Blog Yomi – Yevamos #16

On דף ט״ז עמוּד ב in yesterday’s Daf the Gemara raised the issue of whether, from an halachic perspective there is any validity to the marriage of a gentile to a Jew. רַב יְהוּדָה said in the name of רַב אַסִּי:

אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב אַסִּי: גּוֹי שֶׁקִּידֵּשׁ בִּזְמַן הַזֶּה — חוֹשְׁשִׁין לְקִדּוּשִׁין, שֶׁמָּא מֵעֲשֶׂרֶת הַשְּׁבָטִים הוּא

With regard to a gentile who betrothed a Jewish woman nowadays, the Gemara raises the issue of whether we should be concerned that the קִדּוּשִׁין might be valid if the husband is from one of the ten tribes of Israel that intermingled with gentiles.

What happened to the ten lost tribes of Israel? The short answer is that we don’t know. After all, isn’t that why they’re referred to as “lost”? This is a sentiment echoed by Rabbi Yossi Paltiel, who notes the potential difficulties that arise in matters of halacha pertaining to marriage and other laws that our Gemara is dealing with here, omnipresent when one considers “who is a Jew?”.

There has been much interest through the ages in identifying the עֲשֶׂרֶת הַשְּׁבָטִים, and it is interesting that we don’t refer to them as the Ten Lost Tribes in Hebrew, but just as the Ten Tribes – which fuels the expectation that we will identify them. An excellent article in The Jewish Press describes some of the quests to locate the עֲשֶׂרֶת הַשְּׁבָטִים. Prominent among these was Benjamin of Tudela, who was one of the great travelers of the Middle Ages and his book, The Travels of Benjamin, is still read with interest today. He set out from Spain around the year 1165, perhaps on a pilgrimage to Eretz Yisrael. Along with describing the actual Jewish communities he encountered, he mentions a rumor he heard while in Persia: Beyond the River Gozan was the mountain dwelling of four of the lost tribes – Dan, Zevulun, Asher and Naphtali. They had their own prince, יוֹסֵף הַלֵוִי. Some were scholars, some were farmers and some were soldiers who “go forth to war as far as the land of Cush by way of the desert.”

Rabbi Ovadia ben Avraham of Bartenura, author of a famed commentary on the Mishneh, set out for Eretz Yisrael in 1486. He wrote about his travels, mentioning he had learned from the Jews of Aden, a port city in southern Yemen, that the lost tribes lived on the other side of the River Sambatyon (which purportedly rages for six days and rested only on שַׁבָּת) in a land that was a journey of about fifty days into the desert. While Bartenura did not have the means to undertake a long journey of that nature, just six years later, Christopher Columbus and his crew embarked on a sixty-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. With the discovery of the Americas the search for the lost tribes broadened.

This is Jewish geography of a decidedly different kind, more than a curiosity of “where are you from” and “who do you know”. The Gemara engages in very specific geographic genealogy to identify who might be qualified or disqualified as Jewish based on the area they came from.

בְּדוּכְתָּא דִּקְבִיעִי. דְּאָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּא בַּר כָּהֲנָא: ״וַיַּנְחֵם בַּחְלַח וּבְחָבוֹר נְהַר גּוֹזָן וְעָרֵי מָדָי״,חֲלַח — זֶה חִלָּזוֹן, וְחָבוֹר —

זוֹ חַדְיָיב, ״נְהַר גּוֹזָן״ — זוֹ גִּינְזַק, ״וְעָרֵי מָדַי״ — זוֹ חַמְדָּן וְחַבְרוֹתֶיהָ, וְאָמְרִי לַהּ: זוֹ נִיהַר וְחַבְרוֹתֶיהָ. חַבְרוֹתֶיהָ מַאן? אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: כְּרַךְ, מוּשְׁכֵּי, חִידְקֵי וְדוּמְקֵי. אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: וְכוּלָּן לִפְסוּל.

Rav Yehuda means that there is a concern only with regard to those who came from the presumably permanent dwelling places of the ten tribes. Much of the region in question involves the metropolitan areas near the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. As Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said that the verse states about those exiled from Samaria: “And he put them in חְלַח, and in חָבוֹר, on the river of גּוֹזָן, and in the cities of מָדָי” (I Kings 18:11). Rabbi Abba bar Kahana proceeded to identify these places. חֲלַח this is the place called חִלָּזוֹן. And חָבוֹר this is חַדְיָיב (today in Northern Iraq). נְהַר גּוֹזָן is גִּינְזַק (thought to be Northeastern Syria on the Khabur River). עָרֵי מָדַי is חַמְדָּן (a city in Western Iran), and its surroundings, though some say this is נִיהַר and its surroundings (according to Steinsaltz this is northeast of the Jewish settlement in Babylonia). The Gemara asks: Which are its surroundings? Shmuel said: כְּרַךְ, מוּשְׁכֵּי, חִידְקֵי וְדוּמְקֵי. Rabbi Yocḥanan said: And all of them are for disqualification. In other words, if someone from any of these places wishes to convert, there is concern that he might be a descendant of a Jew and therefore a mamzer. Consequently, they are all פָּסוּל.

