Three Insights to Bava Metzia 94


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Fly like a Bird

The Gemora cites a braisa: If a husband says (this is your get), “On condition that you go up into the sky,” “that you go to the depths of the earth,” “that you swallow a reed of four cubits,” “that you bring me a reed one hundred cubits long,” “that you walk over the Great Ocean with your feet,” if the condition is fulfilled, the get is valid; if not, the get is invalid. Rabbi Yehudah ben Teima says: Something such as this is a get. He said the following rule: Any condition that cannot eventually be fulfilled and the husband stipulates at the outset, he is just doing that to pain his wife, and the get is therefore valid.

There is another case brought down in the Tosefta: If the husband said, “On condition that you fly in the air.”

Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei HaShas asks: Isn’t this something that is possible? Don’t we find such an occurrence by Alexander the Great? And in today’s age (of Reb Yosef Engel), people fly in the air using air balloons!?

He answers that the language “fly” connotes “by himself,” similar to a bird, and floating in the air using exterior devices is not what he had in mind. A condition must be fulfilled according to the language of the stipulator!

Stipulation regarding Marital Relations

The Gemora cited a braisa: If someone says to a woman that she is betrothed to him on condition that he does not owe her support, clothes, or marital relations, the kiddushin is valid, but the conditions are invalid; these are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah says: In monetary matters, the condition is upheld.

The Gemora explains that Rabbi Yehudah holds that one can make a condition modifying the obligations stipulated by the Torah regarding monetary law.

This would explain why Rabbi Yehudah holds that the condition is valid when he stipulated that he does not owe her support or clothing; however, why is it valid when he stipulates that he will not have marital relations with her? This is not a monetary law!?

Rashi, because of this, writes that the husband remains obligated to have marital relations with her, for this is not a financial right. Depriving a wife from relations would cause her physical distress and therefore the condition is void.

The Mishnah Lamelech challenges this from a Gemora which states that one can say to his fellow, “Hit me and you will be exempt.” Evidently, one can waive physical anguish! Furthermore, we find that a woman can release the husband from his marital relations!?

Some answer that Rashi himself, cited in the Shitah Mikubetzes in Kesuvos (56a), states that the condition is void, for we assume that a woman will not waive her rights regarding anything which causes physical anguish; however, if she explicitly forfeits those rights, they are forfeited.

Rabbeinu Chananel holds that a man may stipulate on marital relations, and a wife can waive her rights to it as well. This is because the pleasure of relations belongs to her and it would be regarded as a financial right.

Kal Vachomer

The Gemora states that something which may be derived through a kal vachomer (literally translated as light and heavy, or lenient and stringent; an a fortiori argument; it is one of the thirteen principles of biblical hermeneutics; it employs the following reasoning: if a specific stringency applies in a usually lenient case, it must certainly apply in a more serious case), the Torah may anyway take the trouble to write it explicitly.

The Bnei Yissoschar explains the reasoning for this: A kal vachomer is based upon logic. One might say that the reason this halachah (derived through a kal vachomer) is correct is because it is understandable to me; it makes sense. The Torah therefore goes out of its way to write it explicitly in order to teach us that the halacha is correct because the Torah said so; regardless of whether it is understood or not.

The Ra”n in Nedarim (3a) notes that this concept is applicable by a hekesh (when the halachos from one topic are derived from another one) as well. The Gemora in Bava Metzia (61a) states that it also applies to a gezeirah shavah (one of the thirteen principles of Biblical hermeneutics; it links two similar words from dissimilar verses in the Torah).

According to the explanation of the Bnei Yissoschar, we could say that the concept should only apply to a kal vachomer, for that is based upon logic. The Torah would not find it necessary to state explicitly a halachah which is derived through a hekesh or gezeirah shavah, for they are not based upon logic at all, and it would be superfluous to write it.

The Yad Malachei writes that if the Torah does explicitly write a halachah which was derived through one of the thirteen principles of Biblical hermeneutics, we must treat it more stringently than an ordinary halachah. This is comparable to a Rabbinical prohibition, which has a slight support from something written in the Torah. Tosfos in Eruvin (31b) rules that such a prohibition is stricter than an ordinary one, which does not have any Scriptural support.