The Dawn of Jewish Nationalism
Our Gemara on Amud Aleph references the scripturally derived requirement that a Jewish king must be from a Jewish mother. Additionally, Tosefta Sanhedrin (4:6) requires the king to stem from kosher lineage, i.e. not from a forbidden sexual relationship.
Sefer Mish’an Mayim (Vayeshev), based on a Mizrachi, uses this idea to explain the quarrel between Yosef and his brothers. The verse states (Bereishis 37:8):
וַיֹּ֤אמְרוּ לוֹ֙ אֶחָ֔יו הֲמָלֹ֤ךְ תִּמְלֹךְ֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ אִם־מָשׁ֥וֹל תִּמְשֹׁ֖ל בָּ֑נוּ וַיּוֹסִ֤פוּ עוֹד֙ שְׂנֹ֣א אֹת֔וֹ עַל־חֲלֹמֹתָ֖יו וְעַל־דְּבָרָֽיו׃
His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.
There are two points of contention: Yosef’s words and his dreams. The Midrash explains regarding Yosef’s “words”: Yosef suspected his brothers of eating a limb taken from an animal while it was still alive (Eiver Min Hachai), and told his father about it (see Rashi on this verse and verse 2.) The Mizrachi (ibid 37:2) explains this as stemming from a halachic argument. Eiver Min Hachai has an odd leniency for a Jew over a gentile. Since Shechitta for a Jew is a terminal point, once the animal is slaughtered though it still may be spasming, for a Jew it is no longer considered alive. However, for a gentile, since slaughtering has no impact, the animal is alive as long as it is still thrashing about (see Chulin 102a-b). Thus, the Shevatim took a limb from a slaughtered animal while it was in its death throes. Yosef considered it Eiver Min Hachai, because after all, they were still not real Jews yet. However, the brothers, who adhered to the practice of slaughter, considered themselves Jewish and thus it was not Eiver Min Hachai.
(I will add a chiddush of my own. Later, as the Viceroy of Egypt, Yosef commands that meat be slaughtered for the Shevatim as his guests (Bereishis 43:16). Possibly, Yosef was “dog whistling” them a concession, saying, “I agree. We are Jews and do shechitta.”:
וַיַּ֨רְא יוֹסֵ֣ף אִתָּם֮ אֶת־בִּנְיָמִין֒ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לַֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר עַל־בֵּית֔וֹ הָבֵ֥א אֶת־הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים הַבָּ֑יְתָה וּטְבֹ֤חַ טֶ֙בַח֙ וְהָכֵ֔ן כִּ֥י אִתִּ֛י יֹאכְל֥וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים בַּֽצָּהֳרָֽיִם׃
When Yosef saw Binyamin with them he said to the one in charge of his house, Bring these men to the house. Slaughter an animal and prepare it, for these men shall dine with me at noon.)
In any case, building off of this interpretation, Mish’an Mayim says this was part of the Shevatim’s frustration regarding Yosef’s “words” and his “dreams”. His words of criticizing them for eating Eiver Min Hachai was based on his holding that they were considered as Gentiles, not Jews. But if so, how could he claim through his prophetic dream that he would be their leader and king? They argued, if they were to be considered as Jews, then despite the fact that Rachel and Leah were sisters, since they “converted” to Judaism, they were effectively “born again” and no longer related (Shulchan Aruch YD 269:1). However, if Yosef was right, and they were to be considered halachically as Gentiles, then Leah, the first one married, was the legitimate wife. Rachel, on the other hand, was now in an illegitimate sinful relationship. If so, Yosef, a child of Rachel should be ineligible for kingship. (As per Tosefta Tosefta Sanhedrin (4:6), although notably, Tosafos Yevamos 45b “kiyvan” holds this disqualification is rabbinic, either Mish’an Mayim holds that the Shevatim kept to a rabbinic standard, or was aware of other opinions that the disqualification was intrinsic.) The Shevatim were therefore aggrieved because of a combination of Yosef’s “words” and his “dreams”, as they were mutually contradictory.