As we journey further into דף י״ז עמוּד א, Rabbi Stern forges ahead admirably so that we can make closure on פֶּרֶק רִאשׁוֹן, and ultimately הֲדַרַן עֲלָךְ חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה נָשִׁים.

And now, with a bit of a drum roll, we arrive at a powerful concept that permeates all of יְבָמוֹת and that is the זִיקָה bond. Zikah and ye shall find. The terms יְבָמָה and זְקוּקָה are synonymous, but זְקוּקָה is used when referring to the widow in the context of her זִיקָה bond.

So what exactly is זִיקָה? ArtScroll does a magnificent job of shedding light on the chemistry of the bond. When a woman’s husband dies childless, she is automatically bound to the יָבָם to some extent. Some of these bonds are stronger and some are weaker, as we have seen previously and will explore further. Essentially זִיקָה is a quasi form of marriage in the sense that there is a linkage between the יָבָם and the יְבָמָה. In fact, there are Tannaim and Amoraim treat the זְקוּקָה like the yavam’s wife to some extent. That is why the זְקוּקָה is subject to being taken in יִבּוּם without her consent, and is forbidden to marry outside the family until the יָבָם performs the יִבּוּם ceremony or opts for חַלִיצָה thereby releasing her.

Permit me to share a few personal observations, some of which we’ve already touched up in Blog Yomi and some of which we haven’t. We’ve already established that the subject of יִבּוּם is predicated on family relationships as follows:

  1. A woman becomes a יְבָמָה only if she is married to a man who dies childless.
  2. The יָבָם is the brother of the deceased husband, but they must have the same father.
  3. The principle of יִבּוּם is predicated on perpetuating the lineage of the deceased husband.
  4. The connection between the brothers can be strong or weak, strongest if they are full rather than half-brothers, and if they grew up together rather than the younger being born after the older brother dies.

There are numerous domino effects, which is why it is appropriate to use the term that the יְבָמָה “falls in front” of the יָבָם. At times it is hard to tell the players without a scorecard, which is why we have been relying on the graphically depicted “picture book” of צִיוּרִים לְמַסֶכֶת יְבָמוֹת to illustrate how the dominoes fall.

In the time of the Gemara men were allowed to have two wives, and the co-wife of the יְבָמָה is called her צָרָה, a co-wife or rival. Human nature being what it is, that has to create a complicated household and one of the reasons polygamy was banned by Rabbeinu Gershom, as noted by R’ Naftali Silberberg, was to eliminate the rivalry situation between co-wives.

Now for a topic we haven’t discussed much because the Gemara, pardon the pun, seems to skirt the issue. Why in the case of the יְבָמָה being one of the 15 cases of עֶרְוָה to the יָבָם do we say, at least according to בֵּית הִלֵל that the צָרָה gets a “get out of jail free card”? In other words, release from this game of marital dominoes occurs automatically. There is an undercurrent of the זִיקָה bond, and a sexual tension of sorts that may be Freudian in nature. The Gemara seems to shy away from innuendo in certain situation, and indulge in the psychology of this tension in others.

Consider this radical example of love-sickness from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (דף ע״ה עמוּד א):

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מעשה באדם אחד שנתן עיניו באשה אחת והעלה לבו טינא ובאו ושאלו לרופאים ואמרו אין לו תקנה עד שתבעל אמרו חכמים ימות ואל תבעל לו תעמוד לפניו ערומה ימות ואל תעמוד לפניו ערומה תספר עמו מאחורי הגדר ימות ולא תספר עמו מאחורי הגדר

As translated by Sefaria, there was an incident involving a certain man who set his eyes upon a certain woman and passion rose in his heart, to the point that he became deathly ill. And they came and asked doctors what was to be done with him. And the doctors said: He will have no cure until she engages in sexual intercourse with him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not engage in sexual intercourse with him. The doctors said: She should at least stand naked before him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not stand naked before him. The doctors suggested: The woman should at least converse with him behind a fence in a secluded area, so that he should derive a small amount of pleasure from the encounter. The Sages insisted: Let him die, and she may not converse with him behind a fence.

As Felix Pappalardi originally sang with the Young Rascals, and Bruce Springsteen covered with the E Street Band, men have been looking for Good Lovin’ as the cure for their fever since the dawn of time.

