Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

Back to Shiurim List

Revealed and Concealed Components of Rabbinic Enactments- Part II

By: Rav Yechezkel Yakovson

A shiur from Rav Yechezkel Yakobson, Rosh Yeshivat Sha'alvim. This is a translation from an article that originally appeared in the HaMa'ayan publication.

Summary of Part I: A tradition exists from the Gra that Chazal did not list all of the reasons for their enactments and decrees. Frequently, Chazal express a halachic concern for an enactment, but conceal a wider, educational factor that generated the decree.

The opening Mishnah of Masechet Ketubot records the rabbinic requirement of a virgin to be wed on Wednesday evening. If the groom encounters doubts as to the virginity of his bride he will immediately approach the Jewish court of law (beit din) the next morning (beit din was in session on Monday and Thursday mornings).

At first glance, it is difficult to comprehend what is the benefit of such an enactment. Even if the bride was not a virgin, she would remain permitted to her husband, due to the existence of two doubts (sefek sfeka). 1. Perhaps the illicit union was non-consensual. 2. Even if it was consensual, perhaps the union transpired while the woman was single (before betrothal- erusin).

Rashi responds that (subsequent to the complaint of the groom in beit din) perhaps witnesses will testify that the bride willingly committed adultery while betrothed- thus forbidding her to the groom. Tosafat maintain that Chazal primarily designed this enactment for situations of one doubt (a wife of a kohen, who is forbidden even when violated against her will, or a women who was betrothed before the age of 3, where it is apparent that the illicit union transpired while she was already betrothed). As an aside (agav) to the cases of one doubt, Chazal extended the requirement to be wed on Wednesday evenings to all virgins.

Yet, both of these explanations apparently remain difficult. According to Rashi, if a double doubt is permitted, why did Chazal require us to create conditions that will encourage witnesses to testify? In reference to Tosafot, why should the majority of couples be obligated to wed on a specific evening to solve halachic concerns relating to the majority? In addition (as the Pnei Yehoshua points out, predicated upon the position of Rabeinu Yonah), even the women who are in the category of one doubt will be believed if they voice specific claims that explain their apparent lack of virginal status. Should 99% be subjugated to the concerns of a microscopic minority?!  Furthermore, the gemara records that at a specific stage in history this enactment generated a tremendous violation of privacy amongst Jewish women. The nations required brides being wed on Wednesday evenings to engage in relations with the local chieftain. Chazal would not repeal the enactment, for the local decree was of a temporal nature. This is truly incomprehensible- in order to solve a narrow halachic concern that may occur amongst a fraction of young couples, all Jewish brides must suffer?!

It appears that the enactment to be wed on Wednesday evenings is primarily educational and designed to strengthen the institution of modesty (tzniut) in the Jewish People. All potential brides should be aware that beit din is in session on the morning subsequent to the marriage. This functioned as a deterrent for  women from participating in illicit relations.

Likewise, this institution encouraged husbands to complain in beit din, if the need would arise. The terminology at the end of the Mishnah supports this thesis; all husbands (not only in cases of double doubt) were invited to air their claims if their was an apparent lack of modesty. Thus, the enactment of Chazal was designed to safeguard and strengthen the purity of the Jewish family.

The Rishonim endeavored to explain the rationale of the specific halachic issue that Chazal mentioned. Yet, the broad benefit of this enactment spanned far beyond the case(s) mentioned by the Rishonim. Thus, Chazal did not repeal their enactment even in the face of terrible external factors. For the local decrees were of a temporal nature, and the enactment of Chazal was designed to uphold the sanctified state of the Jewish home.

Be'ezrat Hashem, next weeks' installment will engage another enactment of Chazal and investigate the apparent and concealed reasons that generated it.



Categorized under: 1: Miscellaneous > General
Uploaded: 10/23/2006 11:56:32 PM