The psychological point to consider is when did the Shevatim start seeing themselves as a nation, and not merely a clan or tribe? (See Chulin 101a-b, where this can also be seen as the subtext to the lomdishe discussions.) I believe this is the story behind the story. Thus, when Shimon and Levi take revenge against the city of Shechem for raping and kidnapping Dinah, Yaakov was disturbed about how it would look to the ancient Mesopotamian United Nations (Bereishis 34:30):
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֜ב אֶל־שִׁמְע֣וֹן וְאֶל־לֵוִי֮ עֲכַרְתֶּ֣ם אֹתִי֒ לְהַבְאִישֵׁ֙נִי֙ בְּיֹשֵׁ֣ב הָאָ֔רֶץ בַּֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י וּבַפְּרִזִּ֑י וַאֲנִי֙ מְתֵ֣י מִסְפָּ֔ר וְנֶאֶסְפ֤וּ עָלַי֙ וְהִכּ֔וּנִי וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּ֖י אֲנִ֥י וּבֵיתִֽי׃
Yaakov said to Shimon and Levi, You have made trouble for me, making me obnoxious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. [Since] I am few in number, they will gather together and attack me. I and my house [family] will be destroyed.
However, the Shevatim’s response was that this was an act of war, and they responded on a national level. Their choice of words indicate this liminal point in self-development, as they transition in identity from a clan to a nation. Dare I say, this crisis actually was the catalyst for the transformation (Ibid 34:7), as crises often do induce change:
וּבְנֵ֨י יַעֲקֹ֜ב בָּ֤אוּ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֙ כְּשָׁמְעָ֔ם וַיִּֽתְעַצְּבוּ֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיִּ֥חַר לָהֶ֖ם מְאֹ֑ד כִּֽי־נְבָלָ֞ה עָשָׂ֣ה בְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לִשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בַּֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְכֵ֖ן לֹ֥א יֵעָשֶֽׂה׃
The Sons of Yaakov returned from the field when they heard [what had happened]. The men grieved and were very angry, for he [Shechem] had committed an outrage against Yisrael to lie with a daughter of Yaakov. Such a thing should not be done.
They start out as merely “Sons of Yaakov”, a clan, but their thinking evolves nationalistically, as they are “Israel”, and have been disgraced.
Nationalism is a rally point and inspiration, but also can lead to aggressive military action or oppression for the sake of maintaining a regime. Maase Avos Siman Le-Banim, what happened to the Patriarchs is a portent for their descendants. Times will call upon Jews to act as a nation and protect itself, while they also need to know when nationalism can become idolatrous worship of the father-land. My personal opinion is so long as hostages remain in captivity, Israel has every right to aggressively protect and even avenge itself. God willing, when they succeed in rescuing all of them, difficult decisions will need to be made about when and how to scale down, and figure out what is humanitarian and what is foolish vulnerability.
Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the financial value to the kesuba for the woman. The kesuba is a right to receive payment if there is divorce or death of the husband. However, while she is married, she has no particular claim. Yet, in theory, she could sell “options”, to “cash in on the policy” if her husband predeceases her. There is a dispute as to whether the proceeds of such a sale would go to her, or since she is still married even those proceeds would go to her husband. Even according to the opinion that if the woman sells options on her kesuba must turn the payment over to her husband, the Gemara rules that this kesuba still has financial values to her. The reason given is that she still benefits from having more assets in the household. Thus, if false witnesses testified that her kesuba was paid out, and were proven to have a given untrue testimony, she still would be entitled to receive a financial penalty payment from those witnesses, since she would have lost out on the potential to sell options on her kesuba. Though her husband would keep the money according to one opinion, she still would have benefit in the overall family estate cash-flow.