And the pièce de résistance of that Daf in Sanhedrin:

ולינסבה מינסב לא מייתבה דעתיה כדר’ יצחק דא”ר יצחק מיום שחרב בית המקדש ניטלה טעם ביאה וניתנה לעוברי עבירה שנאמר (משלי ט, יז) מים גנובים ימתקו ולחם סתרים ינעם:

The Gemara asks: But if the woman in question for whom this man was lovesick was unmarried, why doesn’t he simply marry her to cure his fever? The Gemara answers: His mind would not have been eased by marriage, in accordance with the statement of Rabbi Yitzcḥak who said that since the day the Temple was destroyed, sexual pleasure was taken away from those who engage in permitted intercourse and given to transgressors, as it is stated in מִשְׁלֵי: “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”. Therefore, the man could have been cured only by engaging in illicit sexual interaction.

I raise this issue in the context of the זִיקָה bond that pre-exists, because the יְבָמָה does have the right to break that bond, and refuse יִבּוּם if the יָבָם is unattractive to her. Specifically, if he is “מוכה שחין” which is stronger than unattractive – she actually finds him repulsive. But it’s not that simple. Much as in giving a woman a “get”, בֵּית דִין has the right to force the יָבָם to give חַלִיצָה if the יְבָמָה doesn’t want to be מְיַבֵּם. But force can only take you so far. The רמבּ״ם delineates in probably more detail than you wanted to know all of the nuances of how יִבּוּם or חַלִיצָה can be performed.

At the 30:25 mark of his video, Rabbi Stern delves into the concept of the זִיקָה bond. Is that connection between the dead brother and his wife that persists from the grave, or a new connection that exists between the the brother-in-law and his sister-in-law? One practical difference, that we’re going to see down the road, is what happens to the יְבָמָה if she has sexual relations with someone other than her brother-in-law prior to his making יִבּוּם or חַלִיצָה with her. If the זִיקָה bond still exists with the deceased until it is broken by יִבּוּם or חַלִיצָה, then she is guilty of violating אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ. If the connection is to the brother-in-law, and he has not been מְיַבֵּם her at the time of the זְנוּת occurs, then she is not culpable of violating אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ.

Our “picture book”, צִיוּרִים לְמַסֶכֶת יְבָמוֹת, on pages 104 and 105, lists 17 different scenarios in which זִיקָה applies.

Henceforth, the Gemara will be discussing two principal categories:

A. יֵשׁ זִיקָה – the default mode where the bond is strong

B. אֵין זִיקָה – the situation in which the bond is weak

Let’s look at one example of each. To illustrate אֵין זִיקָה, we turn to page 106, and the corresponding statement in our Daf which is: אָמַר רַב הוּנָא אָמַר רַב: שׁוֹמֶרֶת יָבָם שֶׁמֵּתָה — מוּתָּר בְּאִמָּהּ, אַלְמָא קָסָבַר אֵין זִיקָה. Here is the scenario:

  1. There are two brothers, Reuven and Shimon.
  2. Reuven marries Miriam, whose mother is Yocheved.
  3. Reuven dies, so Miriam falls to Shimon in יִבּוּם.
  4. Miriam dies before Shimon makes יִבּוּם.
  5. Can Shimon marry Miriam’s mother Yocheved?

If the זִיקָה bond was strong between Miriam and her brother-in-law Shimon, and it was considered as if they were married, then Yocheved has the status of Shimon’s mother-in-law and she is an עֶרְוָה to him which would negate the possibility of marriage. But if you consider this to be אֵין זִיקָה, the the bond is sufficiently weak to allow Shimon to marry Yocheved, as she would not be considered to be his mother-in-law. Let’s take a corollary of that. Same scenario, but Miriam doesn’t die, Can Shimon marry her mother Yocheved? The answer is no, because that would preclude him from making יִבּוּם to Miriam, since it is forbidden to be married to a woman and her mother simultaneously.

Now to illustrate יֵשׁ זִיקָה we turn to page 214. Here is the scenario:

  1. There are three brothers, Reuven, Shimon, and Levi.
  2. There are two sisters unrelated to the brothers, Machla and Noa
  3. Reuven marries Machla.
  4. Reuven dies, so Machla falls to Shimon and Levi.
  5. If you hold יֵשׁ זִיקָה, there is a strong bond of אַחוֹת אִישָׁה between Noa and Machla. Noa would therefore be off limits to both Shimon and Levi.
  6. If Levi wants to marry Noa, this would only be permitted if Shimon is willing to give Machla חַלִיצָה.

In this last scenario, the same would hold true in the inverse. If Shimon wanted to marry Noa, this would only be permitted if Shimon is willing to give Machla חַלִיצָה. If one holds that the זִיקָה bond is strong, the relationship between brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law can become complex. And as the Gemara will discuss, whether one says אֵין זִיקָה or יֵשׁ זִיקָה will be influenced by the nature of the residual players, and their interrelationships.

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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2 Responses to Blog Yomi – Yevamos #16

  1. doctuhdon says:

    Richly detailed and fascinating post !

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