Volume 16 Number 41
                       Produced: Tue Nov  8  6:29:00 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Misusing Sources? (Tav Lemeitav ...)
         [Shaul Wallach]
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 13:43:29 IST
Subject: Misusing Sources? (Tav Lemeitav ...)

     In Vol. 15, No. 94, Eliyahu Juni claims that I misused Reish
Laqish's dictum "Tav Lemeitav Tan Du Milemeitav Armalu" as evidence
that our Rabbis did not consider women choosy in picking their partners
for marriage. I had made this statement in our discussion of the Talmud
in Yevamot 63, in response to Alan Stadtmauer, who proposed that a
woman "may resent being married to someone less important", and that it
was for this reason that our Rabbis advised a man to "go down a step
and marry a woman" (see Vol. 15, No. 84 for my original posting).

     I wish to stress once again that our purpose here is not to tell
women today how to behave, but rather to find out just what our Rabbis
said in the Talmud and what behavior they saw in their days. As Rabbi
Yosef Bechhofer has noted, it does not follow that this is exactly what
we expect of people today.

     Now I must admit that I haven't even reached the level of "Kol
she-koro v'shono" (reading and reviewing), not to mention "shimeish"
(practicing). But as Eliyahu likewise admits that his explanation of
the passage was based on his recollection, I see no choice but to review
it again together, in order to clear up all the confusion. So let us
take up all the passages in the Talmud (in order) and see for ourselves
just what our Rabbis said:

1. Yevamot 118a:

   Said Ravina to Rava: One who grants a Get (by means of a
   representative whom he appoints) to his wife where there is a
   dispute (between them - S.W.), what is it? Since she has a dispute
   with him, is it an asset for her; or perhaps is she content since
   being with a body is preferable?

The question here is in the case where the husband dies before the Get
reaches the wife, is she considered divorced or not? The question arises
only when he appoints the representative, for if she appoints him, she
is considered divorced the moment the representative receives the Get.
The practical difference between being divorced or widowed would arise
in the case where the husband has no children but a surviving brother.
If we say she is not considered divorced at the moment of her husband's
death, then she would be bound to his brother and would either have to
marry him in a levirate marriage or perform Halisa (unstrapping his
shoe), depending on his choice. We look at the question from her point
of view: does she consider divorce preferable and therefore an asset
(Zekhut), or would she have preferred staying married to him, in which
case the divorce would be a liability (Hova). The principle is "Zakhin
le-adam shelo befanaw (it is permissible to confer an asset on a person
in his absence) we-ein Havin le-adam ella befanaw (but we cannot confer
a liability upon him except in his presence). Thus if the divorce is
considered a Zekhut, then it is valid from the moment the husband's
representative receives it, even though it is in the wife's absence;
while if the divorce is a Hova, it is valid only from the moment she
actually receives it.

The Talmud answers as follows:

   Come hear, for Reish Laqish said: It is better to sit two bodies
   than to sit a widow.

   (Rashi: Tan Du: two bodies, any husband at all)

>From this we see she views the divorce as a liability even though she
has a quarrel with her husband, and she would not be considered divorced
until she actually receives the Get. This is how the halacha is decided
by R. Yosef Qaro in the Shulhan `Arukh (Even Ha-`Ezer 140:5).

     This is doubtless the passage Eliyahu had in mind. It shows that
our Rabbis saw that a woman prefers an unhappy marriage than being
alone with no husband at all.

2. Ketubot 75a (The Talmud is discussing the case of a woman who has
   vows on her when a man sanctifies her (Qiddushin). The Mishna on
   page 72b says that if he sanctified her on the condition that she
   doesn't have any vows on her and then it turned out that she did,
   then the Qiddushin are invalid. According to one Baraitha, even
   if she went to a Hakham - a rabbi - who released her from her vow,
   the Qiddushin are still invalid, and the Talmud is discussing why):

   ... Said Rava: What are we dealing with here? With an important
   woman, for he says, "It's not convenient for me to be forbidden
   with her relatives." (i.e. he - the groom - doesn't want the
   Qiddushin to be valid because then he would be forbidden to marry
   her relatives - S.W.)

   (Rashi: A daughter of great people, for even in the opinion of the
   one who says that a man wants his wife to humiliate herself in the
   Beit Din (i.e. he doesn't mind if she goes to a Hakham - Rashi on
   page 74b - and this for this reason we might think he would say the
   Qiddushin are valid because the husband wouldn't mind if she had her
   vow released - S.W.), here he says, "I don't want a woman who is wont
   to take vows, and it's also not convenient for me to give her a Get,
   for I would be forbidden to take her mother and her sister, and it's
   not convenient for me that the Qiddushin be valid.")