Sefer Nitzotzei Or notes that the author of this teaching was Rav Shalman. Notably, we learn in Bava Metzia (59a):
מר רב יהודה לעולם יהא אדם זהיר בתבואה בתוך ביתו שאין מריבה מצויה בתוך ביתו של אדם אלא על עסקי תבואה שנאמר (תהלים קמז, יד) השם גבולך שלום חלב חטים ישביעך אמר רב פפא היינו דאמרי אינשי כמשלם שערי מכדא נקיש ואתי תיגרא בביתא
Rav Yehuda says: A person must always be careful about ensuring that there is grain inside his house, as discord is found in a person’s house only over matters of grain, as it is stated: “He makes your borders peace; He gives you plenty with the finest wheat” (Psalms 147:14). If there is the finest wheat in your house, there will be peace there. Rav Pappa said: This is in accordance with the adage that people say: When the barley is emptied from the jug, quarrel knocks and enters the house.
Adequate financial resources are a key component in shlom bayis. Nitzotzei Ohr say, not coincidentally, the amora’s name was “Shalman”, which has its roots in Shalom, peace.
Sefer Daf al Daf references the Chidushei Harim (Al Hatorah, Likutim at the end) who states that each Tanna’s and Amora’s name hints at a dimension of Torah they brought into the world.
I have a some points to add about this. Not only is the root SH-L-M peace and completeness, but it also stands for emptiness, as in being used up. Because when something is empty, and used up, it is also a kind of complete, in the opposite, but nonetheless complete as in completely empty. The Gemara above in Bava Metzia that discusses loss of shlom bayis coming from not having used up the grain stores, also uses the same word root SH-L-M, “Mishlam Sa’ari Makada” to say, “When the barley is emptied from the jug.” Maharal (Tiferes Yisrael 37 and Gevuros Hashem 4) teaches, from a mystical standpoint, opposites are closely linked. Light and Dark, cold and hot are merely on a continuum. Dark is just a far-end manifestation of much less light, and cold is on the end of a continuum of heat. Each person has in their destiny and therefore the middos to accomplish greatness along a certain line, or unfortunately, its opposite. Rav Shalman was able to live up to his destiny and bring peace, and not emptiness.
There is an especially ironic and heartbreaking story (Kesubos 62b) about another Talmudic rabbi, who may not have fared so well in loving up to the destiny indicated in his name. Rav Rechumi, which is love in Aramaic, at least one time was unable to provide his wife with the love she needed, leading to disastrous consequences:
כִּי הָא דְּרַב רְחוּמִי הֲוָה שְׁכִיחַ קַמֵּיהּ דְּרָבָא בְּמָחוֹזָא, הֲוָה רְגִיל דַּהֲוָה אָתֵי לְבֵיתֵיהּ כֹּל מַעֲלֵי יוֹמָא דְכִיפּוּרֵי. יוֹמָא חַד מְשַׁכְתֵּיהּ שְׁמַעְתָּא. הֲוָה מְסַכְּיָא דְּבֵיתְהוּ: הַשְׁתָּא אָתֵי, הַשְׁתָּא אָתֵי. לָא אֲתָא. חֲלַשׁ דַּעְתַּהּ, אַחִית דִּמְעֲתָא מֵעֵינַהּ. הֲוָה יָתֵיב בְּאִיגָּרָא, אִפְּחִית אִיגָּרָא מִתּוּתֵיהּ וְנָח נַפְשֵׁיהּ.
This is as it is related about Rav Reḥumi, who would commonly study before Rava in Meḥoza: He was accustomed to come back to his home every year on the eve of Yom Kippur. One day he was particularly engrossed in the halacha he was studying, and so he remained in the study hall and did not go home. His wife was expecting him that day and continually said to herself: Now he is coming, now he is coming. But in the end, he did not come. She was distressed by this and a tear fell from her eye. At that exact moment, Rav Reḥumi was sitting on the roof. The roof collapsed under him and he died. This teaches how much one must be careful, as he was punished severely for causing anguish to his wife, even inadvertently.
