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Bava Batra 176 and Sanhedrin 2

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.


This week we completed the study of Bava Batra and began Sanhedrin. These are some highlights.

Bava Batra 176: Why is monetary law so special?

Bava Batra closes with a powerful declaration of the importance of studying monetary law. “Rav Yishmael taught that if one wishes to become wise he should be involved in monetary laws. There is no deeper subject than they. They are like a spring producing new streams.” Why is monetary law so special? Why is it the deepest matter? How is its study an experience of a vibrant spring?

Tiferet Yisrael (Bava Batra, Perek Yud, Mishnah 8) explains. “There is no other area of Torah law in which Hashem has granted permission to the human mind to soar according to its abilities. You can investigate, dig and decide based on your understanding. In no other area of Jewish law does human understanding play such a great role.”

Chatam Sofer (Shabbos 31) points out a contradiction. Our mishnah teaches that wisdom is attained from monetary law. However, in Shabbos 31a Resh Lakish explained a verse in Yeshaya (33:6) as encouraging the study of the Six Orders of Mishnah. “And the faith of your times shall be a strength of salvations, wisdom and knowledge, the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” “Faith” refers to the order of seeds (agricultural laws), “your times” the order of holiday law, “strength” the order of women (laws about marriage), “salvations” the order of damages and monetary law, “wisdom” the order of laws about consecrated items, and “knowledge” refers to the order about laws of purity. In light of our mishnah, shouldn’t the study of damages and monetary law be called knowledge? Yet, Reish Lakish says that the order of Kodshim is called knowledge.

Chatam Sofer answers that there are two types of knowledge, Godly wisdom and human understanding. As Tiferet Yisrael taught, monetary law is about human understanding. Deep study of monetary law makes the human mind sharper. The tractates that discuss the Temple, consecrated items and the laws of holiness are filled with interpretations of verses based on the 13 rules of Torah exposition. A sharp human mind cannot, on its own, realize how a verse should be interpreted. It is Godly wisdom that inspires interpretation of verses. After sharpening the human intellect through study of monetary law, we gain true wisdom when we appreciate the Godly intellect in the expositions of verses in the laws about consecrated items.

Shem MiShmuel (Vayeishev 5678) adds that the Talmud stresses the power of monetary law in completing the discussions that deal with damages. He suggests that this teaches a potent lesson. There are two ways to attain holiness. One, by doing good and adding merits. The second path is by avoiding sin. You actually get more holiness when you resist temptation and stay away from sin than you get from adding good deeds. Throughout our father Yaakov’s life he added holiness. When he ran from his brother Esav to live in the house of the thief Lavan he knew he would have to resist temptation and avoid sin. To gain the strength to avoid sin, he studied in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for 14 years. Knowing that he needed strength to avoid theft he studied monetary law. Through study of monetary law we learn to treasure the property of others and avoid sin. Yaakov learned Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia and Bava Batra in yeshiva, and then he was ready to take on the great challenge of Lavan. As we complete Bava Batra, may it give us wisdom and the strength to withstand the temptations we face. (Mesivta)

Sanhedrin 2: Do we need a beit din to give a get?

Bava Batra 174 seems to state explicitly that there is no need for a beit din to deliver a get from husband to wife. The Gemara relates a story about Rav Huna. Abaye said that Rav Huna would be able to get divorced without a court. This Gemara seems to indicate that a husband can give his wife a get without the involvement of a court and it will be valid.

Noda BeYehuda (Tinyana Even Ha’ezer Siman 114) deals with the question of whether a get needs a beit din. A rav had arranged a get. For a court, he used himself, his son-in-law and another man. The question was raised about the validity of this get. A son-in-law cannot be a member of the same court as his father-in-law. He is a relative. This get did not have a kosher beit din. Was it therefore not a kosher get?

Noda BeYehuda points out that Rabbeinu Gershom had a different version of our Gemara. According to this version, Abaye said that Rav Huna could give a get in front of a court of simpletons. According to this reading, a get must be performed in a court, albeit a court of simple individuals is also sufficient.

Noda BeYehuda proved from Rashi’s comment in the beginning of tractate Sanhedrin that a get must be performed in court. The first mishnah in Sanhedrin lists actions that need a court of three. It mentions monetary judgments, chalitzah and miun ceremonies. Rashi writes that miun is when a young girl rejects rabbinic marriage. The rabbis legislated that a mother or brother can marry off a girl who is younger than 12. However, the girl has the right to walk out of that marriage through miun. Rashi says that miun is to be performed in front of three judges, for the Sages modeled their law on the biblical law of kol detikkun rabbanan ke’ein d’Orayta tikkun (whatever law the rabbis enacted, they enacted in the manner of a biblical law). The biblical model for miun is a get that a husband gives to his wife. Noda BeYehuda therefore was of the opinion that Rashi was teaching that a get must be given in front of a beit din of three. (Mesivta)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.


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