The Talmud continues:

   If so, the end (of the Baraitha - S.W.) that says: But he (the
   groom - S.W.) who went to a Hakham and released him (from his vow
   - S.W.) or to a doctor and cured him (from his blemish - S.W.),
   she is sanctified (the Qiddushin are valid - S.W.)

   (Rashi: if he said to her ("You are sanctified to me - S.W.) on the
   condition that I don't have any vows or blemishes on me.")

The Talmud goes on:

   (The Baraitha - S.W.) should read "she is not sanctified"! And we
   should say (just as above in the case the woman had the vows on her
   - S.W.): Here we are dealing with an important man, for she says,
   "It's not convenient for me to be forbidden with his relatives"!

The Talmud here asks why the woman's Qiddushin are valid when the groom
has vows or blemishes that are annulled or cured afterwards. Wouldn't
she be interested in keeping for herself the option of marrying one of
his relatives, which wouldn't be possible if the Qiddushin were valid?

To this question the Talmud answers:

    She is content with anything, as Reish Laqish who said: It is
    better to sit two bodies (Tan Du) than to sit as a widow.

    (Rashi: Tan Du: Body two. It is a lay proverb that the women say,
    "It is better to sit with two bodies than to sit a widow.")

That is, the woman doesn't mind being forbidden from marrying one of
his relatives since any marriage is fine for her and this is no loss
in her eyes.

3. Qiddushin 7a (The Talmud explains that a woman can be sanctified by
   saying to a man, "Take this Maneh - 100 Zuz - and I will be
   sanctified to you" (Rashi: and he received it and said, "Be
   sanctified to me by this."), if he is an important man (Rashi: who is
   not used to receiving gifts), since she is pleased that he accepted
   the present from him, and in return for this pleasure she makes up
   her mind to give herself to him.):

   It was said also in the name of Rava: And the same goes for material
   (acquisitions; i.e. the same kind of pleasure is considered grounds
   for someone to make up his mind to give someone else possession of a
   material object to someone else, and the Qinyan - acquisition - is
   valid - S.W.). And it is necessary (to mention it both for Qiddushin
   and for Mamon - material objects - S.W.) for if (the Talmud - S.W.)
   told us for Qiddushin, it is because this woman is content with
   anything (Rashi: to be acquired by anything, by any acquisition, and
   even by a simple benefit - i.e. her pleasure that he accepted her
   gift - S.W.), as Reish Laqish, for Reish Laqish said: It is better to
   sit two bodies than to sit a widow. But in the case of Mamon we would
   not say this...

Here the Talmud is not talking about the quality of her partner at all,
but merely about the amount of benefit that suffices for the woman to
accept in exchange for giving herself to her partner in marriage. The
Talmud says any amount of benefit is enough, as Reish Laqish said, "It
is better..."

4. Qiddushin 40a (The Mishna says that either a man and a woman can
   send a representative for the Qiddushin. The Talmud quotes Rav
   Yosef at first who says "It's a Mizwa by himself more than by his
   representative", but then says that for a man it is forbidden, and
   that what Rav Yosef applies to the woman, that for her it is a
   Mizwa more than by her representative.):

   But in this there is no prohibition for her, as Reish Laqish, for
   Reish Laqish said: It is better to sit two bodies than to sit a

   (Rashi: But in this: Even though she didn't see him, there is no
   prohibition, that we might say, "Perhaps she might see in him
   something bad". For Reish Laqish said Tav Lemeitav Tan Du: It is a
   proverb the women say about any husband at all, that it is better
   to sit with two bodies than to sit a widow.)

Here also we see that what Reish Laqish said is being applied to a
woman getting married, that she is not required to see her marriage
partner herself, since she is content with any husband at all.

5. Bava Qama 110b (The Mishna says that if one steals from a convert
   who dies before he can return the theft, and then pays the value
   to the Kohanim, but dies himself before bringing the necessary
   sacrifice specified in Lev. 5:20-26, then his heirs cannot reclaim
   the money. From this, Abbaye learns that the money he paid while
   alive atones for half his sin, for otherwise it would be returned
   to his heirs, and he did not pay it with this in mind - i.e. that
   it would be returned to his heirs without atoning for him - S.W.):

   ... But now, from here (the concept that he didn't pay the Kohanim
   with this in mind - S.W.), a Yevama (widow whose husband left no
   children, whom the Torah requires to be married to his brother, or
   to unstrap his shoe, as in Deut. 25:5-10 - S.W.) who falls before
   someone afflicted with boils (Muke Shehin) should be exempt from
   Halisa (unstrapping the brother's shoe - S.W.), since she didn't
   marry (his deceased brother - S.W.) with this in mind!? In that we
   are witnesses that she is surely content with anything, as Reish
   Laqish, for Reish Laqish said: It is better to sit two bodies than
   to sit a widow.

