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Issue # 310 - Yevamot 48 - 54 For the week of 10 16 Shevat 5760 / 17 23 January 2000 (Parshat Beshalach)


Yevamot 48 - 54 Week of 10 16 Shevat 5760 / 17 23 January 2000

Rav Weinbach's insights, explanations and comments for the 7 pages of Talmud

studied in the course of the worldwide Daf Yomi cycle

How Reliable is the Record?

A mamzer

whom he can marry.

But what exactly is a mamzer

defines a mamzer as a child born from parents whose union is forbidden by law. How serious the violation must be to produce a

mamzer is a matter of dispute.

The strictest approach is that of Rabbi Akiva who rules that even if the relationship is punishable only by lashes and not

with death its product is a mamzer. On the opposite extreme is the view of Rabbi Yehoshua that only if the violation is punishable

by death at the hands of the court is the child considered a mamzer. In between is the position of the Sage Shimon the Timnite,

that even if the violation is punishable by karet (extirpation, or premature death) the child is a mamzer.

An interesting support was provided for the position of Rabbi Yehoshua by Rabbi Shimon ben Azai. (Rashash notes that

points out in Mesechta Avot 4:1). He found an old family record in Jerusalem which stated that a certain person was a mamzer

punishable by death at the hands of the court was he considered a mamzer, and not if the violation had been punishable by a

lesser penalty. The halacha, nevertheless, is like the position of Shimon the Timnite. The record cited by Shimon ben Azai is not

considered a conclusive proof because it may simply have been reporting the facts on the case rather than describing halachic


Shimon ben Azai, however, interpreted this record as a halachic statement that only a violation punishable by death at

the hands of the court creates a mamzer. Why then, asks Tosefot, did the record not simply state that he was a mamzer because

his parents had committed a capital crime, rather than mention the specific nature of their offense? His answer is that the record

wished to stress that even though adultery is punishable by the least severe of the four categories of death penalties, and even

though a married woman can become permissible by divorce in the lifetime of her husband (a situation unique to a married

woman, which does not exist for relatives forbidden through marriage; such relatives remain forbidden even with the end of that

marriage), the product of such a union is nevertheless a mamzer.

Yevamot 49a

Abusing the Agent

Even though the penalty of lashes mentioned in the Torah applies only to one who has transgressed a Torah prohibition, the

makot mardut

Among those violations for which the Sage Rav decreed such a punishment was the abusing of an agent of the Rabbis.

Rashi explains that this refers to the agent of a rabbinical court. Tosefot, however, contends that this is a reference to an agent of

any Torah Sage and not necessarily of a rabbinical court. As support for this position, Tosefot cites the following incident related

in Mesechta Kiddushin (70a):

A resident of the Babylonian community of Nehardea entered a butcher shop in the city of Pumpedita and ordered some

meat. He was told that he would be served only after they filled the order of the agent of Rabbi Yehuda ben Yechezkel. Upset by

When it was reported to Rabbi Yehuda how this rude fellow had abused his agent, he excommunicated him. This,

concludes Tosefot, proves that abusing the agent of a Torah Sage, even when he is not acting in the capacity of an agent of the

court, deserves punishment.

One problem, however, remains. The gemara (Pesachim 52a) states that excommunication is a more severe penalty

than lashes. Why then, asks Tosefot, did Rabbi Yehuda not settle for the lashes dictated by the Sage Rav?

The answer, suggests Tosefot, may be that giving lashes is a sufficient punishment for one who abuses the agent of the

Sage because this is only an indirect directly by

he more severe penalty, excommunication.

Yevamot 52a