Blog Yomi – Yevamos #44

Yesterday we covered the three-way מַחְלוֹקֶת among tana’im regarding the designation of מַמְזֵרִ. Casting a broad net, or being strict about a couple having a child in violation of a לַאו (okay, I’ll go ahead and say it: Their illicit union produces a לַאו child) bumps up the population count of מַמְזֵרִים.

A more moderate, or middle of the road designation was adopted by רַב שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי representing the חַכָמִים. A relatively lenient position which spares many more children and their families the ignominy of the מַמְזֵרִ designation was adopted by רַב יְהוֹשֻׁעַ. To summarize:

  1. Strict = רַבּי עַקִיבָא, encompassing a larger number of illicit relations, says a mamzer is the product of violating chayvei lavin. For example, the child of a כֹּהֵן and a גְרוּשָׁה.
  2. The חַכָמִים, and specifically Rav Shimon HaTimni, says not from chayvei lavin, but from chayvei kriysus, such as a child who is the product of a man having intercourse with his sister. This in fact is how we פַּסְקָן.
  3. Lenient = רַב יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, who says that only a child that is the product of a union that is chayvei misas beis din is considered to be a מַמְזֵר. As an example, the child of a union between a man and his mother or mother-in-law. רַב יְהוֹשֻׁעַ agrees that in the case of חַייבֵי כְּרִיתוּת, even though the child isn’t designated as a מַמְזֵר he is a פָּגוּם, and as such would be פָּסוּל to the כְּהוּנָה.

You know the fact that deciding who is a Jew is matrilineal, correct? What you may not have known is that this was, in fact, the subject of great debate among two camps of very heavy hitting Amora’im: The Mama? The Papa?

We begin the Daf today on דף מ״ד עמוּד ב, three lines from the bottom, with further consideration of lineage:

אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: הַכֹּל מוֹדִים בְּעֶבֶד וְגוֹי הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהַוָּלָד מַמְזֵר

The Gemara considers the status of other children born from forbidden unions: Rabba bar bar Chana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Everyone agrees with regard to a slave or a gentile who engaged in intercourse with a Jewish woman that the offspring born from such a union is a mamzer.

מַאן ״הַכֹּל מוֹדִים״ — שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי. דְּאַף עַל גַּב דְּאָמַר שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי אֵין מַמְזֵר מֵחַיָּיבֵי לָאוִין — הָנֵי מִילֵּי …

מֵחַיָּיבֵי לָאוִין דְּתָפְסִי בְּהוּ קִדּוּשִׁין, אֲבָל הָכָא, גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד, כֵּיוָן דְּלָא תָּפְסִי בְּהוּ קִדּוּשִׁין — כְּחַיָּיבֵי כָּרֵיתוֹת דְּמֵי

The Gemara clarifies: Who is included by saying: ״הַכֹּל מוֹדִים״? It is שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי. Although he said that a לַאו child is not a mamzer, this applies only to forbidden relations in which קִדּוּשִׁין is תּוֹפֵס. However with regard to a gentile and a slave, since קִדּוּשִׁין of a Jewish woman with either would not be valid, a union between them is comparable to forbidden relations for which one is liable to receive כָּרֵת. Therefore, the offspring of such a union will be a mamzer.

Well … that sounds logical, but the Gemara isn’t satisfied that whether or not קִדּוּשִׁין is תּוֹפֵס should be the arbiter.

מֵיתִיבִי: גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל — הַוָּלָד מַמְזֵר. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר: אֵין מַמְזֵר אֶלָּא מִמִּי שֶׁאִיסּוּרוֹ אִיסּוּר עֶרְוָה וְעָנוּשׁ כָּרֵת

רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יְהוּדָה says ditch the distinction between קִדּוּשִׁין being תּוֹפֵס or not. The only thing that matters is whether or not the union involves כְּרִיתוּת. Since גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל is not כְּרִיתוּת, the child is not a mamzer. With this, שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי agrees. If so, we’re back to our original question: Who is the Gemara referring to when it says ״הַכֹּל מוֹדִים״ that this child is a מַמְזֵר?

Rav Yosef claims it is the great R’ Yehuda HaNasi!

אֶלָּא אָמַר רַב יוֹסֵף: מַאן ״הַכֹּל מוֹדִים״ — רַבִּי, אַף עַל גַּב דְּרַבִּי אוֹמֵר: אֵין הַדְּבָרִים הַלָּלוּ אֲמוּרִים אֶלָּא לְדִבְרֵי רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא, שֶׁהָיָה עוֹשֶׂה חֲלוּצָה כְּעֶרְוָה, וְלֵיהּ לָא סְבִירָא לֵיהּ, בְּגוֹי וְעֶבֶד מוֹדֶה. דְּכִי אֲתָא רַב דִּימִי, אָמַר רַב יִצְחָק בַּר אֲבוּדִימִי מִשּׁוּם רַבֵּינוּ: גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל — הַוָּלָד מַמְזֵר

As Rashi explains, indeed – it is Rebbe (and not שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּימְנִי) who agrees that even though גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל is not כָּרֵת, nevertheless the child is a mamzer:

