Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Parental Guidance Suggested Gittin 22 Blindsight is 20/20 Gittin 23 Psych of the Daf

Parental Guidance Suggested Gittin 22 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

On this Daf, there are two seemingly unrelated passages that can be metaphorically related to prayer and spirituality. Let’s examine each teaching both in its literal halakhic sense and its allegorical meaning.

In our Gemara on Amud Aleph, there is a discussion about a pot whose roots extend through a hole into the land of Israel, while all the branches are outside the land. The question arises: What is the status of the fruits, and are they obligated to follow the laws of Teruma (priestly gifts)? The accepted halakhic principle is שדי נופו בתר עיקרו, meaning that the branches of the tree follow the status of the roots.

The Maggid of Mezeritch (Maggid Devarav LeYaakov 33) explores the impact of thought on spiritual presence. He explains that wherever a person’s focus of mind resides, that is where they truly live. He compares this principle to the branch following the roots. Thus, a person’s intentions and state of mind dictate their reality.

This concept is reminiscent of the teaching in Avos (3:17):

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, כָּל שֶׁחָכְמָתוֹ מְרֻבָּה מִמַּעֲשָׂיו, לְמַה הוּא דוֹמֶה, לְאִילָן שֶׁעֲנָפָיו מְרֻבִּין וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מֻעָטִין, וְהָרוּחַ בָּאָה וְעוֹקַרְתּוֹ וְהוֹפַכְתּוֹ עַל פָּנָיו,

He used to say: “One whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what may he be compared? To a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few, so that when the wind comes, it uproots and overturns it.”

There is another teaching in a Mishna on Amud Beis that discusses the writing of a Get (divorce document). It states that even though a Get must be written with the specific intention to divorce a particular person, a minor or mentally incompetent individual can still write the Get under the supervision of a competent person. While there is some debate among commentators regarding how and why an adult supervisor is sufficient to inject intention in certain situations, we can observe the power of another person’s will to influence and organize the thoughts of someone with a lesser functioning intellect.

It is on this point that Tiferes Shlomo (Vaeschanan 2) explains how we can receive a supernatural boost in our kavanna (intent) during prayer. Compared to God, our intellect is frail, and our ability to concentrate is limited. However, if we elevate God above us, as in the Mishna’s statement גדול עומד על גביו (the greater one stands over the lesser one), God will augment and boost our concentration and meaning in our prayers.

In summary, the passages on this Daf provide metaphorical insights into prayer and spirituality. The principle of the tree’s branches following its roots teaches us that our intentions and state of mind shape our reality. Similarly, the Mishna’s teaching about a minor or mentally incompetent person writing a Get under supervision highlights the power of another person’s will to influence those with limited capacity. Ultimately, these teachings remind us of the importance of aligning our thoughts and intentions with a higher spiritual presence, allowing us to experience a deeper connection to our prayers.

Blindsight is 20/20 Gittin 23 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

In our discussion on Amud Aleph, there is a dispute between Rav Sheshes and Rav Yosef regarding the qualification of a blind person to serve as a messenger for delivering a Get (bill of divorce). The Gemara explores various reasons for disqualifying a blind person, including the inability to testify accurately due to not knowing the parties involved. However, Rav Yosef challenges this argument by pointing out that a blind person can recognize others through voice recognition, similar to how people recognize their spouses in the dark.

What is intriguing about this discussion is that both Rav Sheshes and Rav Yosef were blind themselves. Berachos 58a and Kiddushin 31a)! It is difficult to accept that this is a mere coincidence. Considering that the subject matter is about the competency of a blind person, it would seem, at least out of respect, the other sages let them lead the discussion so in case anything pejorative would be described about this disability they had the opportunity to frame it themselves.

A deeper possibility is would their subjective experience as blind individuals influenced their understanding of the halakhic status of a blind person. It is possible that their personal experiences provided them with unique insights into the matter, leading to their active participation in the discussion.

This notion of subjective experience influencing halakha is a fascinating topic. It prompts us to consider the extent to which a posek’s life experiences shape their legal decisions. In a conversation with my late father Z”L, who had a unique ability to extract psychological insights from Chazal, he shared an interesting teaching from the Gemara (Sanhedrin 36b) that suggests the impact of life experience on legal adjudication. The Gemara states that a very old person, a eunuch, and someone without children are not seated in the Sanhedrin. The reason given is that those who have not recently raised children may lack compassion. Even a cruel person is deemed ineligible by Rabbi Yehuda.

Rashi explains that an elderly person may have forgotten the challenges and responsibilities of raising children, thus potentially lacking a compassionate attitude. Similarly, someone who has never had children might be missing a certain merciful perspective. From this teaching, my father argued that if legal adjudication were solely based on objective truth, the life experiences and attitudes of the judges would not matter.

(As an aside the teaching in Sanhedrin suggests that parenthood is expected to cultivate patience and a compassionate outlook. It underscores the Talmud’s emphasis on moral and psychological development for parents.)

Another source for subjectivity in halakha can be found in Ben Yehoyada, Shabbos 64b. Ben Yehoyada says Rabbi Akiva’s approach and sentiment informed his derashos. Amazingly, he says, Rabbi Akiva’s heart leaned in the direction of interpreting a verse to give more honor to women and allow them to adorn themselves even when Niddah, against the ruling of sages.  (Here is the exact quote: 

ומאחר שהיה נותן כבוד לנשים לכך שם על לבו לדרוש ולתת טעם בתכשיט הנשים גם בימי נדתה, כי התכשיטין הם כבוד האשה. )

In conclusion, the choice of discusants on the qualification of a blind person to serve as a messenger for delivering a Get (Rab Yosef and Rav Sheshes), raises thought-provoking questions about the influence of subjective experience in halakha. Through these insights, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of legal interpretation and the intersection of personal experience with halakhic decision-making.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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