Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

The Indomitable Human Will Worship and Repentance Kiddushin 2-7


Love vs Responsibility

Our Mishna on Amud Aleph delineates three methods to accomplish betrothal (Kiddushin): Via an exchange of an object of value, via a written contract, or sexual intercourse. As we have remarked numerous times, the paradigm of marriage is used to explain a person’s relationship with God.

Rav Yaakov Yosef Mipolnoe understands these three methods of accomplishing marriage as also representing three stages of man’s relationship with God. Kesef, which is money, represents desires and aspirations. In Hebrew, “lichsof” means to pine after, as in the famous Yedid Nefesh zemer:

כי זה כמה נכסוף נכסף

For so much has this yearning been

The next stage is contractual and verbal, which is represented by the words in the contract. This is after the initial excitement and honeymoon wear off, and now what holds observance in place is commitment.

And then, the final stage, which is represented by sexual intercourse, involves the union of both aspects together. There is a deep, binding love and wish for attachment, combined with a sense of responsibility and duty.

As in the relationship with God, so too in a healthy relationship, there must be love and responsibility. Marriage cannot be merely fun and games, nor should it be drudgery. Life is at its most fulfilling when we are taking on challenges that are meaningful, difficult, but not overwhelmingly difficult. Relationships also feel best when there is constant work to understand and connect; both out of love and moral obligation.


Maid in Heaven

Our Gemara on Amud Beis uses a verse regarding the Jewish maidservant to derive other forms of enactments that are accomplished via an exchange of an object of value, such as the marriage of a minor through the father’s acceptance:

אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב: דְּאָמַר קְרָא ״וְיָצְאָה חִנָּם אֵין כָּסֶף״ – אֵין כֶּסֶף לְאָדוֹן זֶה, אֲבָל יֵשׁ כֶּסֶף לְאָדוֹן אַחֵר. וּמַאן נִיהוּ – אָב.

Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: The reason is that the verse states with regard to a Hebrew maidservant acquiring freedom from her master: “Then shall she go out for nothing, without money” (Exodus 21:11). The extraneous phrase: Without money, indicates that there is no money for this master, i.e., in this case, the master she leaves loses the money he paid for her, but there is money for a different master, i.e., another master receives money for her when she leaves his authority. And who is the other master who can transfer her to someone else and receives money for her? This is her father.

Numerous commentaries use the entire series of verses in Shemos about servitude and redemption in various metaphorical ways to speak about the soul, the afterlife, its mission in this world, etc. For example, the Jewish slave works for six years, and then it’s free; that is like 69 years of life and then redemption in the world to come (See Alshich and beginning of Mishpatim.) This particular verse is darshened by Be’er Mayyim Chayyim (21:11) in a unique way. The verse states:

וְאִ֨ם־שְׁלׇשׁ־אֵ֔לֶּה לֹ֥א יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה לָ֑הּ וְיָצְאָ֥ה חִנָּ֖ם אֵ֥ין כָּֽסֶף׃

If he does not provide for her these three regular entitlements to a wife at the time that she completes her servitude and he takes as a wife (Food, Clothing, and Intimacy), she shall go free, without payment. (The pashut peshat is saying, even though she was your maidservant, if you marry her, she is to be treated no less than another wife.

The maidservant was only allowed to be sold into service until she reaches marriageable age. After that, the master had to offer to marry her, or marry her off to his son. This was the biblical equivalent of a social welfare program whereby children from impoverished social, economic, and educational backgrounds are given an opportunity to apprentice and eventually join a more advantaged family.

The maidservant who is sold into servitude represents a soul that is enslaved in the trappings of the material world and sin. The three responsibilities according to Be’er Mayyim Chayyim represents the positive and negative commandments, which are like clothing and food for the soul, and intimacy is represented by prayer. Thus, a person who does not live up to those responsibilities toward his soul sends her into spiritual bondage.

The final statement, וְיָצְאָ֥ה חִנָּ֖ם אֵ֥ין כָּֽסֶף׃, refers to the person in the afterlife who was not able to properly feed his soul with Torah and Mitzvot. Now he comes in free of any merit. Yet, as our Gemara says, “Who else receives the money? (Meaning, who compensates for the soul coming in free without any money? The father, that is the Father in Heaven.) Even though the person did not make any merit, somehow, if he still repents, he will be redeemed.


All the Resources of a Superpower 

Our Gemara on Amud Beis tells us that the Hebrew word קִיחָה “Kicha” connotes acquisition to purchase, and not merely the acquisition of an ownerless object.