אף על גב דקאמר רבי – בפרק ר”ג אין ביאה אחר חליצה דאם חלץ לזו ובעל את זו אינה צריכה הימנו גט וקאמר אין הדברים הללו אמורים דביאה אחר חליצה לא תפסה אלא לדברי ר”ע כו’ אבל לדידיה לא סבירא ליה אפילו הכי בעובד כוכבים ועבד מודים

The Gemara continues: רַבִּי אַחָא שַׂר הַבִּירָה וְרַבִּי תַּנְחוּם בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי חִיָּיא אִישׁ כְּפַר עַכּוֹ פְּרוּק הָנְהוּ שְׁבוּיָיתָא דַּאֲתוֹ מֵאַרְמוֹן לִטְבֶרְיָא. הֲוָה חֲדָא דְּאִעַבַּרָא מִגּוֹי, וַאֲתוֹ לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי אַמֵּי, אֲמַר לְהוּ: רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וְרַבִּי חֲנִינָא דְּאָמְרִי: גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל — הַוָּלָד מַמְזֵר

R’ Acha (a 3rd generation Amora of אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל) and R’ Tanchum were great scholars who were also civic minded, active in redeeming captives who came from Armenia to Tiberias. Unfortunately rape during Armenian genocide stems from a long history of Turks behaving badly, and on this occasion one had been impregnated by a gentile. The two Amora’im came before R’ Ami to ask what the status of the child would be. He cites Reb Yochanan, Reb Elazar, and Reb Chanina who were unanimous in saying that the child is a mamzer.

Young Armenian woman looking to the side

“Don’t start name-dropping on me!” counters Rav Yosef. “I’ll see you three All-Star Amora’im and raise you one”, citing רַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל בְּבָבֶל, וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי וּבַר קַפָּרָא who all say that the child is not a mamzer:

אָמַר רַב יוֹסֵף: רְבוּתָא לְמִחְשַׁב גַּבְרֵי?! הָא רַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל בְּבָבֶל, וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי וּבַר קַפָּרָא בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמְרִי לַהּ חַלּוֹפֵי בַּר קַפָּרָא וְעַיֹּילֵי זִקְנֵי דָרוֹם, דְּאָמְרִי: גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל הַוָּלָד כָּשֵׁר

And they go back and forth in a one-upsmanship verbal tug of war before agreeing that the child isn’t a mamzer (in accordance with the great Tanna, Rav Yehuda HaNasi), but is a פָּגוּם, and therefore disqualified from marrying into the kahuna based on our קַל וָחוֹמֶר cited in yesterday’s Daf as related to the status of a widow with regard to the כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל.

But it doesn’t end there. Differences of opinion exist as to what Rav Yehuda HaNasi actually said. It is amazing to think that the fundamental tenet of our religion, that the determination of who is a Jew follows the mother’s lineage rather than the father’s, was such a contested subject. It was so hotly contested that שִׁימִי בַּר חִיָּיא told רַב that the origin of the matter is as likely to be ascertained with as much certainty as trying to get a camel to do a jig in a small space.

… or as Rashi comments regarding knowing the truth in a chidush that comes from far away: יבא וירקד לפנינו כלומר אתה שהתרת דבר חידוש האמת דבריך ותן לו בתך

Now you would think that if the status of a child who is the product of a union between an עֶבֶד and a בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל is that it is a full-fledged Jew because of the mother’s Jewishness, there would be no question if the father was a half-עֶבֶד. Nevertheless, the Gemara is compelled to pose that question: שְׁלַחוּ לֵיהּ בְּנֵי בֵּי מִיכְסֵי לְרַבָּה: מִי שֶׁחֶצְיוֹ עֶבֶד וְחֶצְיוֹ בֶּן חוֹרִין הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל, מַהוּ? אֲמַר לְהוּ: הַשְׁתָּא עֶבֶד כּוּלּוֹ, אָמְרִינַן כָּשֵׁר — חֶצְיוֹ מִיבַּעְיָא

But as we transition to דף מ״ד עמוּד ב, the Gemara says it isn’t so clear cut. After all, the master of this sugya is רַב יְהוּדָה, and he holds that the child in such a case is a mamzer! The logic is as follows: Until now we’ve been saying that the עֶבֶד impregnated a בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל who is unmarried. But in the case of a half-עֶבֶד or half-Jew, the בֶּן חוֹרִין half of him marries her and the non-Jewish half him impregnates her and therefore the child is a mamzer! Wow! Remember the line we shared yesterday from the movie Hester Street, that you can’t dance with one tuchus at two weddings? Looks like we might have a variant here.

And finally … at the 32:15 mark of Rabbi Stern’s video, we get to the bottom line. As long as the mother is a בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל, the child is a full-fledged Jew: וְהִלְכְתָא: גּוֹי וְעֶבֶד הַבָּא עַל בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל — הַוָּלָד כָּשֵׁר, בֵּין בִּפְנוּיָה בֵּין בְּאֵשֶׁת אִישׁ

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 #44

  1. doctuhdon says:

    Didn’t we have a discussion earlier in Yevamos establishing the halachic basis for matrilineal descent ?

    Their illicit union produces a לַאו child ; that’s brilliant 😊

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