Now that the Talmud explained why our mishnah uses the language of “acquisition” it must explain why the rest of the tractate uses the language of “betroth” with in Hebrew is “lekadesh,” from the word for holy.
The answer is that the Mishnah opens with biblical language—acquisition. But then it moves on to rabbinic language, “mekadesh” (kiddushin). The meaning of this peculiar rabbinic term is that when a woman is betrothed, she becomes prohibited to all other man, just as “hekdesh,” holy property, is prohibited to all.
It is worth noting that the rabbis were cognizant that their Hebrew vocabulary, and indeed, much of the basics of their language, differed radically from that found in the Torah.
The Talmud continues to discuss why the Mishnah states “a woman is acquired.”
The second chapter opens with “a man betroths.” So why not open the first chapter with “a man acquires” instead of the passive, “a woman is acquired”?
The answer is to preserve the parallel with the end of the mishnah—“a woman acquires herself.”
The first clause still could have read “a man acquires” and thn the latter clause could have read “and transfers ownership.” In other words, both could have been in the active, with the man as the subject, and not the passive with the woman.
The answer is that when it comes to the husband dying, the husband is not causing her to acquire herself. The husband’s death is “from Heaven.” Therefore, the second half could not have taught, “and transfers ownership.”
The use of the woman as the subject, albeit a passive one, indicates that a woman cannot be married against her will. Unlike any other “acquisition” where the consent of the acquired is not necessary, when it comes to marriage, the acquired party, the woman, must consent.
The Talmud now begins to examine why the Mishnah uses the feminine form of the word for three (shalosh), and not the masculine form (sheloshah).
The mishnah uses the feminine form of “shalosh (three)” because it uses the word “derekh (way)” which is also feminine, as we can see from Exodus 18:20.
A different mishnah, concerning a “zav,” a man with unnatural genital discharge, uses the masculine form of the number seven, because the word “derekh” is masculine. I think you can anticipate the difficulty on its way!
The Talmud first explains why some verses use “derekh” in a feminine form and why some use it in a masculine form. The word for Torah is feminine, as proven from a verse in Psalms. Therefore, the word for derekh is feminine. The word was used in masculine form in the context of war because men wage war, women do not.
I should note that this is not the type of explanation that would be acceptable to linguists. Just because the name for a document is in one gender, does not mean that the gender of words in that document should shift to that gender. Nor should context affect gender.
The Talmud offers a similar resolution with regard to the mishnah’s use of both feminine and masculine forms. When the context is women, the feminine is used. When the context is men, the masculine is used.
Now the Talmud asks why the mishnah uses the word “ways” instead of “things.”
The Talmud asks why the mishnah uses the word “derekh” which means “way” and not “devar” which would mean thing. The answer is that intercourse is a “way” not a thing.
“Intercourse” is a “way” not a thing. But the other two means to affect betrothal—money and document are things. And it would not make sense for the mishnah to use the word “way” that is appropriate for only one out of the three means listed in the mishnah.
The resolution is that money and deed are really given to the woman as a prelude to intercourse. Therefore, they are in a sense subservient to intercourse and the word “ways” is used, not “things.”
A parable by R. Shimon as to why the Torah says a man takes a woman and not a woman is taken by a man.
The Talmud here quotes a statement by R. Shimon in order to explain something about the mishnah. To Rashi, the quote explains why the language of the mishnah uses the word “ways” and not “things.” But we should note that R. Shimon himself is explaining a verse in the Torah and not the mishnah. This is a case where a statement made in one context is being used to explain something else. To me it is not so clear that the Talmud uses R. Shimon’s statement to explain why “ways” is used and not “things.”
The allusion here is to the story of the Garden of Eden. Men seek out women because the first woman was taken from a man.
I realize that this is a gendered way of viewing the world. But it certainly seems true of R. Shimon’s time, and probably is still relatively true in our world. The percentage of marriage proposals in which the man asks the woman is still probably very high. Would be interesting to think of what R. Shimon would say about changing gender roles in our society. Is this midrash essentially his way of saying men are genetically disposed to be the pursuers? Or would he say that gender roles can change?
The Talmud now asks why other mishnayot use the word “ways” instead of “things” just as it asked and answered above concerning the first mishnah of this masekhet.
The mishnah about zavim (people with unnatural genital discharge) use the word “ways” instead of “things.” The Talmud explains that this is because it is an excessive “way” that leads one to have these types of problems.
The mishnah uses the word “ways” in comparing an etrog to trees or vegetables because the “way” of an etrog is to grow like a vegetable. Just as vegetables grow on “all waters”, so too do etrogs. This means that in addition to rainwater, they also need irrigation. Their tithing year follows their point of harvesting. For other types of fruits the tithing year follows when they first appear on the branch of the tree.