Today’s section is a direct continuation from yesterday. In that case a man gave a woman a worthless object as a means of betrothal. When she opened it up, there were coins in it and she did not say anything. In other words, she did not throw the coins back at him but neither did she actively consent. Rava ruled that she is not betrothed because silence after accepting the money is not legally significant. As a source, Rava cited a baraita in which a man gave a woman a deposit and then, after she accepted the money as a deposit, he said “Be betrothed to me.” If she is silent, she is not betrothed.
In today’s section, some amoraim say that the two situations are not analogous.
R. Huna raises a pretty strong difficulty on Rava. In the case of the baraita, he told her it was a deposit. She could not just throw it back at him for by doing so, she could incur a loss. Therefore, her silence could mean that she simply wants to accept it as a deposit. But in the case Rava adjudicated, the man gave her the mat as kiddushin. Had she not wanted it, she should have thrown it back at him. Silence, therefore, should be akin to acceptance and she is betrothed.
R. Ahai points out that this woman might not have known the law that she has a right to throw it back at him. Therefore, her silence also might not be a sign of acceptance.
Here we can see some later amoraim who debate whether the ruling accords with R. Huna, who says she is betrothed, and Rava who says she is not.
Today’s section discusses a story in which a man snatches an object from a woman and tries to betroth her with it.
R. Nahman ruled that she is not betrothed.
The baraita clearly states that if he steals something from her and then uses it for betrothal, she is betrothed. This is a direct contradiction with R. Nachman.
R. Nachman answers that in that case he had already made a shiddukh—arranged the marriage. This bolsters the assumption that she was accepting the betrothal.
R. Nahman here is using a baraita that we have seen before to prove that there is a difference between a case where he did shiddukhin before the betrothal and one where he did not.
The Talmud asks what the meaning of the words “she consented” and “she did not consent” are in the first part of the baraita.
If we take these words literally, then by implication if she is silent, she would be betrothed. But if this is so, why not simply state “she is betrothed.” After all, this is simply a normal case—if she says no, she is not betrothed, and if she says nothing, she is betrothed.
Rather, the baraita must mean that if she is silent, then she is not betrothed because she is only taking back what is hers. Note that this now agrees with R. Nahman’s ruling from the case above. Essentially, R. Nahman has a baraita that supports his ruling.
The problem now is that the two baraitot contradict each other. Therefore, R. Nahman resolves them by saying that one baraita refers to a case where he made a shiddukh first (arranged the marriage) and one where he did not. If he made a shidukh, he can betroth her even with something stolen because we can assume that she is agreeing to her marriage.
We should note that these questions comes up only when she is silent. If she says yes—we know she is betrothed. If she says no, we know she is not. The only question is in a case where she stays silent.
Today’s sugya offers a rare opportunity to see the setting in which rabbinic statements were related. The rabbis gather together at R. Assi’s death and collect his sayings. Indeed, we see this occasionally in rabbinic literature—statements collected according to attribution and not according to topic. Both of these sayings are relevant to the topic of kiddushin and so they are brought here.
R. Assi compares the rules of kiddushin with the rules of buying land. Just as a woman cannot be acquired for less than a perutah so too land cannot.
R. Jacob responds that land can be acquired through something less than a perutah if that is done through symbolic exchange. This is when someone gives something of symbolic value to another and thereby acquires something else in exchange. This is also called “acquisition through a kerchief” for often the kerchief was what was used to accomplish this. Today one encounters this usually when the husband transfers the ketubah to the woman. It is also done when selling hametz. With symbolic exchange one does not really acquire the valuable item with the valueless item. Rather, one symbolically uses the valueless item to acquire the valuable one.
The rabbis now bring up another of R. Assi’s statements. This statement was made in reference to Rav’s statement that if a judge does not know how to enact a divorce or a betrothal, other judges should stay far away from him. R. Assi adds that judges who adjudicate marital matters without knowing how to do so are more harmful to the world than even the generation of the flood, a generation so wicked they were utterly destroyed. The prooftext he brings is from a verse in Hosea, which refers to adultery.
R. Joseph interprets this in reference to those who bring forth illegitimate children through adultery. Improper adjudication of matters of divorce and betrothal can also cause illegitimate children to be born. This “adds sins to sins” for not only was the original intercourse sinful, these children will be mamzerim and when they marry into Israel, this too will be in sin (according to rabbinic understanding).
R. Assi posits that this sin is worse than the sin of the generation of the flood for in the verse in Hosea even the fish die, whereas in the flood they did not.
The verse from Hosea refers to more than just adultery. It also refers to other sins. So perhaps the world is not destroyed unless people commit all of these sins. How does R. Assi know that improper adjudication of marital law which causes unintentional adultery is alone sufficient to cause the destruction of the world?
A verse from Jeremiah implies that the world is destroyed from false oaths alone. This was the first sin mentioned in the verse. So if the world is destroyed for this sin alone, then the sins in the rest of the verse, including causing adultery, are also sufficient for the world to be destroyed.
Had the conjunctive “and” been used, then we would have read the verse that all of the sins need to be committed for the world to be destroyed. But since there is no conjunctive, the rabbis can read the verse as if one sin alone is sufficient.