By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 67 – Achdus: A Complex Structure
Bas Yisrael sheh’nisas l’Kohein. A sugyah that carries an almost dazzling complexity to it. When is she allowed to eat terumah, when not? What in the event the husband dies but they had children? If she is carrying an unborn fetus? Not to mention the extra complexity when avadim are thrown into the mix. This is a Daf that needs going over a few times to get things clear.
If you think about it, it’s really not that surprising. After all, doesn’t the pasuk say ish al machaneihu, ish al diglo? Each Sheivet has its particular position and mission within the overall Klal. There is a definite beauty to the simplicity of clearly defined and clear-cut structure, division, and placement.
Regular Yisraelim have their obligations, tasks, prohibitions, etc. Leviim have a separate categorization, and Kohanim have yet a third designation that comes along with its own set of rules and regulations. Things are complex enough when each group sticks to itself. It is no wonder then, that when you try to interlink one to the other, the complexity can be just dazzling! And it is.
Elsewhere, Chazal tell us that it is no simple matter for someone from a family of non-Kohanim to marry into a family of Kohanim. Yet, it can be done. It is complex; the guidelines governing this interface are numerous and involved, but it is not impossible.
It is a fascinating thing that despite the individual uniqueness of each Sheivet of Klal Yisrael, intermarriage still remains a possibility. This fascination is of particular emphasis regarding Kohanim and non-Kohanim, for Kohanim were given so many halachos that set them apart from the rest of Klal Yisrael.
It seems only reasonable that, from this fact that the Torah allows and provides the potential for fusion between the disparate groups that comprise Klal Yisrael, we are meant to learn something about our overall, national unity. Yes, we are very different from one another. We may even have differing halachos. But, at the end of the day we are all one Klal Yisrael and that overarching unity must be maintained.
This message carries particular relevance considering the main theme of parshas Vayeishev: the disharmony between Yosef and his brothers. Yosef was set apart by Yaakov because of the unique role that he would ultimately have to fulfill. The brothers could not make peace with this, and the rest is history. It would be a long 22 years until matters would finally come full circle. Almost.
This internal struggle of cultivating a sense of overall unity despite our individual and communal differences is a major characterizing facet of our collective history. Just a cursory look at Nach makes this abundantly clear. Contemporary history and our current state of affairs is not all that different, is it?
One point that we can definitely cull from today’s Daf is that it is not meant to be simple. Just urging everyone to love, accept, and unite will not suffice.
When a Sephardic bachur and Chassidish girl came to Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky to ask if they should get engaged (they very much wanted to, but their respective families were adverse to the idea), he did not just tell them, “Don’t worry, love will conquer all.” Instead he strongly emphasized to them how very different their respective families and traditions are. If they really wanted to get married, they would have to be fully cognizant of those very significant differences. They would have to understand that it is not going to be simple. He pointed out to the girl that she was going to have to learn to live with things such as eating rice on Pesach when they would be at her in-laws, and he pointed out to the bachur that they would not be able to have any kitniyos or gebrukts in their own home on Pesach so that his in-laws would feel comfortable there. And that was but a little sampling. The message was clear: it is doable, but you are going to have to adopt a whole complex set of regulatory guidelines in order to make it work.
The truth is that this is the case in every marriage, albeit not necessarily to the same extent. Husband and wife come from different families that have different norms that run the gamut of life experience. This, in addition to the fact that to begin with men and women are so vastly different from one another.
So both on the macro and micro level, it is important to be aware of the fact that naivety about the concept of unity is not going to do anyone any good. Creating the sophisticated system of nexuses that comprise the complex structure of synthesis demands knowledge, awareness, and above-all deliberate effort to follow the appropriate guidelines and make it happen.
Understanding that it is a complex challenge is the first step to cultivating the approach that will lead to this inestimable achievement.
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 to request a speaking engagement, Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.