By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 15 – A Place to Call Home
It’s not hard to see why Kesubos is known as a mini Shas. In the first fourteen daf alone we’ve seen sugyos dealing with rov and chazakah, davar sheh’eino miskavein and psik reishei, mi’toch, and many more. Today is also one of those major Shas topics. Kavuah. The pasuk by retzicha says that it is only considered murder (for which the perpetrator is liable to receive the death penalty) if it was truly premeditated, v’arav lo. He had to have clear intent to kill a Yid. But that much, says the Gemara, we would have known even if not for the seemingly extra words v’arav lo.
So what are those words coming to teach us?
Nine Yidden and one Akum are standing in a courtyard. Someone comes along, with intent to kill, and throws a cinderblock into the courtyard. It lands on one of the Yidden and kills him. This is the chiddush of v’arav lo. Since all ten people were in a stationary location it is considered kavuah, and kol kavuah k’mechtzah al mechtza dami, whenever it is a situation in which all the components are in a place of permanence, it is considered 50/50. Therefore, the cinderblock thrower cannot truly be considered as if he had clearly intended to kill a Yid.
That is the yesod that v’arav lo teaches us, that whether it is going to result in a chumrah or kulah, we treat situations of kavuah as if it is a safeik ha’shakul of 50/50.
What this inevitably demonstrates is the import and significance of makom. Being connected to a certain, fixed place grants something a different status. And it makes a lot of sense. Something which is just “floating”, kind of just aimlessly drifting from one nondescript place to another, is rudderless.
On the other hand, when you’re firmly ensconced in a particular place, that concretizes your sense of being and crystalizes how you define who you are, what you are doing in life, and what you stand for.
This reality is a phenomenal demonstration of the merger of physical and metaphysical. For, you see, having a particular place is not just a matter of having some sort of connection with a physical structure, it is also that you have your place in the abstract sense.
For example, ask a person where he davens.
He answers, “At Kehillas Tiferes Shlomo.” That statement has two facets to it. One is of course the physical building in which he davens. Two is the intangible entity called a community. There is a kehilla called Tiferes Shlomo. This kehilla, obviously, is not just referring to the physical building, but principally to the intangible amalgamation of a group of people. That amalgamation finds its concrete expression through the medium of a particular, physical location and structure.
He has a place to which he is attached. Both physically and conceptually/emotionally. It’s his makom.
A home is very much the same idea. Although technically kavuah, a physical house without a warm family inside is not much of a makom is it? Likewise, a family that does not have an abode in which to live, is in an impossibly tenuous situation, isn’t it? When you put the two together, that is when you have the full koach of makom.
Every person needs a makom that he can call home, both on the personal level as well as on the communal level. It is important. It adds a tremendous dimension of solidity and clarity to a person’s life. If you’re connected to a yeshiva or a cohesive, Torah-oriented kehilla, consider yourself very lucky. Don’t take it for granted. And definitely don’t be quick to leave go of it.
Sometimes, things happen in life that give us reason to consider moving. Uprooting ourselves from one makom and relocating to another. When weighing such decisions, it is very important to be fully aware of the significant role that makom fulfills in our lives.
Few people can function well as a l’vado. It is not for naught that the Torah emphasizes Yaakov Avinu’s triumph over the Malach even though it was a situation of va’yivaser Yaakov l’vado. For the general rule is, lo tov heyos ha’adam l’vado. It’s not good for a person to be alone. He needs a makom.
Rabi Yossi called his wife, beisi, because she creates and provides the makom called home. But that makom needs a place to take hold and express itself. And on the communal level a person also needs a makom. So, if you currently have a good one, think twice before giving it up. And if you don’t really have a proper makom, try to find one. It can add so much to your life.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.