Monday, 23 March 2015

Ketubot 50: Rules on Giving; How to Sustain Sisters

The rabbis discuss the halachot regarding gifts.  Parents could choose to leave their property to their sons (or they might be ordered by the court to feed their elderly parents).  Alternately, people could leave their money to charity.  The rabbis use this opportunity to discuss the tithe as suggested by Jacob.  If it is two portions of 1/10, is the second tenth less than the first tenth because it is taken from a smaller total amount?  The rabbis consider whether or not 1/10 is the minimum amount given to charity while one should give no more than 1/5 to charity.

And speaking of how one should treat his sons, the Gemara opens a conversation on parenting.  Should one treat his young sons gently even if they do not wish to study Torah?  The rabbis share different opinions.  Yes, says Rav, treat them gently until the age of six, and then stuff them like an ox; force-feed them Torah.  In Usha, it is said that sons are treated gently until the age of twelve, and then harshly.  Our notes suggest another opinion: treat sons gently until the age of twelve, allowing them the pleasure of learning Torah, but then introduce them to a profession - the harsh reality - after that year.

Abaye shares some of the wisdom of his foster mother:

  • stuff him like an ox until he is six with Torah
  • if he refuses to learn, do not harass him in all areas of his life until he is twelve, when he can learn Mishna
  • a boy can fast for twenty-four hours at the age of thirteen
  • a girl can fast for twenty-four hours at the age of twelve
  • if a six year old is stung by a scorpion, he requires treatment or he will die:
    • drink the bile of a white vulture in beer and rub the mixture on him
  • if a one year old is stung by a hornet, he requires treatment or he will die:
    • drink palm tree fibre in water and rub the mixture on him
Rav Katina teaches that boys should begin school at the age of six.  Teaching children in their early years will weaken them physically but will help them to learn.  A note elaborates: as soon as children learned to talk, their fathers were to teach them to say the first verse of the Shema and the words, "Moses instructed us in the Torah".  They are gradually taught more and more.  By the age of five or six - or seven, if the child is weakened, they begin Bible class.  Sometimes three year-olds were brought to class, too, but any learning was said to be incidental.

We see here that education is considered to be one of the most important jobs of parenting. The rabbis noted each individual child's physical and emotional maturity.  Although learning was the highest calling, the rabbis did not encourage children under the age of six to begin their schooling.  In addition, the rabbis speak about what to do with a child who does wish to study Torah.  This suggests to me that the same conversations have been happening in Jewish families literally for thousands of years.  

We continue to learn about ways that people give property or money to each other.  The halacha that a woman's usufruct property sold during her husband's lifetime can be repossessed by her husband if she dies is discussed.  

The Gemara introduces a number of verses and their interpretations regarding charitable giving.

  • "Happy are they who keep justice, who perform charity at all times" (Psalms 106:3) 
    • does this mean that we should be around paupers at all times?
    • does this mean that we should sustain our minor children, which is not required?
    • does this mean that we should raise orphans and marry them off?
  • "Wealth and riches are in his house, and his charity endures forever" (Psalms 112:3)
    • does this refer to one who studies and teaches Torah?
    • does this refer to a sofer who lends out his scrolls for others to benefit from?
  • "And see your son's sons: peace be upon Israel" (Psalms 128:6)
    • does this refer to peace in Israel resulting from our grandchildren observing chalitza?
    • does this refer to peace among Israel's judges because families will not fight over inheritance any longer?

In amud (b), the rabbis discuss the particularities involved in sustaining girls.  We are told that Rav Yosef sat before Rabbi Hamnuna when he said that both men inherit from the land and that women are sustained by the land.  All of the students gasped.  Rav Yosef knew what Rabbi Hamnuna meant, however:  Women's property was given to her sons; fathers were encouraged to provide daughters with extensive dowries.  

The rabbis walk through how women might be sustained.  Perhaps the men were sustained through land while women were sustained through movable property?  Were daughters given a dowry worth one tenth of her father's estate?  What does the word aliyah mean when used in this context?  How is an orphaned daughter provided for?

Rabbi Shimon ben Elyakim warns Rabbi Elazar about the dangers of ruling that a girl can be maintained by her brothers' inheritance of movable property.  Don't rule out of pity for this one person, he says, for others will learn of your ruling and use it to influence future generations. Amazing that compassion was not the more highly valued factor in this consideration.

When Rav Yosef was approached by orphaned brothers, he answered similarly to Rabbi Elazar: sustain your sister from the figs that have fallen onto the mats.  Abaye jumps in.  Those dates are not movable property, he says.  Even creditors cannot take movable property from orphans.  My question - not even for their also-orphaned sisters?  Rav Yosef answers. I wasn't talking about those dates he says.  I was talking about the dates that are still attached to the tree.  Those would not be considered movable property at all.

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