By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 76 – Diamonds are Created Under Pressure
Two interesting stories, both having to do with yichus, appear in today’s Daf. The first is the story of a man by the name Minyamin, who came to be known as Minyamin Ger Mitzri because he started off as an Egyptian gentile who converted to become a Jew.
Before Sancheiriv and Nevuchadnetzar wreaked their havoc of destruction and international displacement, an Egyptian who would become a ger could not marry regular Jews until the third generation. In this vein, the Gemara quotes what Minyamin Ger Mitzri said about himself and his plan: “I am a first generation Mitzri [convert] and I married a woman who is a first-generation Mitzris [convert]. I will marry off my son to a second-generation Mitzris [convert] so that my grandson will be able to marry a regular Jew.”
The second story is about Dovid Ha’Melech. As we all know, Dovid descended from Rus. Rus, of course, was originally a Moavis. She decided that no matter what she would not leave her mother in law Naami and that she would convert. The accepted halacha was in accordance with the Mishna that also appears on today’s Daf which says that the prohibition forbidding regular Jews to marry Amoni or Moavi converts – no matter how many generations have passed – only applies to males but not females. Therefore, Yishai’s family was ok.
However, a very upsetting glitch appeared on the horizon and threatened that entire assumption with serious doubt.
Shaul Ha’Melech was tall. Very tall. In fact, he was more than a full head taller than everybody else in Klal Yisrael. That is why, when Dovid was given his royal garments to try on and they fit him like a glove, Shaul became understandably concerned that Dovid may eventually take over the kingship from him. Therefore, Shaul bade his general Avner to investigate whether Dovid originally descended from Zerach or Peretz. The latter would portend that Shaul’s suspicion was most probably correct.
Before Avner had an opportunity to examine the point, though, Doeg interjected: “Instead of checking into his precise, paternal ancestry to see if he is destined to be king, why don’t you scrutinize his suitability to at all marry a regular Jewess!” When Avner immediately insisted that it is a moot point because of the teaching which appears in our Mishna, Doeg proceeded to fire one kashya after another, seriously drawing into question Dovid’s entire marriageable status.
Some of the questions Avner was able to answer, but others he was not. The matter was eventually brought to the Beis Medrash where the major Talmidei Chachamim of the generation were gathered. They too could not satisfactorily resolve Doeg’s incisive reasoning. In tomorrow’s Daf we will see that it got so bad, to the point that the Chachamim were prepared to actually publicize a formal pronouncement completely altering Dovid’s status.
Tomorrow, b’ezras Hashem, we shall see what eventually winds up saving Dovid from such ignominious ruin.
What we need to try to understand now, though, is why Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu orchestrated history in this way. Bear in mind that elsewhere Chazal make it clear that although this issue of questioning Dovid’s entire yichus was officially resolved, it was far from being laid to rest. As a matter of fact, throughout Dovid’s life there remained serious detractors who tenaciously held fast to the assertion that Doeg was correct. It was only after Dovid was no longer amongst the living that Hashem wrought a miracle – during Shlomo’s inauguration of the first Beis Ha’Mikdash – that demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that Dovid’s reign as king was b’ratzon Hashem and that clearly Doeg had seriously erred.
The upshot of all this is that the establishment of Dovid’s kingship was accompanied by terrible doubt, vociferous conflict, and humiliating detraction. It did not go smoothly at all; to say the least.
Dovid Ha’Melech was the quintessential Jewish king and eved Hashem. His kingship is that about which we make the bracha, “Gladden us Hashem our Lord with Eliyahu Ha’Navi Your servant, and with the kingship of the house of Dovid Your anointed one. He should come quickly and our hearts will rejoice. On his throne no zar shall sit, and no longer will others inherit his glory, for You have sworn to him with Your name of holiness that his candle shall never be extinguished. Blessed are you Hashem, the shield of Dovid.”
The reign of Dovid Ha’Melech and his descendants is absolutely seminal to the whole history and future of Klal Yisrael. The ultimate geulah for which Klal Yisrael so deeply yearns throughout its generations is inextricably bound to that singular individual who will serve as the Moshiach – the anointed king of Klal Yisrael. It is he who will be the vehicle to restore Klal Yisrael to its full glory; in Eretz Yisrael, with the third Beis Ha’Mikdash, and with the Shechina dwelling amongst us once again. And that Moshiach has to be mi’beis Dovid!
