By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 22 – A Living Seifer Torah
A woman, whom we do not recognize, comes to town and wants to marry. The local Beis Din asks her what her status is, and she responds that she used to be married but she subsequently got divorced. The halacha is, assuming there are no eidim testifying that they know she was married, that we allow her to marry. Why? Ha’peh sheh’assar hu ha’peh sheh’hitir, the very mouth which is making forbidden is also the mouth that is making permitted. Since the only way that we know she was an eishes ish is from her own say-so, she is therefore also believed when she tells us that she is now single because she got divorced.
Rabi Asi says, “From where in the Torah do we know this halacha of ha’peh sheh’assar hu ha’peh sheh’hitir? From the pasuk that says, “Es biti nasati la’ish ha’zeh, I gave my daughter to this man [in marriage].” As soon as the father says es biti nasati la’ish he has made her forbidden to everyone because he is stating that he accepted kiddushin on her behalf and thereby made her into an eishes ish. When he subsequently says ha’zeh, this man, he is making her permitted to that particular individual. Hence, says Rabi Asi, we see that the mouth which forbids is also the mouth which permits.
However, the Gemara rejects this statement of Rabi Asi. Not because it wouldn’t be a great source; it would. Just that it is not necessary. Lamah li kra sevara hee, it is simple straightforward logic; it is his say-so that is making her forbidden so obviously his word can also make her permissible, so why do I need a pasuk to serve as a source therefor?!
That is quite a statement, isn’t it? We’re talking about issurim d’oraysoh over here! And the Gemara asserts, with total confidence and ease, that there is no need to bring a source from a pasuk or a derasha if simple, straightforward logic dictates that it should be so. It says a lot about human intellect, doesn’t it? It is the Chovos Ha’Levavos, though, who perhaps most emphatically drives this point home.
In his introduction he writes, “Behold, the gates which Hashem opened for accessing the knowledge of His religion and His Torah, are three. The first one is comprised of intellects that are complete and free of any spoilage. And the second gate is the book of Toras Hashem…and the third gate is the tradition carried by our early ones from the mouths of the prophets.”
The Chovos Ha’Levavos is saying that the mandates of pure, unadulterated intellect is equivalent, at least in a certain respect, to the wisdom that Ha’Kadosh baruch Hu revealed to us in the Torah. And, really, that is exactly what our Gemara is saying, isn’t it? If it is simple, straightforward logic – a simple sevara that the mind finds to be an inviolate axiom, that is the halacha. That is Torah. Just as binding as if we would have learned it from a pasuk, a derasha, or a kabala of halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai.
This is an amazing fact to discover about ourselves. That our minds are inherently Torah. True, as is clear from the way the Chovos Ha’Levavos says it, not everyone can rely on the dictates of his libi omer li (like Rashi says in this week’s parsha about the eifod), because we cannot be sure that our intellect is clean and pure from outside influence. But that itself can serve us as a wonderful motivation to try our best to keep it as clean as possible.
Think about it, if you had a seifer Torah and needed to carry it through an area where there are sandstorms, mud patches, and so on, even though it can be really hard, you would do your absolute best and then some to make sure it stays clean and doesn’t get sullied by all the dirt flying around.
Not because you are worried about being punished if it would get dirty. Not to say that that also can’t be a completely legitimate reason to do so, but the fact is that, at least it seems this way to me, most people wouldn’t need to come on to such considerations. A seifer Torah is just so special – so kadosh and tahor – that Jews naturally have such a powerful respect and endearment for it. “I love this seifer Torah. It is such a cherished and precious treasure. How could I possibly let it get sullied?!” Isn’t that the automatic, organic feeling that we would all have?
So why do we treat our minds with less reverence? Simply because we don’t realize or have not yet internalized the fact that the intellect, as well, is a living seifer Torah. Literally. Sevara hee, lama li kra?! When you think about this fact, though, that your own mind is one of the gates that Hashem has opened to accessing His Godly wisdom, it can infuse you with a whole new appreciation of yourself.
Automatically, your respect and reverence for the incredible gift with which Hashem has endowed you will grow by leaps and bounds. And you will want to do your utmost and then some to guard and protect this amazing gift from anything that could sully or harm it, because it is simply too precious a treasure to allow such a thing to happen. When you realize how much kedusha and tahara you possess, you become possessed of a desire and need to keep it just that way, clean and pure.
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.