חול המוֹעד, so that another individual doesn’t pre-empt him (in other words, “beat him to the punch”, as we might say in the vernacular). Rabbi Stern pointed out that in those days, אֵירוּסִין was more in line with what we consider to be קִידוּשִׁין now. The document generated resulted in the כַּלָה not being available to anyone else. The only difference was that while in the state of אֵירוּסִין, the couple was not yet living together.

The raises a fundamental question that the Gemara subsequently addresses. We are taught:

בְּכל יוֹם וְיוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת וְאוֹמֶרֶת: בַּת פְּלוֹנִי לִפְלוֹנִי – each day a heavenly voice is emitted, declaring which daughters will make whom. In other words, one’s bashert, or correct match for marriage, is heavenly pre-ordained. If that is the case, why would someone be so concerned about someone else beating him to the punch that he would have to write a document during חול המוֹעד safeguarding a specific woman for himself? The answer as Rabbi Stern notes, and as alluded to in the video above, is that the בַּת קוֹל arranges the conditions for two individuals to be matched to one another. But it remains for those individuals to follow through on the appropriate opportunities to bring אֵירוּסִין to fruition.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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