May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 98. These are some highlights.
Bava Batra 98: How do you measure humility?
Our Gemara teaches about the horrors of arrogance and the blessing of humility. Rav Chiya Bar Yosef taught that the arrogance of a man would cause Hashem to make his wine go bad. In addition, Rav Mari taught that if a man was arrogant the members of his household would not respect him. His wife would disparage him because he was boastful and arrogant. A person needs to check with his wife. If she respects him then he is possibly a humble man. The want to measure humility is to see how the members of the household think of the master of the house. If they are dismissive of him, he is arrogant. If they say he is humble, then he can trust that he is a humble person. The Almighty only allows the humble to enter His domain.
Ya’arot Devash (1:3) explained a Gemara in Berachot in light of our Gemara. Berachot 27b relates that the sages removed Rabban Gamliel from his position as nasi, head of the high court. They offered the position of nasi to Reb Elazar ben Azarya. Reb Elazar ben Azarya responded that he needed to consult with his wife and the members of his household. Why did Reb Elazar ben Azarya respond in this way? Why did he not immediately accept or reject the offer?
Ya’arot Devash answered that Reb Elazar ben Azarya knew that Rabban Gamliel had lost his position due to arrogance. If he himself was arrogant, his presidency would be short-lived. Man never acknowledges his own flaws. The arrogant person convinces himself that he is really humble. The way to know if one is arrogant is to talk to the members of the household. They will not respect the master of the house who is pompous and vain. He therefore asked his wife if he should accept the offer of nesiut. He knew that if she would encourage it, that would mean that she respected him, which would mean that he was humble and his position might last. If she would tell him that he did not deserve such honor, that might indicate that she did not respect him for she saw his arrogance. If he was vain, he knew he would not last in the job and he would turn it down.
Habit becomes second nature. A person who is arrogant at home with the members of his household will walk out into the street and be arrogant and difficult with others. A person who is humble and submissive to the individuals in his own home will be humble and soft when he deals with others in the street. Such a man can enter the domain of the Almighty and will deserve blessings. (Hamevaser Torani)
May a son-in-law live in the home of his in-laws?
Our Gemara quotes a lesson from the book of Ben Sira. Ben Sira was a sage from Jerusalem who was a contemporary of Shimon Hatzadik. He composed a book of wisdom similar in form to the style of Proverbs. Our Sages would quote his work. He wrote that “I weighed all on scales, I found nothing lighter than clumpy flour. Then I found a lighter matter. A son-in-law who lives in the home of his father-in-law and mother-in-law.” Rashbam explains that the Gemara in Pesachim (113a) taught that a husband must watch his wife from possibly having a too-close relationship with her first son-in-law. It is possible for this relationship to lead to inappropriate behavior. Ben Sira was teaching about this danger. He was saying that just as clumpy flour is inferior and not a matter of value, a son-in-law living in the home of his in-laws is engaged in lowly behavior.
In Tractate Kiddushin (12b) the Gemara lists activities Rav would punish with lashes or excommunication. Rav would punish a person who would marry through marital relations. He would punish those who would marry without first having a relationship, man demakedash lelo shiduchi, and he would punish a son-in-law who would live in the home of his father-in-law and mother-in-law.
Does this law still apply? Is a son-in-law not allowed to live in the home of his in-laws due to fear about a possible relationship between the child-in-law and the mother-in-law?
Tosafot in tractate Kiddushin (s.v. bekulhu) teach that the view of the sages of Nehardea that Rav would not punish the son-in-law who lived in the home of his mother-in-law is the halacha. Halacha follows the Nehardeans and that is why a son-in-law would live in the home of his mother-in-law in the times of the Tosafists. Tosafot adds that even according to the first version of Rav’s practices there are grounds to permit a son-in-law to live with his in-laws. Many struggle financially. It is a great help for the couple to live in the home of the wife’s parents. When it is clear that there is a financial basis for the practice, we do not need to fear that people will suspect an untoward relationship between mother-in-law and son-in-law. Furthermore, Maharshal (Amudei Shlomo on the Semag, Lo Ta’aseh 126 95b) was of the opinion that according to the Rambam there is no prohibition on the son-in-law living in the home of the mother-in-law. It is merely a more morally preferable practice. Therefore, when facing pressing financial need, the son-in-law may live in the home of his in-laws.
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.