So why should this incredibly central facet to Klal Yisrael’s entire existence and functioning develop in such a way? In a way that seems to be rife with dysfunction! Even if it would only be a question of Dovid – the quintessential eved Hashem – on a strictly personal level, the question would beg to be asked. How much more so that it’s essentially an attack on the essence of Klal Yisrael! So why? Why the need for all this embarrassment, anxiety, hardship, and awful resistance?
It would seem that the inescapable conclusion is, ha gufa. It is precisely through the surmounting of such daunting challenge and upsetting difficulty that Malchus Yisrael emerges. Diamonds are created under pressure. Intense pressure. Very, very intense pressure. Dovid Ha’Melech and the Davidic Dynasty is the gulas ha’koseres, the precious diamond of Klal Yisrael. Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu orchestrated events so that the requisite pressure would be there to make it happen.
But Dovid did not know that. He had no particular ambition to be king. He was content being a simple shepherd boy which afforded him the uninterrupted opportunity to sing to and commune with his Creator. And here he was, thrust into the public sphere and into a violent tempest that threatened to ruin his whole life!
So, what did he do?
Nothing. Nothing different from what he always did. He continued in his simple and wholesome virtue. He did not at all actively participate in the debate that was so critical to determining his entire fate. Instead he just continued being the noam zemiros Yisrael that he was, singing his rapturous love songs to his Creator. He would not allow hardship and humiliation to interfere with his devotion.
Even once his personal status was vindicated and his kingship installed, he did not quell the unrest against him in the manner of a ruthless dictator. He did what he needed to do to carry out ratzon Hashem to solidify his reign, but it was always with measured steps. Just as he would not allow the suffering of attacks on his personal status and entire future to push him to become panicky or rash, so too would he not allow the temptation for personal honor and power to make him edgy, ill-tempered, or despotic.
Dovid took each situation as it was and dealt with it as such. Whatever is meant to be is meant to be, and my job is to try to stay calm and do my best given the situation.
Which brings us back to the first story about Minyamin Ger Mitzri. Minyamin had a clear goal: he wanted very much that his descendants become fully mainstreamed. Nevertheless, he did not allow that to cause him to become thoughtlessly self-centered. If he would have married a second generation Mitzris convert, she would lose the opportunity for her children to be able to marry regular Jews. Because of him, a first generation Mitzri convert father, the children would have the status of second generation and only their children would be third generation and therefore able to mainstream. Therefore, Minyamin made sure that his wife was also a first generation Mitzris convert so that he would not spoil it for her.
Minyamin was up against a daunting situation to say the least. He started off as a Goy. At some point, he decided that he wanted to join the Jewish People. He came to be aware, though, that as a Mitzri convert, that’s easier said then done. Sure, he can convert and become a full-fledged Jew in respect to learning Torah and keeping mitzvos, but he will be barred from marrying a regular Jew. And his children as well. Only his grandchildren will have the opportunity for 100% full integration.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. Talk about the long haul. But Minyamin would not be deterred. “If that is the halacha, so be it. So I won’t be able to personally realize my life’s dream, nor will my children. But my grandchildren will. And I will achieve that fulfillment through them.” He didn’t let himself get flustered or demoralized. He made a decision – despite the real pain involved – to be big about it. To be mature. To take whatever situation Hashem gives him, make the best of it, and be happy with what that Hashgacha affords him.
Both Minyamin Ger Mitzri and Dovid Ha’Melech were faced with serious hurdles that challenged their personal status, their very sense of self identity. Of the challenges a person can face, this is perhaps one of the more difficult ones because it hits at the core. Both of them embraced that challenge with the equanimity of understanding that, ultimately, the only thing which is in a person’s hands is how he is going to behave. What happens, though, and what situations will arise in a person’s life, that is completely beyond his purview. Therefore, the course of action which most suits his best interests is to not allow himself to get worked up or dispirited, but to simply continue doing what he knows is the best thing for him to do given the situation.
Negotiating the pressure in this manner is so often the critical key to a person reaching his individual greatness to which he is destined. Because diamonds are created under pressure.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. Driven by a passion to generate true kinyan Torah, both for himself and others, Rabbi Berman develops innovative tools to getting the most out of what we learn. In addition to having authored the warmly acclaimed Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim whose topics range from Halacha to Hashkafa, sends out daily emails of comprehensive chazara questions for the advanced Daf Yomi learner who really wants to retain his learning, and weekly emails of words of inspiration based on the Parsha. For more information on Reflections, to subscribe to receive these emails, or request a speaking engagement, Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.