Daf Inspired – Culling Gems of Inspiration from the Daf


yehoshua-bermanBy Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

Kesubos 71 – Sinister Silence

What is the difference? Why is it that in one case we give him time and in the other case the demand is immediate? Back in perek Af Al Pi, we saw the Mishna about a husband who forbade tashmish ishto on himself by force of a neder. According to Beis Shamai he is given a maximum of two weeks, and Beis Hillel gives him one week. If by that time he still does not find a way to annul his vow, he is forced to give his wife a get with the payment of her kesubah.

Here, though, the Mishna says that we immediately force him to do so. What’s the case? She made a conditional neder: “If I use cosmetic such and such, tashmish baali should become forbidden to me.” The husband heard the neder and, despite being able to annul it, remained silent. In such a case, says the Mishna, we immediately force the husband to provide his wife with a get and full payment of her kesubah.

So why, the Gemara wants to know, is it different over here? Why the immediacy? Why not give the same two or one week waiting period before pushing the point?

The answer that the Gemara provides reveals a truly fascinating insight into human psychology: Over there, where it was the husband who made the neder, she figures that he just got upset with her but he will soon calm down. Here, though, where it was she who made the neder, and the husband responded with silence, her impression is, “from the fact that he was silent, it must be that he really hates me.” And, adds Rashi, “she is totally unable [to continue] to live with him at all…because she thinks ‘he hates me’.”

An immature outburst can be interpreted by the recipient thereof as just that, an outburst. In other words, he got all miffed, and, instead of exercising mature control, he gave vent to his upset feelings. “Okay. It hurts a lot, but it’s not the end of the world. He’ll get over it soon enough.” (That is not an excuse for a husband to act in such a manner. The Rambam {Ishus 15:19} explicitly writes that such behavior is completely out of line). But it can happen that explosive anger, instead of subsiding, transmutes into smoldering hatred.

When she made a bad neder and he responds with no response – silence – it cannot be, she thinks, that he is just angry. If he is upset, a lashing-out-style outburst is what would occur. But remaining quiet when he could just cancel the vow with the utmost of ease is a sinister silence. At least, that is how she takes it. “And that means,” she thinks, “that he must really hate me.” A woman who is under the impression that her husband hates her cannot bear it for even a moment. He must immediately release her with a get and full kesubah payment.

Now, hopefully most people are not dealing with cases of nedarim on any type of regular basis – from either direction – and, probably, most people don’t ever have to practically deal with such cases at all. But the underlying psychological insight of the sugyah nevertheless carries great relevance for everyone. The reason for this is the result of a reality that was pithily observed and defined by Rav Noach Orlowek. In his words, “Men have constipation of the mouth.”

For a varied possibility of reasons, men can often get all clammed up, particularly vis a vis their wives. A man needs to be aware, though, that his wife being under the impression that she is being given the silent treatment can be absolutely devastating. As we see in today’s daf, silence can be sinister. It may be that you are just plain bushed, after a long, hard day. And you just don’t feel like talking. About anything. But what if suddenly there was someone on the line who needed your help to sort out an extremely urgent matter? Something bordering on life-threatening. What then? Would you be able to rouse yourself out of your tired muteness?

The Steipler writes (Orchos Rabbeinu, volume five, perek Kedusha, letter 67), “The primary hope a woman has in her whole world is that she should she have a husband who loves her, and if she sees that this is not so, it is practically a situation of pikuach nefesh because of her intense pain and sorrow over her lonely state as if she were a widow during her husband’s lifetime.” If you take that into account, coupled with the potential of silence to be interpreted as an expression of fundamental dislike, it shouldn’t be that difficult to feel compelled, and even propelled, to force some nice words out of your mouth.

Look at it as an extremely important investment in your Shalom Bayis. Look it as a tremendous expression of chesed and ben adam la’chaveiro. It is both. And more. However you view it, always keep in mind the point with which today’s daf closes: “[It says in the pasuk] ‘And it shall be on that day that you will call Me ‘ishi’ and you will no longer call Me ‘baali’.’ Said Rabi Yochanan, “Like a kallah in her father-in-law’s home and not like a kallah in her father’s home.” Rashi explains, “Like a kallah in her father-in-law’s home – that she is already fully married and feels perfectly comfortable with her husband and is no longer embarrassed of him.”

That is the goal. As the Ran writes in Maseches Shabbos, shidduch is a word that implies calm and contentment, because that is what a woman is meant to find in her shared life with her husband.

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 rbsa613@gmail.com.

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