July 14, 2024
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Blue Blood: Bava Metzia daf 113

Princes and princesses generally seek to marry other blue-blooded individuals. Such unions are forged by their common aristocratic upbringing and very often serve to form political alliances between kingdoms. That is the explanation for King Solomon’s impossibly large number of wives. Being wedded to the daughter of the Pharaoh, for example, guaranteed that Israel would not come under attack from Egypt.

When Britain’s Prince Harry announced his engagement to an American woman, Meghan Markle, the royal family was confounded by his decision. And so, the queen’s genealogical mavens got to work. They were able to trace Meghan’s ancestry through several centuries. Lo and behold, it turned out that Harry and Meghan were actually fourteenth cousins!

The news piqued my curiosity, and I wondered whether my wife might be related to them in some way. Batya is similarly blue-blooded, stemming from King David’s lineage, with famous rabbinic personages figuring prominently along her prestigious yichus line. I compared her ancestry with Prince Harry’s, and sure enough, she is also a fourteenth cousin!

Upon learning of her new cousins, she turned to me and said, “Well, I guess at this point, I just have to accept that I’m married to a commoner.”

“Not so fast,” I replied, and I shared with her the following Gemara….

***

Today’s daf discusses the prohibition of keeping a collateral item which a poor borrower requires for his daily living. While the item must be returned as he needs it, eventually it may be sold and replaced with a similar, but less expensive, item.

מַתְנִי׳ הַמַּלְוֶה אֶת חֲבֵירוֹ לֹא יְמַשְׁכְּנֶנּוּ אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין וְלֹא יִכָּנֵס לְבֵיתוֹ לִיטּוֹל מַשְׁכּוֹנוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּחוּץ תַּעֲמֹד וּמַחְזִיר אֶת הַכַּר בַּלַּיְלָה וְאֶת הַמַּחְרֵישָׁה בַּיּוֹם רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר אֵינוֹ מַחְזִיר אֶלָּא עַד שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּמִשְּׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּלְהַלָּן מוֹכְרָן בְּבֵית דִּין: גְּמָ׳
וּמִמַּאי דְּכִי קָאָמַר רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל זַבּוֹנֵי לִגְמָרֵי קָאָמַר דִּלְמָא הָכִי קָאָמַר עַד שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם [מַ]הְדַּר לֵיהּ בְּעֵינֵיהּ מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ מַיהְדַּר לֵיהּ לְמַאי דַּחֲזֵי לֵיהּ וּמְזַבְּנִינַן מַאי דְּלָא חֲזֵי לֵיהּ אִי סָלְקָא דַעְתָּךְ אִית לֵיהּ לְרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַאי סְבָרָא לֵיכָּא מִידֵּי דְּלָא חֲזֵי לֵיהּ דְּאָמַר אַבָּיֵי רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן וְרַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל וְרַבִּי עֲקִיבָא כּוּלְּהוּ סְבִירָא לְהוּ כׇּל יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּנֵי מְלָכִים הֵן בִּשְׁלָמָא כַּר וָכֶסֶת חֲזֵי לֵיהּ דְּבֵינֵי בֵּינֵי אֶלָּא מַחְרֵישָׁה לְמַאי חַזְיָא אָמַר רָבָא בַּר רַבָּה מַחְרֵישָׁה דְּכַסְפָּא

Mishna: A creditor may only take a collateral under the auspices of the court. And he may not enter the debtor’s house to take his collateral, as it says, “You shall stand outside.” And he must return a pillow at night (if that is the collateral) and a plow, by day. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: He must return the collateral each day only up to thirty days have passed, and from thirty days onward, the creditor can sell them in court (with the proceeds going toward payment of the debt).

