By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 87 – Beware, A Raging Fire!
The husband wrote her out a document that she will never have to take a shvuah on anything regarding his property or belongings that she deals with over the course of their marriage. We saw in yesterday’s Mishna that it is only effective so long as her dealings with said monies were strictly limited to the time period that they belonged to him.
Once he is gone, though, the property legally belongs to his children. If she continues living in her husband’s home and deals with the property, they can impose a shvuah on her.
The question that our sugyah today asks is, when is the precise moment of property transfer vis a vis this halacha?
Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav that it takes place immediately upon the moment of death of the husband/father. Any dealings that she has with the properties from that point on – even just in terms of doing something like selling a property so that she can have cash to pay for her husband’s funeral – is fair game for the yesomim to impose on her a shvuah that she did everything legitimately.
Rav Masnah, on the other hand, holds that it only begins from after the burial and on. Any involvement that she had, though, between her husband’s death and his burial, the yorshim can still not impose a shvuah thereupon. Rashi says the reason for this is that if she were to take a shvuah it would necessarily be a false oath. Why? Because after the husband dies, she is pressed for time, and she has no choice but to sell the property at a loss (if she is in need of cash for the funeral expenses); so how could she take a shvuah that she did not cause the yorshim any loss?!
Tosafos, though, disputes this explanation because she could still be made to take a shvuah that she did not take any money for herself. Therefore, says Tosafos, the real reason for why we exempt her from taking any shvuah for what she was involved with between death and burial is – as the Yerushalmi says – to prevent a situation in which a woman will just leave her husband’s dead body where it is and go back to her father’s house.
In other words, if a bereaved woman is made to feel that she cannot be trusted to reliably handle her husband’s burial, she may be prone to thinking, “What do I need this for?! You’re going to make me swear that I didn’t steal anything from you in the process?! So you deal with it!!” And off she’ll go.
Now, that may seem strange at first since, after all, that’s her beloved husband’s body that she is leaving to rot! Just because she may feel potentially offended by the imposition of a shvuah, she’ll do something so self-defeating? Think about this for a moment. Imagine a woman was widowed while away from her husband and was told that her husband’s dead body is just being left where it is, and nobody is taking care of the funeral arrangements. How much excruciating pain would she suffer?! And we are concerned that she will inflict such pain on herself because her emotions are bruised?
Yes, we are.
The point that we see here – which is a point that comes up all over the place – is that emotions are not rational. They serve as our motor that drives us to do, to strive, and to achieve; but in of themselves they would slam us into a brick wall! Like a car with the petal to the metal, just that there is no steering wheel.
When someone is emotionally hurt, they are likely to react in who knows what number of ways; even in ways that could be extremely self-detrimental and self-defeating. Particularly if that individual is already in a compromised, sensitive position.
The benefit of being aware of this is both in terms of bein adam l’atzmo and bein adam l’chaveiro.
It is so important for one to understand what is going on inside of him (or her), and to know what “makes us tick”. Things happen in life and we can sometimes be shocked, or even disgusted, by our own internal reactions – even if we do manage to rein ourselves in from allowing that to express itself outwardly.
That sense of self-disdain may be an outgrowth of the dichotomy between the intellect and the emotion, and the fact that they do not always see eye to eye. The intellect may recognize that a certain feeling or behavior “makes absolutely no sense”, but the emotion feels that this is what it needs right now to compensate for the pain it is suffering. That tension can lead to the aforementioned, stressful self-image. And that stress can only compound the problem.
A person needs to learn to fargin. Not only when it comes to others, but also when it comes to himself. Afford and validate to yourself the right to feel a certain way, even if doesn’t make any sense. Doing that can release a tremendous pressure valve that makes dealing with the issue – whatever it may be – in a sensible, productive manner that much more likely. Because you are not negating or denying what the emotions feel, even if you’re not endorsing them either.
Trying to blast out powerful, negative emotions with a forceful, intellectual condemnation is like trying to put out a raging fire with a massive gust of wind. It may blow the fire down for a moment or two, and it may even look as though the fire was blown out completely. But experience shows that what is more likely to happen is that as soon as the wind lets up, the fire will rage even more fiercely than before!
Perhaps more often than not, the best way to deal with a fire is to contain it, and allow it to burn itself out. Don’t try to blow it out. Aderabah, pick up the piece of burning wood so that it is completely exposed to oxygen and will burn real well. That way the fire will “get its fill” and will wind up going out on its own.
Let’s try to bring that back to the nimshal of the emotional realm with a practical example. Something bad happened at work, and you were singled out as a suspect. The whole handling of the matter by your higher-ups left you feeling just nauseated. You have never been so insulted in your entire life! So angry are you, that you have already written three rough drafts of your submission of resignation, with a few choice words as to why you wish to resign.
So what do you do? Probably, losing your job is not the best thing to happen to you in the world. But you’re flaming mad! So what do you do?
First of all, tell yourself that it makes perfect sense that you are so upset. You were treated shabbily, and you didn’t deserve it! That initial validation is like picking up the piece of wood and letting the fire really burn into it. Next, tell yourself this: Although I would love to shove it in their faces by showing them how disgusted I am with what they did to me, it’s not worth it for me to do that. If I do that, I will have empowered them to get me twice – insult me and make me lose my job! And that I am most definitely not willing to do!! I don’t want to enable them to make me suffer even more than I already have, so I am going to store these angry feelings in a separate compartment in my mind so that it doesn’t spill over and mess with the rest of my life.
With that alone you will probably feel a tremendous subsiding of the initial pain and wrath. The fire mostly burned itself out already. Over the next day or two, if you keep up that type of pep talk, the fire will almost certainly almost completely die down.
Then, all you’ll be left with is the mess of charred wood and ashes that needs to be cleaned up. Not the most pleasant job, but infinitely easier than dealing with a raging fire!
The cleanup is done by another process called mechila. That is achieved either through a direct (albeit respectful) confronting of the individual or individuals who upset you, or by internally letting it go without even discussing it with them. But that stage is a topic for a different time.
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.