The Talmud continues to explain the mishnah.
The verse shows that there were Jews who came to Eretz Yisrael who had separated themselves from the nations. This could have been done either through conversion or being freed.
How do we know that mamzerim came with Ezra to Eretz Yisrael? Tobiah comes up to Eretz Yisrael. Tobiah is an Ammonite. He marries Shechaniah’s daughter who is an Israelite. According to our mishnah, the child of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother is a mamzer.
There are three reasons why this verse is not sufficient to prove that mamzerim went with Ezra to Israel. First of all, some tannaim hold that the child of a non-Jewish man and Jewish woman is not a mamzer. Thus Tobiah’s children would not have been mamzerim. Second, perhaps Tobiah did not have children. Third, even if he did, he might have had them in Israel in which case they did not go up with Ezra.
The rabbis offer creative interpretations of who these people were. The first category were people whose deeds were like those of Sodom who acted licentiously. These people are assumed to be mamzerim. The other categories are people who do not know their lineages. These two are listed in the mishnah about who came up with Ezra.
This midrash plays on the word “Immer” which reminds the rabbis of the leopard. The leopard was not viewed favorably by the rabbis because they thought the leopardess would lie with other leopards she was not supposed to be mating with. I’m not sure why the rabbis expected monogamy from animals, but they seem to have pointed the figure at the leopard in particular.
This section begins with a midrash on the same verse we ended with yesterday.
Rabbah b. Bar Hannah explains the verse in connection with a man who marries a wife whose lineage is not fit for him. It is as if he ploughs all of the land (harsha) but sows it with salt (melah). The derashah also relies on the end of the verse that speaks of these people as not being able to determine their lineage.
Rabbah son of R. Adda adds that if one takes a wife whose lineage is not fit for him just for the sake of money he will have unworthy children. The moral sin of the father will affect his children. He interprets the verse in Hosea as referring to a man who marries a woman with improper lineage.
The children will not only be unworthy, but he will end up losing the dowry he aimed to profit. She, the woman he married, will also lose her own personal money. And they will lose it all within a month.
You are strongly advised not to take a wife not fit for you. I mean lashes from the Kadosh Barukh Hu—OUCH!
This is an important caveat to what we’ve just read. On the one hand, one should not disqualify one’s own lineage by marrying one of flawed lineage. But do not go around telling other people their lineage is flawed. That only testifies as to the flaws of the one pointing the finger.
This story illustrates the saying at the end of yesterday’s section— “He who declares [others] to be disqualified, disqualifies them with his own flaw.”
Scene one: The man is not happy to have to wait for his meat until R. Judah b. Yehezkel gets his. I probably wouldn’t be happy in his place either. I think it’s actually kind of humorous the way he bastardizes his name. I could see myself doing that.
Scene two: The tension mounts as R. Judah declares that this man is a slave. This does not mean that he has to serve anyone in particular. What it does mean is that he won’t be able to marry a Jewish woman and his offspring will have flawed lineage.
Scene three: The man summons him to court in front of R. Nahman, who is the Exilarch (Nasi)’s son-in-law.
Scene 4a: R. Judah now gets to Nehardea and finds R. Nahman building a railing. R. Judah does not think that such work is appropriate for a leader of the community. When defending himself, R. Nahman uses a strange word for railing, one probably from Persian. Why not use the biblical word or the rabbinic word?
R. Nahman uses some strange words, and R. Judah does not like it.
The story will continue tomorrow. Meanwhile, might be worth the time to think about how the narrator put this story together. The main theme seems to be about use of language.
The story picks up where yesterday’s left off. The issue of language has been dropped and now the story picks up with a discussion of the proper role of women within the household.
R. Nahman wants his daughter Donag to come and serve R. Yehudah some drink. No go, even though she is a child.
R. Nahman then suggests R. Yehudah send greetings to his wife, Yalta. R. Yehudah, remarkably, believes it is improper to even hear a woman’s voice.
Finally, R. Yehudah believes it is improper to even ask after a woman’s welfare.
This source goes way beyond other sources regarding interaction between men and women. There are other sources that consider it improper to hear a woman sing. But this source considers it improper to even hear a woman speak. We should remember that R. Nahman does not seem to have even heard of these prohibitions.