   (Rashi: She is surely content: to marry the first one who is
   wholesome, with the doubt - i.e risk - S.W. - that if he dies she
   will be bound to his brother.)

Here too, she knows in advance that she is liable to fall before a Muke
Shehin, but this disadvantage does not discourage her from marrying his

    Throughout we have translated Tan Du as "two bodies" in keeping with
Rashi. The `Arukh (under Tandur) quotes Rabbeinu Hananel who explains
Reish Laqish as "it is better to sit in marriage even to an ugly and
small husband than to sit a widow". See also the `Arukh Hashalem for
possible derivations of the expression Tan Du from Persian, Greek or

    To sum up, it appears that both explanations that were offered
previously of "Tav Lemeitav Tan Du..." are supported by the various
passages in the Talmud in which the expression appears. From all the
contexts in which it appears, Reish Laqish's dictum emerges as a
popular women's proverb with sweeping application. Our Rabbis applied it
to the following observations they made of the typical woman of their

1. She prefers an unhappy marriage to divorce.
2. She does not consider it a loss not to be able to marry an
   important man.
3. She is content to accept any amount of benefit, no matter how small,
   in exchange for giving herself to marriage.
4. She does not mind being married to a man she does not see in advance,
   even though he might have some unpleasant feature.
5. She is content to marry any man, even one whose brother is disfigured
   and before whom she might fall for levirate marriage in case her
   husband dies without seed.

    Now when we go back and try to understand the Talmud in Yevamot 63
mentioned above in the light of these observations, it does appear to
me that our Rabbis did not consider the women of their time to be very
picky in choosing their husbands. On the other hand, we do have many
halachot which specify the husband's duties towards his wife, and the
conditions under which he must grant her a divorce (such as his being
a coppersmith, for example). From this my cautious conclusion is that
our Rabbis were more concerned with the couple's satisfaction after
their marriage than they were with the wife's choice of husband.

   These were some women...




From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 1994 16:56:24 -0500
Subject: Rachel

It is indeed true that our CHAZAL criticized the Avot... HOWEVER, that does
not mean that WE are qualified to do so!!!  Shaul Wallach's attempt to
defend his "critique" appears to fall short.
1. Yosef appears to have been punished [by being exposed to the temptation
   of Potiphar's wife] because he relaxed his mourning for his father...
   but that does not appear to seriously trace back to Yaakov... If anything,
   it was the vision of his father that strengthened him...  I would refer 
   anyone interested to the Netziv who states that (a) Yosef did not study 
   enough Torah when he was in Potiphar's house and (b) that Yosef got into
   trouble basically because he tried to provide "rational" reasons for his
   refusal to sin... rahter than simply state that he did not want to sin
2. Shaul describes the "proximate cause" of the exile in terms of the gemara
   in Shabbat even while neglecting the basic issue that Yaakov sent Yosef
   "from the valley of Hebron" -- on which RASHI comments -- because of the
   promise made to the one [i.e., Avraham] buried in Hebron..  It is true that
   one should not unduly favor children.  It is also clear (cf. the Netziv)
   that Yaakov did NOT feel that he was unduly favoring Yosef -- and that, to
   a certain extent, the other brothers misinterpreted the whole matter.  The
   Gemara means to state that even when one may have a LEGITIMATE reason to
   favor a child -- as Yaakov did -- one should not do so, anyway.
3. The major point is Shaul's assertion that his marriage to Rachel produced
   less than his marriage with Leah.  I find that statement so repulsive that
   I can barely bring myself to type it....  Who here is REMOTELY qualified
   to make such a statement.  Besides the statements already sent in about
   Mashiach ben Yosef and Shaul and Yehoshua....  I would like to remind
   people of the statment in RASHI that it was only when Yosef was born that
   Yaakov felt confident to return as it would be "Beit Yosef" that would be 
   the flame to consume the "straw" of the House of Eisav.

It is indeed true that there are many many different faces of the Torah.
It is also true that there is a prohibition of "MegalehPa Panim Batorah"
in an improper fashion.  I would be VERY VERY cautious in applying
anything not EXPLICITLY in CHAZAL if I were criticizing the Avot.  We
can indeed learn from the "faults" of the Avot as well as their
virtues... but let us be REALLY sure that we know if we are looking at a
fault or not.



End of Volume 16 Issue 41