Be’er Mayyim Chaim (Shemos 2:3) notes that the same Hebrew word is used when Yocheved “took” a reed basket to hide the baby Moshe. His understanding is that she acquired it via payment, much as we have a custom to make sure to acquire a Lulav or Hadass via payment instead of merely acquiring it from public property. The concern is that it might still possibly be owned by somebody, and then it would be a mitzvah accomplished through a sin, namely the sin of theft.

Similarly, Yocheved wanted to ensure that the salvation of Moshe, who would eventually be the savior of the Jewish people, was a pure Mitzvah, without any possibility of the entanglement of the sin of theft. She therefore purchased the reed basket.

What I find remarkable about this interpretation is how it showcases the indomitable spirit of a person under severe persecution and oppression. This reminds me of people who baked matzah or lit Hanukkah candles in concentration camps. Obviously, most did not, and they certainly were exempt. I think we would be grossly underestimating their mindset to think that in their minds they were making a sacrifice. Quite the contrary, I believe they felt it was a privilege and an honor; maintaining their own sense of freedom and individual integrity in the midst of the most trying of circumstances.

Nathan Sharansky said, “They tried their best to find a place where I was isolated. But all the resources of a superpower cannot isolate the man who hears a voice of freedom, a voice I heard from the very chamber of my soul.”


Objects are Closer than They Appear 

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph uses a derasha from the verses that describe Jewish divorce to learn a methodology for accomplishing matrimony:

אָמַר קְרָא: ״וְיָצְאָה״ ״וְהָיְתָה״ – מַקִּישׁ הֲוָיָה לִיצִיאָה: מָה יְצִיאָה בִּשְׁטָר – אַף הֲוָיָה נָמֵי בִּשְׁטָר. 

The verse states: “And she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife” (Deuteronomy 24:2). This verse juxtaposes becoming, i.e., betrothal, to leaving, i.e., divorce. Just as leaving is performed through a document, i.e., a bill of divorce, so too, becoming can be performed through a document.

Rav Tzaddok (Peri Tzaddik Rosh Chodesh Av) notices a powerful lesson in the juxtaposition. Divorce, which is the severing of a relationship, is somehow compared to the creation of a relationship. So too, he argues in our relationship with God, when we are farthest, we also have the potential to be the closest.

As is taught in Gemara Berachos (34b):

דְּאָמַר רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ: מָקוֹם שֶׁבַּעֲלֵי תְשׁוּבָה עוֹמְדִין — צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים אֵינָם עוֹמְדִין, 

Rabbi Abbahu states that penitents are superior to the righteous.

Furthermore, Gemara Yoma (86b) states that repentance performed out of love actually turns past sins into mitzvos.

Aside from this sounding inspirational, how could it logically be true? It is one thing to say that God forgives, as forgiveness is an essential element of all relationships. However, what could account for a sin or misdeed being transformed into a positive action? The answer I believe is experience. That is, when a person goes into the depths and then finds a way out, he is a different person. But the improper things that he did became a part of the fabric of his personality, and he has learned and experienced them. Yes, they were sinful, and that is why repentance is necessary. At the same time, now that he has gone through them and he has extracted himself, there was probably something beneficial that he could also extract from the experience. He is now a person with all these experiences who is choosing moral behavior.

For example, Reish Lakish was once a bandit until Rabbi Yochanan brought him back to Judaism, and he became a great sage (Bava Metzia 84a). Are we to believe that this is an accident? No. Rather his heroic grit, determination and courage allowed him also to become a great warrior for Torah. So too, anybody who repents out of love is able to make those past experiences into something that informs him in the future, and now he uses in a morally proper way.

This is not only true in a relationship with God, but it is also true in personal relationships as well. Every time there is an empathic break, and even a betrayal, it presents opportunities for learning more about yourself and the other person. The results truly can be  that the repair of the relationship makes it stronger than it was before.


High Fidelity 

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph raises a question about a grouping of similar items in a beraisa. There are six cases in total, and they are mostly similar. Yet, interestingly, they are divided into two sets of three cases:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ אִשְׁתִּי״, ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ אֲרוּסָתִי״, ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ קְנוּיָה לִי״ – מְקוּדֶּשֶׁת. ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ שֶׁלִּי״, ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ בִּרְשׁוּתִי״, ״הֲרֵי אַתְּ זְקוּקָה לִי״ – מְקוּדֶּשֶׁת. וְלִיתְנִינְהוּ כּוּלְּהוּ כַּחֲדָא! תַּנָּא תְּלָת תְּלָת, שַׁמְעִינְהוּ וְגַרְסִינְהוּ.

