R. Tarfon notes that the assumption is that the mikveh is full. It remains under the presumption of being full until it can be proved lacking. In contrast, R. Akiva looks at the person—the person is assumed impure until it can be proven that he is pure.
R. Tarfon and R. Akiva now muster other comparisons—the case of a priest who was serving in the Temple and discovered to be unfit either because his mother was not fit to marry a priest or because he has a blemish. If it was discovered that his mother was not fit because she was a divorcee or a halutzah, then his earlier service is not disqualified. But if it is discovered that he has a blemish, his earlier service is unfit.
R. Akiva now argues that the case of the mikveh is more similar to the case of a priest who is discovered to have a blemish. In both cases, the disqualification can be attested to by one witness, whereas a divorce or halitzah must be attested to by two witnesses. Furthermore, the disqualification of a mikveh or that of a priest with a blemish is inherent in the mikveh or the priest. There is something physically different between a mikveh with enough water and one without enough water.
But when it comes to the disqualification of a priest whose mother is a divorcee is due to the mother, not the priest.
R. Tarfon admits the superiority of R. Akiva’s argument. What a modest guy! And that R. Akiva sure is smart!
Rava now shows how he can prove that in sexual matters, two witnesses are always necessary. It is not sufficient to have one witness plus the silence of the accused. In the case of the blemish, where one witness is sufficient, it must be that the priest himself does not protest. Otherwise, one witness would not be believed. By analogy, in the case of the woman being a divorcee, there must be two witnesses, even if the priest is silent. The priest would not be disqualified if there was one witness and he was silent. This is proof for Rava.
Abaye argues back that both cases deal with a situation in which the priest argues that he is not blemished. So why is the witness believed? Because the witness could tell the priest to take off his clothing and prove his point. And indeed, this is how Abaye would interpret the last clause. The unfitness of a blemished priest is provable by his own body.
Now when it comes to two witnesses who testify that the mother is a divorcee or halutzah, they are necessary because the priest contradicts them. But if one came, he would be believed, so long as the priest does not contradict him. Thus Abaye can maintain his opinion that one witness is believed in cases of sexual matters as long as the accused does not contradict.
Today’s section contains prooftexts as to how we know that if a priest is discovered to be the son of a divorcee, all the sacrifices he offered before that point are retroactively considered still valid.
The baraita had stated that if it is discovered that the mother of a priest is a divorced woman (meaning she was divorced before she married the priest’s father) or a halutzah, the priest’s service is not retroactively disqualified. How do we know this? Why is the different from the case of a priest who is discovered to have a blemish?
R. Yehudah derives this from the verse that says that the seed of a priest is valid forever, even if he was discovered to be disqualified. However, the priest will not be able to continue serving at the Temple. Henceforth, he is disqualified.
The father of Shmuel cites the blessing given to Levi by Moses and makes a pun on the word “heilo.” Even the work of non-sacred descendants of Levi, i.e. those who were made into “halalim” priests whose line has been desacralized, can be accepted, at least ex post facto.
R. Yannai cites another verse. Clearly one cannot go to a priest who is not there in “those days.” Therefore, it must refer to a priest who is no longer a priest because his line has been discovered to be non-sacred—his mother was discovered to be a divorcee. All the sacrifices he offered before this discovery are still considered valid.
We now discuss the second part of the baraita from above—how do we know that if a priest is discovered to have a blemish, all of his previous service at the altar is rendered unfit?
This is a rare case in which the amoraim make a midrash on the way a letter is written. The letter vav in the world “shalom” is broken in half (look in a tikkun and you will see). This allows us to read it as if the word says “shalem” and not “shalom.” The verse can now be read as if it says that the descendants of Aaron are given the covenant only if they are “whole” meaning not blemished. If they are blemished, all of their earlier sacrifices are rendered invalid.
This mishnah begins discussing a subject which will be covered throughout the remainder of Kiddushin: lineage. We have already encountered throughout Seder Nashim many different genealogical statuses: priests, Levites, Israelites, converts, mamzerim, natinim and more. Our mishnah discusses how these lineages are transmitted from generation to generation, namely the issue of whom the child’s lineage follows, that of the father or that of the mother. We should note that lineage was probably the most important factor in choosing a spouse in the ancient Jewish world and probably was a key factor in the entire ancient world. Indeed until the modern period many matches between young men and women were made based on lineage. Lineage largely determined a person’s social standing. It is sometimes hard to relate to this value for those of us living in 20-21st century America, a country where societal standing is perhaps less based on lineage than almost any nation throughout history.
The final clause of our mishnah contains the famous principle of “matrilineal descent”—the “Jewishness” of the child follows the mother and not the father. This principle is surprising since ancient Jewish society was clearly patriarchal. Men were almost always the heads of their households, the woman would typically leave her family to enter the man’s house, men had custody and overall responsibility for their children etc. Furthermore, it seems quite clear that the Bible operates on the principle of “patrilineal descent.” Throughout the Tanakh men marry women of foreign descent and the women assimilate into their husband’s culture and homes (or notoriously fail to assimilate). The same is true of Second Temple literature such as the later books of the Bible, Josephus and Philo. How the matrilineal principle came to dominate rabbinic halakhah and literature is a mystery. There are a few places in rabbinic literature with a hint of a patrilineal principle, but there are few of them and they are usually rejected. A good discussion of these issues can be found in Shaye Cohen’s excellent book, The Beginnings of Jewishness.
In these marriages the status of the child follows that of the father: the child of a priest is a priest, of a Levite is a Levite and of an Israelite is an Israelite.
If the marriage is valid, meaning that the woman requires a get to separate from the man, but the marriage involves a transgression, the child receives the lower status. Therefore, the child of a mamzer or a mamzeret is a mamzer(et). Furthermore, if the marriage is prohibited but neither parent is “flawed” (such as a mamzer or a natin), a female child from such a marriage is disqualified from subsequently marrying a priest. For instance the daughter of a priest and divorcee cannot marry a priest.
If the marriage is invalid, but the woman could be betrothed to other men, the child is a mamzer. The example given is incest.
This section is where we see the famed “matrilineal principle.” We should note that it is incomplete. The mishnah states that the child of non-Jewish woman or slave is not Jewish or is a slave, but it does not specifically address the status of the child of a Jewish mother and male father.
This week’s daf begins to explain the mishnah about lineage.
R. Shimon [ben Lakish] thinks that the mishnah’s general principle has exceptions. If a convert marries a mamzeret, which is allowed, the child is a mamzer. Note that the child of a mamzer/et is always a mamzer.