May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

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

 

This week we learned Bava Metzia 60 and 62. These are some highlights.

Bava Metzia 60: Coloring hair and permissible deception

Our Mishnah ruled that a seller may not create a misimpression to help sell an item. A seller may not create a falsely positive appearance for a person, animal or utensil that he wishes to sell. Rashi explains that person, in the Mishnah, refers to a non-Jewish slave. If an owner sought to sell his slave, he may not color the slave’s hair to make him appear younger than he really is in order to trick the buyer into paying a higher price for the slave. Achronim questioned this Gemara. Dyeing the hair of a slave should have been prohibited even if it was not done to deceive a potential purchaser. A man may not wear a woman’s garment. Rambam (Hilchot Avoda Zara 12:10) and Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 182:6) rule that “lo yilbash” prohibits a man from dyeing his hair to appear younger. Why, then, does our Gemara only condemn this behavior for it might mislead a buyer? It should have been prohibited as beged ishah (women’s clothing)!

Shu”t Shoel Umeishiv suggested that Rashi, as a resolution to this question, was precise in explaining that the Gemara dealt with a non-Jewish slave. A gentile slave does not have all the mitzvah obligations of a Jew. He only must observe the mitzvot a woman must do. A woman may dye her hair to look younger! Since our Gemara dealt with a non-Jewish slave, it correctly taught that only based on the obligation not to fool a customer was there a ruling not to dye his hair. Others disagree. They feel an eved Canaani may not dye his hair. However, according to Beit Yosef, the prohibition of a man performing feminine acts is only when he intends to be feminine. Here the hair was dyed to look younger to be more easily purchased. It wasn’t part of an attempt to act like a woman. Therefore, there was no prohibition of lo yilbash gever simlat ishah (a man may not wear the clothing of a woman).

Ya’avetz understood Rashi differently. He taught that Rashi explained that our Gemara’s case was with the attempted sale of a gentile slave—for when selling a Jewish slave, dyeing hair is permitted. A Jewish slave is not sold as an object. A Jewish slave is sold if he needs money to live or if he stole and needs money to repay the theft. Purchasing a Jewish slave is a form of giving him charity. Every Jew wishes deep down to give charity. Just as Rambam ruled that a court can force a man to say he wants to give his wife a get, for deep down the recalcitrant husband wants to do the right thing, each Jew deep down wishes to give charity. Therefore, a man may dye his hair to sell himself as a Jewish slave. The coloring of the hair would be viewed by halacha as a way of getting to the inner will of the buyer. It is akin to the court using coercive methods to reveal the inner will of the husband.

Ya’avetz suggested that the same would hold true for a father who wished to send his Jewish daughter into the home of a Jewish man as an amah Ivriya (Jewish maidservant). It would be permitted to dye the hair of a prospective amah Ivriya. Everyone deep down wants to do the mitzvah of helping the poor family. Dyeing the hair of the young lady to encourage her purchase would be analogous to a story in tractate Nedarim.

The Gemara in Nedarim related a story about Jewish beauty. A man was supposed to marry his niece. He did not like her appearance. He made a vow that he would never derive any benefit from her. Rav Yishmael was informed of his words. Rav Yishmael bedecked the girl in jewels and cosmetics. He brought the man to see the young lady. He asked him, “Is this the woman you never want to receive benefit from?” The man responded, “This woman is beautiful. I would never have made a vow to separate myself from her.” Rav Yishmael informed the man that the woman he found so attractive was the same woman he had prohibited to himself. Since his vow had been based on a mistaken belief, Rav Yishmael annulled the vow. Rav Yishmael then wept. “All Jewish girls are beautiful. It is poverty that makes them appear unappealing,” he said.

An amah Ivriya can become the spouse of her master. It is a mitzvah to help a poor girl by marrying her. Everyone deep down wants to perform mitzvot. Therefore, the father may dye the hair of his daughter to make her more attractive.

In light of the idea of Ya’avetz that a prospective eved Ivri and amah Ivriya may dye their hair to appear younger, Rav Zilberstein issued a remarkable ruling. A 30-year-old woman was having a hard time finding a husband. Her hair was beginning to turn gray. She asked Rav Zilberstein if she could dye her hair and present herself as a 20-year-old in order to get a 20-year-old man to marry her. Rav Zilberstein ruled that she may do so. Ya’avetz taught that it is not deception to encourage the inner voice of a Jew to emerge. Deep down Jews want to do mitzvot. It is a mitzvah to marry a woman. It is a greater mitzvah to marry a 30-year-old woman who had endured years of disappointment. Deep down the 20-year-old man wants to marry her. He is not listening to his inner voice. Were she to present as a gray-haired 30-year-old he would not hear his inner voice. She, therefore, may dye her hair and present herself as a young lady. The young man will marry her as per his inner wishes. It will be a full-fledged marriage. Since she is still at an age when she can bear children and she is not so old as to shake with infirmity, the information she withheld from her husband would not be grounds to annul the marriage.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 (Daf Yomi Digest, Chashukei Chemed)

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