Sadly, Rav Rechumi, who was supposed to provide love, became so engrossed in his studies, that he did not come home at a time that they are especially set aside for each other. His wife was in anguish, worrying, “When will he come home?” He did not fulfill his mission. (Why he died, and how this possibly was fair to his wife, was discussed in our blog Psychology of the Daf Eiruvin 39, and Kiddushin 55.)
This stark consequence of a possibly one-time failure to provide emotional security might also help us understand another teaching on amud beis our daf:
אָסוּר לְאָדָם שֶׁיְּשַׁהֶא אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ אֲפִילּוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת בְּלֹא כְּתוּבָּה.
It is prohibited for a man to remain living together with his wife for even one hour without her having a marriage contract. Therefore, the woman cannot sell the financial advantage of her marriage contract to her husband.
וְטַעְמָא מַאי – כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תְּהֵא קַלָּה בְּעֵינָיו לְהוֹצִיאָהּ
The Gemara asks: And what is the reason for the ruling of Rabbi Meir? It is so that she will not be demeaned in his eyes such that he will easily divorce her.
We might wonder, why is it forbidden to remain married even for a moment? Why didn’t Rabbi offer a ruling of 30 days, such as when one rents a home, one has 30 days to get a mezuzah (Shulchan Aruch YD 286:22)? We see that even a moment of anguish or lack of security in marriage and love is a great sin.
The Dignity of Another
Our Mishna on Amud Aleph teaches
One who strikes another must give him a sela. Rabbi Yehuda says in the name of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili that he must give him one hundred dinars. If he slapped another on the cheek, he must give him two hundred dinars. If he slapped him on the cheek with the back of his hand, which is more degrading than a slap with the palm, he must give him four hundred dinars.
We see increasing amounts of compensation that are not based on the amount of damage, but instead on the amount of humiliation. This shows that humiliation is more severe than physical damage.
Toras Chaim says that humiliation is not a physical matter, rather it cuts deep to the soul. This is not merely a metaphor, but we actually find that the way in which the soul experiences itself in the World to Come, where there are no physical bodies, includes the emotion of humiliation. Gemara Menachos (29b) teaches:
מפני מה נברא העולם הבא ביו”ד מפני שצדיקים שבו מועטים ומפני מה כפוף ראשו מפני שצדיקים שבו כפוף ראשיהם מפני מעשיהן שאינן דומין זה לזה
The Gemara asks: For what reason was the World-to-Come created specifically with the letter yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet? The Gemara answers: It is because the righteous of the world are so few. And for what reason is the left side of the top of the letter yod bent downward? It is because the righteous who are in the World-to-Come hang their heads in shame, since the actions of one are not similar to those of another. In the World-to-Come some of the righteous will be shown to be of greater stature than others. (Rashi explains that they are embarrassed of their shortcomings, in comparison to their colleagues.)
Because humiliation affects somebody so deeply to the soul, it is not just an affront to the person, but since in particular, the soul is made in God’s image, it is also an affront to God. This is why Gemara Sanhedrin (58b) teaches:
וא”ר חנינא הסוטר לועו של ישראל כאילו סוטר לועו של שכינה שנאמר (משלי כ, כה) מוקש אדם ילע קודש:
And Rabbi Ḥanina says: One who slaps the cheek of a Jew is considered as though he slapped the cheek of the Divine Presence; as it is stated: “It is a snare [mokesh] for a man to rashly say [yala]: Holy” (Proverbs 20:25). The verse is interpreted homiletically to mean: One who strikes [nokesh] a Jew is considered as though he hurt the cheek [lo’a] of the Holy One.
It is hard for us to fully incorporate into our daily awareness that another person’s feelings, especially their dignity, is a manifestation of divinity. Yet this is one of the great teachings of the Torah – Man is made in God’s image. Obviously, this does not mean his physical body. It is about the essence of selfhood, the ability to exist as an autonomous self-aware individual. When one humiliates another, they are attacking their validity, making them feel like they don’t exist or should not exist. This is a corruption of the deepest life force that comes from God.