The Sages taught in a baraita that if a man says to a woman: “You are hereby my wife,” or: “You are hereby my betrothed,” or: “You are hereby acquired to me,” then she is betrothed. If he said to her: “You are hereby mine,” or: “You are hereby under my authority,” or: “You are hereby bound to me,” then she is betrothed. The Gemara questions: Since the halakha is the same for both sets of statements, why does the baraita divide these statements into two groups? The Gemara answers: The tanna heard them as two sets of three, and consequently he taught them in that form. He heard each sequence of three cases as a separate halakha from his teachers, and therefore he preserved them as two sets of three.

Sefer Avodas Hagershoni (Vayikra, p. 232) raises a question: Why should the addition of just a couple of extra words lead to this level of questioning? (After all, we can understand that there might be linguistic or stylistic reasons that make a Mishna easier to read or memorize. See Tiferes Yisrael Boaz Arachin 4:1.) Additionally, there’s a famous teaching from the Gra (Shnos Eliyahu Peah 1) that every word of Torah is a Mitzvah, so why not add a Mitzvah or two?

Rav Gershon Klibenski provides an answer, suggesting that redundancy without a purpose, even if it is related to Torah, is not truly considered Torah. Yet, the Gemara eventually concedes that the words were indeed redundant. However, this redundancy serves a different purpose. It is important for the student to repeat the teaching exactly as learned (possibly as an aid to memory, or possibly as a way of maintaining the accuracy of the transmission, since the student can’t be certain which elements of the rabbi’s teaching hold significance).

This concept brings to mind the story of Hillel and Shammai, whose teachers, Shmaya and Avtalyon, were converts to Judaism and had difficulties pronouncing certain Hebrew words properly. Hillel and Shammai were so committed to preserving their teachers’ words verbatim, that they even retained their mispronunciations (See commentary of Rambam Eduyos 1:3). This exemplifies a powerful lesson in how Judaism maintains its fidelity to the oral tradition.


Giving is Receiving

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph presents a novel perspective on the bond of marriage through the exchange of an object of value. Conventionally, marriage involves the groom giving an object of value to the bride with her consent. However, our Gemara introduces an unconventional scenario where, surprisingly, if the woman gives something, it is as if she is the one receiving. Specifically, if she bestows a gift upon a dignitary, someone whose acceptance of the gift is considered an honor, and if this honor is valued at least a peruta (a small unit of currency), it can be regarded as if she is receiving that value.

Rav Tzaddok (Peri Tzaddik Teruma 2) employs this idea to elucidate the following verse in Shemos (25:2 and 8):

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כׇּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃

Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved.

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

When a person’s heart is entirely devoted to Hashem, this act of a “gift” actually becomes a form of receiving. Ultimately, this devotion leads to Hashem dwelling within that person’s heart.

In Judaism, practices such as prayer, Torah study, and acts of kindness are means of inviting God’s presence into daily life. This practice extends beyond rituals and permeates various aspects of existence. 

Mishley (3:6) articulates this sentiment:

בְּכׇל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths smooth.

In the Jewish context, allowing Hashem to reside in the heart involves aligning intentions, actions, and thoughts with divine values, resulting in a profound connection and sense of purpose.

Moreover, this principle extends beyond the spiritual realm. Various studies have indicated the positive impact of spirituality and religious practices on mental health:

  1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Rituals, prayer, and meditation can create a sense of calm and inner peace, reducing stress and anxiety.
  2. Enhanced Coping Mechanisms: Religious beliefs offer frameworks for coping with life challenges, enhancing resilience.
  3. Social Support: Religious communities provide a sense of belonging and support, mitigating feelings of loneliness.
  4. Positive Emotions: Acts of gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness, promoted in spiritual practices, enhance positive emotions.
  5. Meaning and Purpose: Spirituality and religion infuse life with meaning, contributing to psychological well-being.
  6. Reduced Depression: Religious involvement correlates with lower depression risk and higher remission rates.
  7. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like prayer and meditation reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, improve emotional regulation.
  8. Altruism and Volunteering: Religious teachings promote altruism and volunteering, boosting happiness and life satisfaction.

In conclusion, the maxim “giving is receiving” takes on deep significance in the realms of spirituality, religion, and mental health. Just as our Gemara portrays the scenario where giving becomes receiving when presented to a dignitary, inviting God into the heart is a similar concept. This idea aligns with Rav Tzaddok’s teachings and Shemos verses, conveying that a devoted heart is a conduit for receiving divine presence. The intertwining of giving, spirituality, and mental health illuminates how acts of giving pave the way for receiving transformative gifts such as inner peace, resilience, and divine presence. This principle encapsulates a journey toward holistic well-being, where inviting Hashem into the heart generates a cycle of giving and receiving, enriching one’s life on both spiritual and psychological dimensions.

Simcha Feuerman’s Channel: The Chosson and Kallah Shmooze You Wish You Had But Never Got: The Chosson and Kallah Shmooze You WISH You Had but NEVER got!

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