Gemara: And from where is it known that when Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said that he sells the collateral, he meant a total sale? Perhaps he meant that up until thirty days, he returns it to the debtor as is; from that point onward, he gives him a cheaper equivalent item, and we sell the fancier collateral item. But we cannot assume that to be Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel’s position, because no item would be too fancy for him. As Abaye taught: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel and Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva all maintain that all Jewish people are princes! (Moreover, the mishna’s example of) a pillow or cushion makes sense, because one can substitute the debtor’s belongings for similar items of average value. But how would he substitute a plow? Rava bar Rabba said: If the debtor had a plow made of silver!

***

The blessing of living as a prince or princess is an incredible privilege and an awesome state of being. You are royalty and the world is your oyster. Yet at the same time you must endure a fishbowl existence, as everyone watches your every move. That can be rather stressful for certain princes and princesses who want to enjoy all the luxuries of royalty but meanwhile declare that they never signed up for the complexities that accompany their special status.

This unusual dichotomy was probably always an issue that royals had to deal with. But it has reached its zenith in the modern era when we have an unusual set of circumstances surrounding an archaic concept called monarchy that has endured historically against all odds. It remains this holdover from a bygone era that everyone romanticizes, while at the same time not quite knowing how our attitudes fit into the framework of our modern libertarian, individualistic sensibilities. Centuries ago, Americans rejected the monarchy. And still, Americans are fascinated by the most mundane minutiae of the lives of the British royals. Logically, it makes no sense. And yet, for better or worse, through the good times and the bad, Americans view the British royals as celebrities. Here’s the irony, though. They will honor them. But they will also jump at the opportunity to poke fun and belittle them.

If that’s how it is with mortal royals, then you can imagine how infinitely wider and more complicated the chasm and bewilderment is between regular folks and spiritual royals. When you are blessed to be called a child of the Almighty, a prince or princess of the Supreme King of Kings, all eyes are going to be on you. Your every move is going to be scrutinized. But that shouldn’t be a cause for self-pity or cries of victimhood. Step up to the plate. Accept the challenge. Boldly demonstrate to the world that you are proud to be a prince. That you are proud to be a princess. That you have nothing to be ashamed of. That you have nothing to hide. That whatever fingers they point at you will not shake your royal self-confidence. Yes, you will call out antisemitism when it happens, but you will never let it affect you personally. You’re so much greater than the lowlifes seeking to needlessly break you and your fellow princes.

This phenomenon occurs not just on an individual level but on a national level, too. People complain that the Jewish State of Israel comes under far greater scrutiny and criticism than any other country in the world. They say that’s antisemitic. And, undoubtedly, sometimes it may very well be. But it also stems from the fact that it is the sole country on Earth that was granted sovereignty by the Almighty Himself. It is a royal country. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that it operates in a fishbowl. And that for every tiny move, the “United Paparazzi” spare no effort to criticize, to scrutinize and to chastise. That’s just how they deal with royalty.

How do royals deal with the attacks? They don’t allow the nobodies to bring them down. They respond calmly and resolutely, forever maintaining their dignity and grace. They don’t lose sleep over the verbal abuse and lashon hara. They revel in the knowledge that they’re being assaulted precisely because of their royal status. Any denigrating comments are designed to deflate their honor, and they’ll have none of it. And that’s how we need to deal with the barrage of anti-Israel sentiment. Don’t ask, “Why Israel?” Instead, take pride in the fact that Israel has been singled out, due to its uniquely royal status. Don’t get into a tizzy when some antisemite baselessly attacks Israel in an online comment. Be grateful that you’re on the royal team and have the opportunity to defend the spiritual monarchy from the vicious onslaught of the jealous haters. Every time you respond with calm and precision, you have strengthened the royal nation. That’s nothing to get upset about, it’s something to celebrate!

For many decades, it wasn’t easy to settle the Promised Land. Life was a challenge, and it felt far from royal territory. But today, we are living in an age when we are beating our swords not just into plowshares, but silver plowshares, as Israel has become an economic powerhouse and global leader. May you always hold your head high and take pride in your royal status!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of “The Transformative Daf” book series. He battles Christian antisemitism and teaches international relations at Landers.

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